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2020 Update:  It's finally finished, Suffolk Downs went off the life support system it had been on a couple of weekends a year and it is finally dead. The thundering hoofbeats of the thoroughbreds were not only silenced here, but also the entire New England region.

Massachusetts, is now a casino state, the only thing keeping racing alive at all, was that Plainridge Park managed to secure one of the lesser gaming licenses in the state.

There was talk about bringing back Great Barrington, or The Brockton Fair or even building a grand equestrian center complete with racetrack. This was all talk or some angle to secure a casino license, whatever it was, it probably will never happen and thoroughbreds will never again grace The Bay State.   

Pari-Mutual wagering was legalized 1934.  In June of 1935, Suffolk Downs opened, constructed in an amazing 62 days in the mud flats of East Boston. This would start Massachusetts on a wild ride of racing history.

Suffolk Downs is the only track in the state that has survived since it was built. It has endured Indian attacks, Roman warships, bankruptcy and even a Beatle attack.

In minor comparison the Massachusetts Standarbred Industry started out in Foxboro in 1947. It was a harness track, it was a thorougbred track, it was a parking lot for the New England Patriots. It had hostile takeovers, date disputes but at least no Indian raids.

The real charm of Massachusetts racing was it's fair circuit. You could start off at Cape Cod for the Fourth of July, then head out the Brocton Fair the next week. You had to go back to the Cape for awhile, but in mid August you could head up route 3 to Marshfield, where the fair circuit begin for real. Speaking of Indian attacks, if you didn't get scalped in Marshfield you could continue on Rt. 3 to Weymouth for the next week, Then you needed to do some traveling.

It would now be Labor Day and you would have to get on the Mass Pike and drive to Northampton in Western Massachusetts. It was finally their turn to play. After Northampton, and if you hadn't sworn of racing yet, you were headed for the Berkshires.

You were now in Great Barrington, an artsy community nestled in the Southwest corner of the state. Barrington was the most scenic stop on the circuit, but beauty is only skin deep, just ask Andy Beyers. From that serene environment you head north for your last stop of the year in Hancock.

September, and the racing season is winding down. It's only fitting you come back to reality. The shows over, you are now at dumpy old Berkshire Downs. As you walk to the betting windows the plywood sheets are the only thing between you and a muddy mess, O'h did I mention we're inside the grandstand! It's hard to believe that Frank Sinatra was the vice president of this place. Good bad or indifferent it's all gone now, never to be again.

In 1999 Plainridge Race Couse opened in Plainville a few miles south of Foxboro. It runs harness horses and was intended as a replacement for Foxboro Raceway.

It is now 2015, and the racing scene has changed drastically in Massachusetts, as there hardly is a racing scene. Dog racing has been banished, the fair circuit is long gone, Suffolk Downs, the cornerstone of thoroughbred racing, lost a brutal battle for a Class 1 casino license and decided to shut down. The last remaining track in the state, Plainridge had to sweat out a redo of the proposal that legalized gaming in the first place, luckily the election went in their favor, or they too would have closed, leaving Massachusetts without one pari-mutual facility in the state.

It didn't seem like that long ago you could pick up the Boston Record American (which itself is gone) on a Saturday, in the summertime and find entries for at least ten venues that were running that day, in New England. Today there are no dogs, no thoroughbreds, only three harness tracks are left, plus the Maine Fairs. There still could be some flicker of hope as the owner of the Brocton Fair, is trying to rejuvenate racing there and a local horseman's group is trying to lease Suffolk Downs to return racing there, all this is in the hands of The Massachusetts Racing Commission, so who knows?

Well, lets just say we want to continue our imaginary trip across the USA to visit all the tracks on this site, because Massachusetts is the perfect storm. You can leave a track in either New York, Vermont, New Hampshire or Rhode Island and have a great starting point to hit all tracks, the reverse is true if going from Massachusetts.

Along the way you can even find a little culture, places like Bunker Hill, Old Ironside, Plymouth Rock, Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, Ole Sturbridge Village and Tanglewood, to name a few that are right on the way. So lets start in the Northwest corner and work East.

Leaving either Saratoga Springs, New York or Pownal, Vermont, the first stop is Hancock and the site of Berkshire Downs. Here you'll find the Rodney Hicks Stable, a facility for show horses. You won't find any sign of Berkshire Downs except for the track itself which looks like it is now a turf course. Imagine that, fair horses going five furlongs, on the turf. From here we head south.

Your going down the road about 32 miles To Great Barrington. After about 25 miles you'll cross the old Mass Pike, which will eventually be your main route on this trip. After another eight miles or so your in the center of Great Barrington and the rotting corpse of the fairgrounds. For now it's still there, but it is deteriorating and overgrown, little chance of racing returning, even though it is only one of two fair tracks still intact. Now it's time to backtrack to the Mass Pike and head East to Northampton.

From the Mass Pike you take Interstate 91 North to Northampton. The fairgrounds are visible before you reach the exit for the track. The last operating fair track in Mass. still has it's grandstand, but the barns have been demolished and three huge horse show barns have devoured the backstretch leaving little doubt, racing will ever return. Now you can make a decision, this is your best shot to visit the pile of rocks that once was the harness track in Hinsdale, NH, about an hour up the road. Whatever you decide you'll end up back on I-91 heading South, back to the Mass Pike. Then East to I-495.

This will be the longest leg, about a hundred miles to where I-495 dumps you off on Route 1. From here it's a few miles North to the old Foxboro Raceway. You won't see that trotter on the billboard anymore, hell you won't even see any sign a racetrack existed here, just a giant parking lot, but you can say you were there. From here we backtrack on Route 1 to the only place you can gamble on the trip.

A few yards away from where you got off on Route 1 you'll find Plainridge Race Course, now Plainridge Park Casino, saved by the racino bell. If you omit the few days Suffolk Downs will run, Plainridge is the last pari-mutual track in the state. It's open 24/7 so you can gamble whenever, if you so choose, but rumor is it's struggling, so don't dally. Now it's time for the Eastern Massachusetts fair circuit.

About forty minutes from Plainridge, you'll find the Brockton Fairgrounds, the grandstand is still standing, but like Northampton the racing surface is gone. From there it's around another forty minutes to the Marshfield Fairgrounds, which was approved race dates in 2016. This site is the most intact of any of the old fair tracks and who knows, could race again. The last stop on the fair tour is Weymouth, where you can stare at someone's house. Long gone, it was turned into a housing development years ago. Now a half hour up the road and the trip ends at the grand daddy of them all Suffolk Downs.

After being denied a casino license, Suffolk Downs shut down, but refuses for now to die. Racing if only for a few days has been revived, but if you want to bet a race there you'll only have a few chances but if last year is any indication the racing cards will be decent, bringing back a lot of classic stakes races from the past. If you don't stay long in any one place you could probably cover Massachusetts in about 12 hours and head up I-93 to Rockingham Park in New Hampshire or I-95 to Scarborough Downs in Maine. Happy Motoring, (also the name of a horse who ran on the New England circuit).