Keeping Score: Back in the saddle at Suffolk

Friday, July 06, 2018

Good morning!

Suffolk Downs opened in 1935, and Seabiscuit raced four times during its inaugural season. The magnificent racehorse won his first start and lost his next three at the East Boston oval. Six decades later, Cigar captured the Mass. Handicap for his sixth straight win and won again the following year for his 15th straight trip to the winner’s circle.

The track closed in 2014, but this weekend the bugler’s call will sound and the tote board will flash the odds the same as when Bing Crosby stabled horses here and Rin Tin Tin made a special guest appearance.

Bankrolled by cash that gamblers have put through the slots at Plainridge Park Casino, race secretary Tom Creel has cobbled together two 13-race cards with purses of between $25,000 and $50,000. It’s good coin for horses that have measured their earnings in hundreds not thousands. 

Oh, there’s some backclass stabled in the barns —  Captain Dixie in the eighth race has won $273,856 in 27 career starts, and Worth The Worry in Sunday’s first race has banked $303,265 in 31 races — but the overall quality of steed will remind railbirds of being at the Tri-County Fair and not at Saratoga.

Creel was Suffolk’s race secretary from 2008 until it closed and is currently the assistant race secretary and stakes coordinator at Parx Racing in Philadelphia.

His condition book for this weekend includes races for non-winners of two in a career, non-winners of three, non-winners in 2018, and that old standby maidens, non-winners of any.

“It’s hectic, pretty busy,” Creel said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “They’re shipping from Finger Lakes, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia. … There’ll be a lot of lookers, but we’ll handle between $250,000 and $300,000.”

The brief summer meet will resume on Aug. 4 and 5, and talks are ongoing to have racing at the Great Barrington Fairgrounds. “I guess we’re working on it, but I really can’t comment,” said Creel.

Post time both days is 12:55 p.m. and paraphrasing the late sportswriter Red Smith, the 100-mile drive might be worth it to go back 50 years in time.

Derek Rae comically understated Kyle Walker’s crippling leg cramps during England’s Round of 16 knockout win against Colombia on Tuesday. “Walker,” he sniffed, “laboring a bit.”

His droll observations together with sidekick Aly Wagner’s dislike of yellow cards that were prompted by fake injuries — “This is getting quite absurd” she exclaimed — have been a refreshing break from hearing baseball broadcasters who are addicted to “stat packs.”

Meanwhile the “extra time” that is allotted after 90 minutes is irksome to an American audience that is accustomed to knowing down to the tenth of a second when the rooster will crow. “It’s going to be a minimum of five minutes,” said Rae.

As for the penalty kicks, I agree with the commentator who said that England’s win on the last kick was pure drama. Must be my English heritage. Rule, Britannia!

In 2012, Jeremiah Masoli was kicked off Chip Kelly’s nationally-ranked Oregon Ducks football team for burglarizing a frat house, and when good players do bad things they go to Canada.

Thursday, the 29-year-old quarterback tied a CFL record with his ninth straight, 300-yard passing game during the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ 18-13 loss to Saskatchewan.

Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy the same year Masoli left Oregon, but now the tables are turned and Manziel’s riding the pine in Hamilton.

According to seccountry.com, Manziel’s $122K salary will double if he takes half the snaps this season. The Tiger-Cats (3-3) have 12 games left, which is a good thing for Manziel who’s yet to get behind center in a game.

NESN and Northeastern are partnering to broadcast up to 75 Huskies’ games in 2018-19, from field hockey to ice hockey and baseball. “Content is the new currency in intercollegiate athletics,” said Northeastern AD Jeff Konya.

SQUIBBERS: Tom Echeverria has retired from the Franklin Orthopedic Group. After decades of volunteer work at high school games, Ech can show his wife Anne how to win the chuck-a-puck contest at UMass hockey games.  …  Former UMass linebacker Da’Sean Downey lasted less than a month with the Ravens. The Baltimore Sun reported that Downey was signed as a free agent on May 14 and released after the rookie minicamp tryouts on May 31. … After being swept by the Red Sox, the Nationals needed seven pitchers to quell the mighty Marlins on Thursday. The first sign something was wrong with this team was losing five of six to the Astros in Spring Training. … After blowing a 2-0 lead and losing to Belgium on Monday, the Japanese cleaned out their lockers and left a thank you note to the Russians. … Joey Chestnut scarfed down 74 franks to win Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog eating contest at Coney Island on Wednesday. “I try just to have fun,” said the 34-year-old Kentuckian. … Yankees starter Sonny Gray is a latter day Reggie Cleveland, a Red Sox pitcher during the Don Zimmer years who once gave up the cycle to the first four batters he faced. … World Cup commentator Peter Drury’s advice on how to convert a penalty kick: “Don’t hesitate. If you think long, you think wrong.” … The New York Post’s profile of John Sterling by Andrew Marchand reported that Sterling’s voice greeting begins, “Congratulations, you’ve reached…” Sterling doesn’t use email and keeps “his satellite radio locked to the Sinatra channel.” … On Nationals’ broadcasts, the speed of the game’s first pitch is sponsored by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. … Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are on pace to combine for 100 doubles and 92 home runs. … Brian Cashman told the NY Post that rookie phenom Gleyber Torres might need more than 10 days to heal his sore hip. It’s a significant injury in the team’s war of attrition with the Red Sox. … According to the figures on NBCsports.com, Alex Ovechkin made $125,000 a game in the regular season but only $8,333 per playoff game. No wonder it’s about playing for the Cup and not the money. … Former England soccer captain Terry Butcher, quoted by sportskeeda.com: “The beauty of Cup football is that Jack always has a chance of beating Goliath.”


Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached by email at sports@recorder.com.