Pinch Hitters, Strike Out !
Early in 1935 the State of Massachusetts legalized pari mutual wagering. Soon after the spring thaw of that year, an army of workers descended on an area in East Boston called the "mud flats", sixty two days later Suffolk Downs was racing. The last remaining thoroughbred track in New England, Suffolk has enjoyed an interesting past.
The East Boston oval hosted harness racing from 1959 to 1970. The track is well known for it's signature race the "Mass Cap" which has attracted many top horses over the years. It was overrun by Beatles, when the famous rock group held it's final Boston concert in the Suffolk infield before 25,000 screaming fans. Suffolk experienced a "Kodak Moment" in 1966 when a fan wandered onto the track during the stretch run of the Mayflower Stakes. It also had two periods in time when men with baseball backgrounds were involved in running the track, one different, one difficult.
The first period was with colorful baseball owner Bill Veeck from 1969 to 1970. So much happened under his control that he actually wrote a book about it "Thirty Tons a Day". During his reign he called on his baseball experiences, and created many non racing promotional events. His creations included cowboy and indian battles, chariot racing, and even a Roman Era sea battle in the infield lake.
The second period which started in 1986 was a little less colorful, when Buddy LeRoux's, Belle Isle Ltd. took over the reins. LeRoux was one of three owners of the Boston Red Sox, he shocked the sports world when he attempted to oust the other two owners and take sole possession of the team. He in turn was sued, lost in court and was the one who was forced out. Shortly thereafter he shuttered Suffolk Downs. The rumor was that he had no interest in the track other than the land. It seemed, that once he obtained control of the Red Sox that he would approach the city of Boston about building him a new stadium on the Suffolk Downs site.Luckily for the racing fans in Boston some racing people finally stepped in.
On a balmy 65 degree, New Years Day in 1992, Larry of Florida romped home in the slop to the joy of racing fans in Boston, Suffolk Downs was back. Later that day on the simulcast screens snow was falling at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Arizona, go figure. Sterling Suffolk Management had acquired a lease from LeRoux, and would eventually purchase the track. In 1995 brought back the "Mass Cap" which attracted the great Cigar, two years in a row.
In 2011 the track ran a May to November schedule, the "Mass Cap" was downgraded from graded status because it had not run for three years. Tammi Piermarini captured the riding title.
In 2012 Suffolk Downs has applied for one of three Class I casino licenses that will be issued by the State of Massachusetts. Suffolk seems like a perfect fit for this type of operation, but it is Massachusetts, who knows?The track again ran May to November, setting up a circuit with Tampa Bay Downs in Florida. Tammi Piermarini defended her riding title for another year. In 2013 Suffolk Downs should know the status of it's casino status, depending how it goes so may the track.