Sports

Crying shame as Suffolk Downs closes 79-year run

EAST BOSTON? In the end, there were tears.Kathy Botty — whose husband, John, trains Bo Badger, the winner of what is likely the last race ever run at Suffolk Downs — wept openly in the winner?s circle as the rain fell on the East Boston oval late Saturday afternoon.Jessica Paquette, the communications director whose passion for her job and the sport is surpassed only by her love for the equine athletes and their human connections, couldn?t contain her emotions as the horses crossed the finish line for the final time.Taylor Hole, who will go down in the history books as the last winning jockey, tried with varying success to keep a stiff upper lip as he talked about the demise of his workplace, which “put a roof over my family?s head for 27 years.”Who could blame them?In sports, and in life, all anyone can ask for is a fair shake. Set the rules, ensure a level playing field and let the chips fall where they may. You win some, you lose some. May the best man win. (Insert your own cliché here.)When the loser of any competition cries foul, we chalk it up to sour grapes. Most of the time, that is the case.This is the exception.?This is devastating to the city of Revere,” Mayor Dan Rizzo said in the paddock before the last race Saturday. “Suffolk Downs is a source of pride for our community. This is ending because of a bad decision by the gaming commission.”You will recall that it was Rizzo who approached Suffolk Downs ownership last November after East Boston voters nixed the idea of a casino. If they don?t want it, we?ll take it, Rizzo told them, suggesting the entire project be built in Revere.Suffolk Downs partnered with Mohegan Sun. The competition for the Boston-area casino license was an Everett project proposed by Steve Wynn, whose success in the gaming industry has been well trumpeted, especially by Steve Wynn.All logic pointed to Mohegan?s getting the license. Why wouldn?t you want expanded gambling to be sited at a location where gambling has been conducted since 1935, especially when Mohegan had a better plan when it came to traffic mitigation and working with surrounding communities?And did we mention the 1,000-plus racing-related jobs that would be saved?But this is Massachusetts, where logic is at best a tourist. Three of four members of the Mass. Gaming Commission voted to award the license to Wynn. Commission chairman Stephen Crosby couldn?t vote on the most important piece of business that will ever be put before the commission. His former business partner, Paul Lohnes, owns the Everett land, along with three others who were indicted last week for allegedly lying to the commission in order to hide the fact that one of the owners is Charles Lightbody, a convicted felon from Revere. Lohnes was not indicted.Someone at the track Saturday summed it up: The gaming commission chairman?s former business partner?s current business partners lied to the commission so Wynn could get the license. No problem there.It?s so absurd it?s almost comical, but you?ll excuse Richard Fields for not laughing. The Suffolk Downs majority owner and his partners have sunk about $60 million into the track, gambling that a casino license would some day pay them back tenfold — and keep horse racing alive.?I think if this were a legitimate vote on the merits, the project Mohegan Sun put forth at Suffolk Downs would have succeeded,” said Fields.?I thought we had the best proposal,” Rizzo added, “from site design to mitigation to economic impact. Clearly, this isn?t the result we expected. I?ve replayed it in my mind four or five times a day and it doesn?t make any sense.”Sorry, Mr. Mayor, but in Massachusetts it makes perfect sense.So the curtain came down Saturday on 79 years of history. Some of the horsemen will relocate, including Lynn resident Jay Bernardini, who captured the final training title with 58 wins. He is on the way to Maryland with three dozen-plus horses.Others, such as pari-mutuels director Jim Alcott, a Saugonian through and

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