Suffolk Downs longshot to stay open

Staying open in the long term may still be the longest of longshots, but Suffolk Downs management and horsemen have three more months to try to hit it big.?Am I optimistic? No. Am I hopeful? Yes,” said Jay Bernardini, Suffolk?s leading trainer in 2014, who is running a string of horses at Laurel in Maryland this winter. “A lot of people have put in a lot of time and effort. They say where there?s a will, there?s a way. Hopefully, we can will it to happen.”Bernardini was reacting to the news that the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed emergency legislation last Wednesday allowing Suffolk Downs to continue simulcasting – without conducting live racing – until March 31.The horsemen found that bill more appealing than a version passed earlier last week by the state Senate that would have given the track the right to simulcast until July of 2016, also without being required to run any live races.?It got pretty dire,” Bernardini said. “In the big picture, simulcasting with no racing means someday there will be no racing at all. It?s a bad precedent to set.”Representatives of the New England Horsemen?s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) have been in discussions with track management to lease the facility and conduct their own live racing meet, but the two sides have been unable to reach a deal.?A couple of times we were really close to a deal, but we haven?t gotten there,” said Bernardini, an HBPA board member. “It?s a matter of economics.”Suffolk Downs Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle said the track has been negotiating with the horsemen, but they have not yet been able to make the numbers work.Tuttle estimated it would cost the horsemen approximately $10 million to run a 65-day meet – about $6.5 million in purses and $3.5 million in expenses. There is about $5.25 million in the Racehorse Development Fund earmarked for Thoroughbred racing. When the slots parlor at Plainridge Racecourse opens this summer, that will generate approximately $2 million more, Tuttle said, still leaving almost a $3 million gap.The Gaming Commission approved a one-day placeholder live racing license for the horsemen, giving them the opportunity to reapply for more dates if they are able to strike a deal with Suffolk Downs. Tuttle said the horsemen may be able to pull off a shorter meet, such as 30 days, but “they insist they can?t get horses here for (only) a 30-day meet.”Bernardini said horsemen may have to settle for fewer live racing days.?I?m hoping if it?s not 65, maybe 50,” he said, acknowledging that trainers who run exclusively at Suffolk need more days in order to survive. “For those who go someplace else (in the winter), it?s a different story. Three days after Suffolk Downs closes, I?m racing in Maryland.”Nonetheless, Berardini is firmly entrenched in this area. His son, Kyle, is a sophomore and three-sport athlete at St. Mary?s and his wife, Carol, works for the TSA at Logan Airport. He travels back to the area monthly when he is racing out of town.?Boston will always be home,” he said. “It?s where I want to be if at all possible.”Suffolk Downs? future has looked bleak since the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in September awarded the only Boston-area casino license to Wynn Resorts in Everett, bypassing a Mohegan Sun proposal to build a casino on the part of Suffolk Downs property located in Revere (approximately 50 of the 160 total acres).The track held its final live racing card on Oct. 4 and planned to close for good on Dec. 20 before extending the date to Dec. 31. Without action by the legislature, the track would not have opened in 2015.Tuttle said the track would prefer to remain open for two years while it finalizes plans for redevelopment of the property. He noted that Vornado Realty Trust, which holds a 19 percent ownership of the track and land, is one of the largest commercial real estate firms in the country, and that real estate developer and mall magnate Steve Karp is a former board member.?We could look at

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