JC / Railbird

Wild Talk in NE

Frustrated by a breakdown in negotiations with Suffolk Downs over 2011 purses and race dates, the lawyer representing the New England horsemen’s group is considering alternate venues for live racing, reports the Blood-Horse:

“If Suffolk Downs doesn’t want to work with us, we’ll find someone else that does. There is no reason we have to have live racing at Suffolk Downs.”

The New England horsemen are good people, but this is mad, as is their lawyer Frank Frisoli’s assertion that, “Suffolk [management] can recognize that we’re a partnership, or they can continue to stick their head in the sand.”

It’s not management that’s playing ostrich. Over the past four years, Suffolk has restored parts of the cut stakes schedule, fixed up bits of the grandstand and backstretch, celebrated a 75th anniversary — and lost $40 million keeping racing going. That’s not because Suffolk management is filled with altruists — if expanded gaming ever comes to Massachusetts, the track expects returns on that money many times over — but it has gallantly sustained the unsustainable. The message being sent this winter, and which the horsemen can’t seem to hear for the sand in their ears, is blunt — no more.


It seems to be playing out along the lines we were discussing yesterday here.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

Posted by PTP on February 2, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

Indeed, and it’s frustrating to watch as a fan. I’m see both sides, but not how they’re going to overcome this impasse. An agreement for this year? And then? The situation is untenable.

Posted by Jessica on February 2, 2011 @ 3:00 pm

It has happened up here (Ontario) about 12 times the last seven years. There is a fight over dates, and revenue splits and so on.

Usually the racing commission steps in and settles it (almost 100% of the time with a business case, so increases in dates tends to lose that fight).

I remember the last one. Track wanted 106 dates and 55/45 simo split. Horsemen wanted 50/50 and 140 dates or so. They ended up with 108 dates with a 50/50 simo split. Since handle is off by 40%+ the last several years, the simo split works out to pretty much nothing — nickels and dimes.

So in the above case, a fight that lasted almost three months and killed millions in revenues, was about two race days and peanuts in cash.

It’s a wild world!

Posted by PTP on February 2, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

The bone of contention is that the reduced dates do not allow for a “healthy breeding industry” in that state. But I question….

a) where is the clamor for more racing Mass-breds?
b) why isn’t there more national interest for the Suffolk Downs signal?

Times have changed. It is instances such as these when horsemens group refuse to bend and adapt that cause them more harm than good.

I do believe Massachusetts horsemen would be welcome to race elsewhere in the midatlantic. Many of them already have hit the high road in the past, so I’m expecting more of the same this summer.

Posted by The_Knight_Sky on February 2, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

Horsemen are also reluctant to accept a shorter meet (which would require legislative action) because they worry that Suffolk Downs will have no incentive to run longer meets when (if) slots arrive. (Here’s a horseman with that concern.) That’s a reasonable fear, if you think 100 days of Mass-breds running for slots-inflated purses is a grand goal.

Posted by Jessica on February 2, 2011 @ 4:56 pm

Horsemen can’t run for 75k a day. It is preposterous. It also kills the breeding industry. True the track is in a bad spot, but the horsemen are in dire straights. You need to do some research before commenting as you come off foolish. And talking about fixing up the track? It is gross and really not a place you want to spend time.

Posted by Harmon Willoghby 1V on February 3, 2011 @ 8:46 am

We’re agreed that daily purses of $75,000 are not enough, Harmon, as I commented earlier. Even daily purses of $100,000 aren’t quite enough. There’s no doubt that the horsemen have legitimate complaints, but Frisoli’s “militant” talk is tone deaf and denies the reality of the situation, which is dire for all involved.

As for the track, I’ve spent some time at Aqueduct in recent years, and that’s a facility that was really allowed to disintegrate while waiting for slots to come in. Suffolk isn’t Saratoga, but it gets painted and cleaned, its grounds are landscaped, and there’s a decent playground on the apron. Credit to management for keeping up appearances.

I would like to know more about the Mass-bred program and how it works — that a shorter meet will adversely affect it keeps coming up as an issue.

Posted by Jessica on February 3, 2011 @ 8:55 am

It is nice to know that Suffolk Downs is being kept in decent shape in the interim.

The New Jersey breeding industry is suffering from a similar predicament, but they are working with the racetracks in the interim by supporting short summer meet along with an autumn meet. Something similar may happen in 2011. Why? Because it works!

As for the statebreds, I am not in favor of subsidized purses to breed more horses with low-shelf life. All of these state-breds should be bolstering the fields by competing in open company races — in all states.

Posted by The_Knight_Sky on February 3, 2011 @ 10:02 am

“Horsemen are also reluctant to accept a shorter meet (which would require legislative action) because they worry that Suffolk Downs will have no incentive to run longer meets when (if) slots arrive. (Here’s a horseman with that concern.) That’s a reasonable fear, if you think 100 days of Mass-breds running for slots-inflated purses is a grand goal.”

I would have to disagree that is a reasonable gripe. Slots are a game-changer and the commission along with gvts make the policy with racetrack and participant feedback. One of the biggest influences with slots with gvts is green space and the agri-business. No commission out there or gvt would allow a slots fueled purse track to race 50 dates for a huge purse per date because it does not pay the agri-business back, nor does it maximize tax revenues from the agri-business.


Posted by PTP on February 3, 2011 @ 11:39 am

[…] Yesterday’s post may have been intemperate. Via Twitter, I heard from a New England horseman that the dispute with Suffolk Downs is one of fairness. “[W]e … just want what every other racing jurisdiction gets, a 50/50 split on simo revenues, not 75/25 split for suf.” For another, who prefers anonymity, it’s about protecting the state-mandated days the horsemen have now and the Massachusetts breeding program, which registered two foals in 2010. “If the Downs runs less days this year, it won’t run more next year,” he said. “We’ll never see those days again.” Underlying the fight over purses and dates is also the memory of purse reductions last August following the failure of expanded gaming legislation, cuts that left many on the backstretch feeling demoralized. […]

Posted by Jessica Chapel / Railbird v2 - The Other Side on February 3, 2011 @ 1:30 pm