The Salem News | By Christian M. Wade
August 14, 2016
BOSTON — Robert Temple remembers when horse racing enthusiasts flocked to Suffolk Downs, crowded into the grandstands to watch thoroughbred legends tear up the dirt track, and wagered huge sums on the outcome.
“It was absolutely packed,” said Temple, a former Boston Herald Traveler reporter and author of two books on the history of New England horse racing. “The parking lots were full and traffic was backed up for miles. Most days you couldn’t even find a seat.”
Like many of New England’s other venerable racetracks, Suffolk Downs has lost out to cable television, internet gaming, casinos, and thoroughbred racing’s failure to attract a new generation of fans.
The track closed as a full-time live racing venue in 2014 after failing to win a state casino license. It still runs a few races each year, but most of the action is simulcast from other states.
The state’s equestrian industry — which includes horse owners, breeders and trainers in the North of Boston region — are trying to hold onto a vestige of that past.
They’re backing a proposal by the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association to build a new facility ¬— possibly on a piece of land somewhere in Essex County — that would provide a venue for full-time racing. Money to build it would come from the state’s share of casino gambling taxes.