Horse News

Scarborough Downs will halt live horse racing this month, ending a 70-year run

By Mike Lowe as published on The Portland Press Herald

The track, which opened with thoroughbred racing in 1950, has struggled through years of financial hardship and will hold its last harness racing card on Nov. 28.

Warm ups prior to time trials at Scarborough Downs, photographed in May, 1988. (1988 Press Herald File/John Patriquin)

Scarborough Downs will hold its last live harness racing event on Nov. 28, ending 70 years of horse racing at a struggling racetrack that had its heyday in the 1970s and ’80s.

Mike Sweeney, the track’s publicist and race announcer, confirmed on Thursday the end of live racing at the track. Scarborough Downs, which has been suffering financial losses for nearly 15 years, had faced an uncertain future since the facility was sold in 2018 to a group of developers who have built around the track for the last two years.

“The overriding sense within the industry is that harness racing needs something different, something that Scarborough Downs can’t offer,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said Scarborough Downs will continue to offer simulcast betting through the rest of the year and will apply for a 2021 off-track betting license before the Maine Harness Racing Commission on Friday. The simulcast operation will take place in the Clubhouse Building, which will be leased from the developers, Crossroads Holdings LLC. In 2018, simulcast wagering accounted for 91 percent of all money wagered at the track.

“We’ll be closing the season in a week,” Sweeney said. “Actually, we’ll be closing out the 70-year history of Scarborough Downs. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish this year (in light of the COVID-19 safety protocols). Everyone wishes it could have been an easier year. But we did what we needed to do and will march out with our heads up high.”

Denise Terry, the vice president of finance at Scarborough Downs, declined to be interviewed for this story, Sweeney said.

Scarborough Downs opened in 1950 with thoroughbred racing. Harness racing was introduced in the 1970s, and the track reached its heights in the 1970s and ’80s, when the 6,500-seat grandstand was packed on a nightly basis. On June 29, 1980, a crowd of 9,133 showed up to see actor Lou Ferrigno, who was on hand to sign autographs.

But attendance dwindled and the track stopped charging admission in the 1990s. After Scarborough Downs stopped night racing in 2007 because the light posts had to be removed after the hub rail was removed for safety reasons, the crowds thinned even more. The grandstand fell into disrepair and was eventually closed to fans and the entire facility had a rundown look…(CONTINUED)

3 replies »

  1. This is the best news!!! Now all of the horse racing must stop. This non sport is a killing field, with the horses breaking their legs and the drugs giving then horrendous heart attacks. People should be arrested and in jail for this abuse which has gone on forever.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m happy that they will not be racing anymore. But now what happens to the horses do they send them to slaughter oh yes that’s what will happen.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michelle it IS what has been happening to the ”ex-race horse” Thoroughbred or Standardbred or Quarter Horse – it IS what they do to them!!! RACE them until they can’t – ran into the ground (breakdown) or sold/dumped at auctions where MEAT BUYERS await OR right into the hands of meat buyers. There are a few that land safely…very very few, there are a few that are ransomed & get out only to be looked after not by the people who caused the damage!
      THIS … will make zero difference. It will depend on the owner/trainer who they give/sell their horses to! That’s what the fate of EVERY horse out there…the owner!

      Liked by 2 people

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