JC / Railbird

Suffolk Downs Archive

Suffolk Notes

At today’s Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting, state racing director Jennifer Durenberger told the panel that Suffolk Downs’ request to cut planned live racing on Thursday, July 4, and Tuesday, July 9 and 16, due to the current horse shortage, has been approved. The dates will be made up in October, and Tuesday racing is now scheduled to begin on July 23 — maybe there’ll be more horses on the backstretch by then.

Durenberger also reported on the new 5% withholding requirement on winning wagers of more than $600 that went into effect this May. There are no hard numbers yet on how many bettors have been affected, or what the hit has been to handle, but Durenberger did note that when New Hampshire enacted a similar tax in 2009 (it was repealed in 2011), the state’s simulcasting handle declined by 8.6% approximately 20% in 2010-2011* — during the same period, national handle declined 8.6% and Massachusetts simulcasting handle declined by 4.8% — and expressed concern that the tax was making Massachusetts racing unattractive to horseplayers. “It’s a chilling effect based on tax evasion,” said commissioner James McHugh, taking issue with a lack of “institutional pressure” on bettors to report winnings below the current IRS thresholds. Commission chair Stephen Crosby recognized a real flaw with the new requirement: “Not being able to offset your winnings with your losings seems crazy,” he said. So it is! May a legislative remedy pass quickly — representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein of Revere attached an amendment striking the withholding to a supplemental budget bill that was passed by the Massachusetts House last week and is now before the Senate.

Tammi Piermarini has opened a significant lead in the jockeys standings with 19 wins and $202,884 in earnings through racing yesterday. Four of those wins came for trainer Michael Catalano, who’s 5-for-5 so far this meet. Three came with K Girl’s Dream, who’s won three straight since June 3.

*6/28/13 Correction: I erred by attributing the national handle decline to New Hampshire. The above has been updated with numbers from Durenberger’s prepared remarks, included in the June 27 meeting packet (PDF).

6/30/13 Addendum: Via the NEHBPA, the revised 2013 racing schedule (PDF).

Suffolk Notes

Week three of the 2013 Suffolk Downs meet begins with riders Tammi Piermarini and Andria Terrill in close competition for the #1 spot on the jockey standings — Terrill is ahead by one in number of wins, with 11 from 34 starts, while Piermarini is ahead in earnings, with more than $110K from 10 wins to Terrill’s $95K. Jacki Davis is running in third on both counts. Watch out for Jill Jellison and Dyn Panell when it comes to the exotics — both have single-digit win numbers, but both are also on live horses, with Jellison finishing in the money in nine of 12 starts, and Panell doing so with 10 from 14.

After a slow start (only three claims in the first six days of racing) claiming picked up on Saturday, with two horses changing barns. Jet Pack, winner of race six, making his second start of the meet, went to trainer Ambrose Pascucci, making his second claim of the meet — his first was Broadway Hat, off trainer David Jacobson on opening day. (Broadway Hat came back to run second last Wednesday.) Real Gone, winner of race nine, went to Tito Rivera.

A short horse population means a lot of quick turnarounds (more horses are expected to arrive at Suffolk Downs after Colonial Downs closes its meet on July 13), but only K Girl’s Dream has put together back to back wins, returning from a claiming win on June 3 to take an allowance on June 10. That makes the 4-year-old filly unbeaten in 2013. Jimmy the Germ has put together two straight sixth-place finishes since June 5 — a record that’s earned the grey gelding the honor of being the first CANTER New England listing this meet. Looking for an OTTB? This guy is ready for a second career.

Multiple New England champion Beijing House makes his first start of the meet today in race eight — if he wins, it’ll be his first time in the winner’s circle since June 2012 at Suffolk Downs. He’s done no better than third in nine starts since, and is entered for a $20K tag in the AOC.

Opening Day

Suffolk Downs opens for 2013 on Saturday with a nine-race card that drew the usual assortment of horses who spent the winter racing in Florida or Maryland, and those who are making their first starts since Suffolk closed for the season in October. A small band of New York shippers also appear in the entries — trainer David Jacobson sends two, Christophe Clement one.

Jacobson’s first starter is Broadway Hat in race two, a five-furlong maiden claimer. A $220,000 purchase by Todd Pletcher at the March 2012 OBS sale, the Ready’s Image colt is making his $5,000 tag debut after going winless in seven starts — he finished second first time out last May, and second again in his third start on January 21, which is when Jacobson claimed him for $25,000. He ran back six days later and finished seventh. He comes into Saturday’s race off three starts, the last a maiden $16,000 at Belmont on Sunday in which he finished fifth (one of the few races Jacobson hasn’t won recently), and he’s 8-5 on the morning line. I’m going to bet that Broadway Hat finishes second again, maybe to Let’s Be Glad, who’s only winless in five races and has been running steadily at Gulfstream and Pimlico since his first start in January.

Temecula Creek, coming off two wins since May 18 at Belmont, is entered for Jacobson in race eight, a $20,000 OC/N2X going six furlongs that also includes the 2011 New England juvenile male champion Mighty One. He’s coupled with stablemate Gold Bear; both look overmatched.

Race six is the meet’s first turf race, and it’s a two-turn maiden special weight. Elusive Son makes his first career start for Clement off a string of solid works. He’s an $80,000 Keeneland September purchase, a colt by Elusive Quality out of the graded-stakes winner Go Go. She’s had four prior winning foals, the most impressive being the stakes-placed Miss Mittagong. As impeccable as Elusive Son’s credentials are for a Suffolk grass start, though, Caristo looks like an interesting longshot prospect in the same race — the John Botty trainee is making his third start, his first on the turf, a promising switch for a son of Langfuhr out of a dam who won and was stakes-placed on the Belmont turf.

Suffolk Weekend

A food truck festival, a $100,000 stakes race, and the CANTER Showcase made this past weekend a big one for Suffolk Downs …


The crowd on the Suffolk apron, early Saturday afternoon. That mass of people stretching along the back? In line for the grilled cheese truck.


The biggest race of the year was also the best race of the year, with #2 It’s Me Mom (inside) out-bobbing favored #11 Nicole H at the wire in the six-furlong $100,000 Robert O’Malley Stakes. The final time was a swift 1:09.67 after an opening quarter in :21.17 and a half in :43.63.


It’s Me Mom, Willie Martinez up, entering the winner’s circle.


Leading rider Tammi Piermarini after finishing fourth on #9 D’Wild Ride in the Robert O’Malley Stakes.


Mr. Meso, local favorite, recently retired champion, and new racetrack pony, taking a break after the Saturday feature.


Fall colors and a beautiful sunset at Suffolk Downs on Saturday.


CANTER New England held its sixth annual Showcase on Sunday morning. Dozens of people turned out to see more than 70 horses available for sale. Here’s Krabby Patties, making a great impression with her rider.


After taking his turn through Showcase, O’Malley met a potential buyer.


Kappy charms the Showcase crowd. (He sold.)

Suffolk Showcase

Tin Soldier with Jen
Are you coming to Suffolk Showcase on Sunday?

Looking for a new horse? The sixth annual Suffolk Showcase is this Sunday, October 23, at Suffolk Downs. From 9:00 AM to noon, visitors will have a chance to check out dozens of great thoroughbreds ready for new careers and ask questions of trainers and owners directly. Browse the CANTER New England listings to get a sense of what’s available. It’s no exaggeration to say there’s a horse for every rider — CANTER volunteers (including me) have been busy as the Suffolk meet winds down, cataloging horses athletic and adorable. Racehorses make terrific sporthorses and companions — as the success stories Susan Salk has been publishing on Off-Track Thoroughbreds prove, there’s little these athletes can’t do when they leave the racetrack.

10/18/11 Addendum: Today’s “I want him” CANTER horse. And more!

The King’s Empty Barn

With fewer than 800 horses stabled on the backstretch, there are many empty stalls at Suffolk Downs these days. But I didn’t notice until yesterday morning that legendary New England trainer Carlos Figueroa’s barn is among the unused. Figueroa, who got his start as a conditioner in 1949, made his name on the defunct, colorful Massachusetts fair circuit, and once endured a possibly record-setting losing streak, hasn’t entered a horse since November 13, closing day of the 2010 meet at Suffolk, according to Equibase.

Lost in the Fog


Opening day at Suffolk Downs started sunny and warm, then the fog formed by the marine layer rising from the nearby coast rolled through minutes before the seventh race, clouding the card’s last three races. Despite the turn in the weather, the meet began on a hopeful note and with a crowd of 11,372.

Scenes from Suffolk’s 75th

A crowd of 10,310 came out to enjoy Suffolk Downs’ 75th anniversary card on Saturday, wagering $259,880 on track. It was a lively scene, one that even a mid-afternoon downpour couldn’t dampen. A few photos from the day …

Suffolk 75th
Big Cash gets hosed down after winning the day’s first race. The 4-year-old gelding trained by Wayne Marcoux lived up to his name, paying $42, the biggest price of the afternoon. Favorites won four of the 10 races on the card.

Suffolk 75th
Tom and Richard Phelan, interviewed in the winner’s circle by Bob Neumeier after the first race. The Phelans’ parents won the first race run at Suffolk Downs with a horse named Eddie Wrack. Richard holds the silks worn that day by rider Carl Hanford, who would go on to become a Hall of Fame trainer known for such champions as the great Kelso.

Suffolk 75th
Trainer John Boillard, a happy man after winning the day’s fourth race with Bullheaded, a 4-year-old son of Holy Bull ridden by Tammi Piermarini.

Suffolk 75th
Retired jockey Abigail Fuller, awaiting the fourth race trophy presentation, talks with reporters and photographers trackside. The day’s fourth was named in honor of Mom’s Command, the winner of the 1985 Filly Triple Crown and Alabama Stakes. Fuller rode Mom’s Command for her father, breeder and owner Peter Fuller, in all but two of the Hall of Famer’s starts. “It’s great to be back and great to see all of my good friends,” said Fuller.

Suffolk 75th
A mid-card downpour delayed the start of the sixth.

Suffolk 75th
Jackie Davis weighs out after winning race six on Jerry the Mush, a 2-year-old colt trained by Charles Fontana. Davis, who rode as an apprentice in New York, is a graduate of Chris McCarron’s North American Racing Academy, as is another young Suffolk jockey, Kristina McManigell. McCarron, who got his start in racing at Suffolk Downs in 1971, presented the trophy for the day’s eighth race, named in honor of 1987 MassCap winner Waquoit.

Suffolk 75th
Awakino Cat, trained by Linda Rice, in the winner’s circle after the Seabiscuit Stakes. The race was taken off the turf due to heavy rain. “It was a little bit wet but that helped me out,” said jockey Channing Hill, adding that the switch to the main track didn’t much change his strategy for the five-furlong sprint.

Suffolk 75th
Channing Hill watches as Everyday Heroes is reshod. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee lost his right front plate shortly before the James B. Moseley Sprint Stakes starters left the paddock and strongly resisted the efforts of the farrier to re-shoe him, rearing several times and looking more and more washed out and agitated as the minutes passed. Calls of “Scratch him!” came from the crowd gathered around the fence. He wasn’t, and won the race by a game head, paying $9.20 and giving Hill a sweep of day’s stakes.

Charts for Suffolk Downs, 7/10/10 (PDF).

Celebrating 75 Years

A bird's eye view of opening day at Suffolk Downs, 1935

Dorchester native and Hall of Fame rider Chris McCarron, back in town to help Suffolk Downs celebrate its 75th anniversary today, tells the Boston Globe:

“There are a lot of wonderful things that have happened here.”

There are, and one of those wonderful things was the 1987 MassCap, which Waquoit, with McCarron aboard, won by a hard-fought nose over Broad Brush. Jim Hannon’s race call that day ranks among the best in the game:

I’ll always remember the 2004 MassCap, won by Offlee Wild in a three-way photo over Funny Cide and the Lady’s Groom. It was a thrilling stretch duel:

More Suffolk memories: Ed Gray, the long-time, now retired, turf writer for the Boston Herald, remembers the late James B. Moseley, who’s honored with the Moseley Sprint Stakes. “Against all odds, Moseley, a respected thoroughbred breeder and owner from Hamilton, reinvigorated the state’s racing industry while considerably bolstering its standing on the national racing scene …” The children of the first owner to win a race at Suffolk Downs will be in the winner’s circle after today’s first, named the Eddie Wrack in memory of that first wining horse, to present those winning connections with a trophy.

From my first visit in August 2003, Suffolk Downs has been a significant part of my life. I look forward to the racetrack being so for many, many more years. From the Railbird archives, here are a few Suffolk highs, Suffolk lows, and handicapping woes, a very special horse, and a cartoon: Brass Hat Wins MassCap and “Open the Doors!” (2007); Michel Lapensee, 1947-2005 (2005); Winning Bets I Didn’t Make (2005) and Missed Opportunity (2004); My Own Private Favorite (2004); Opening day at Suffolk Downs (2006).

If you’re in the Boston area, come on out to Suffolk Downs this afternoon for all the anniversary festivities. Celebrate an institution, enjoy the horses.

Saturday Overnight Up

Entries for Suffolk Downs’ 75th anniversary card are out. Ten races, several named to honor special guests — The Mom’s Command (Abigail Fuller), The Cigar (Jerry Bailey), and The Waquoit (Chris McCarron) — and most full, although the James B. Moseley Sprint Stakes only drew five. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will ship in Darley-owned Everyday Heroes, who hasn’t started since running sixth in the Gallant Bob Handicap at Philadephia Park in October 2009. Channing Hill comes along to ride. The jockey is also named aboard Awakino Cat in the Seabiscuit Stakes, one of two three entries for trainer Linda Rice in the 5 1/2-furlong turf event. Her other Seabiscuit starters are Ahvee’s Destiny and the consistent Lady Rizzi, winner of the Buckland Stakes at Colonial last month. Local rider Winston Thompson picks up the mount.

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Thanks for the Omnisurface Stars mention, Alicia Wincze. I agree, the site is a terrific resource (and a lot of fun to browse).

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