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  Unnecessary Roughness !     

Foxboro RacewayFoxboro Logo

The track at Foxboro, opened in 1947, and existed for fifty years. Foxboro is located roughly half way between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island. Starting out as a half mile harness track named Bay State Raceway, the track was also known as New England Harness Raceway, Foxboro Raceway and ended as Foxboro Park. In the early years it had an open air grandstand as it ran summer dates between Rockingham Park and Suffolk Downs. Over the years the facility which could accommodate 15,000, with seating for 3,500 in the grandstand, 1,500 in the clubhouse and a dinning room that held 200. Stall availability increased over the years to house over 1,200 horses and there were parking for 10,000 cars. In 1971 there were a couple of major changes, one which would finally lead to the tracks demise.

In 1971 the track was expanded to five eights of a mile and it got a new neighbor, the Bay State Patriot's, really!Well at least for a month, when it was changed to the New England Patriots. Who would in 1997 force the track out of business. In 1971 Foxboro picked up additional dates when Suffolk Downs eliminated harness racing and ran a fall meet. At the end of 1971 the grandstand was glass enclosed and heated in anticipation of it's first winter meet in 1972. During it's Bay State days the track was part of The Grand Circuit, the only New England track to ever have that honor, it was also part of the Atlantic Seaboard Circuit.

You knew it was inevitable, you would approach Foxboro Raceway from the south on rt. 1 and you were greeted by this magnificent billboard that  featured a neon harness horse trotting along, legs moving, driver whipping, wheels spinning on the bike. After a while the driver stopped whipping, the horse stopped running but he was still spinning his wheels. Soon the wheels stopped spinning, ultimately the lights went dark. I guess you can figure what came next!

Foxboro RacewaySeason Pass

Foxboro Raceway started out as Bay State Raceway in 1947, when an entrepreneur, E.M. Loew and a horseman Paul Bowser teamed to start the track. The track struggled in the early years trying to gain a foothold in an area that was already populated with thoroughbred and dog tracks. Slowly the idea of harness racing begin to gain popularity in Eastern Massachusetts. Paul Bowser died in 1960 but E.M. Loew continued to run the track. Going into the nineteen seventies, it was not uncommon for crowds of over 10,000 to attend the races there. In 1970 generously donated a piece of land to the then struggling Boston Patriots, for a new stadium that would keep the franchise in New England. Little did he know that he had signed it's death certificate.

Foxboro RacewayFoxboro Ad

In 1976 the aforementioned horse story begin in earnest. The soap opera begins when Ed Andleman and Ed Keelan purchase the track from Loew. From the beginning there was bad blood between the raceway and the stadium owners. This came to a head when during refinancing a surveyor noticed part of the football stadium was on track property. This actually ended up being a battle that would have made the New England Patriots move their Labor Day home opener to Pittsburg. Patriot owner Billy Sullivan waged a fierce publicity campaign to get the track to relent. Somehow out of all that mess the Sullivan's took over the lease of the track. Football not being what it is today, a failed financing of a Michael Jackson tour, a decline in attendance the Sullivan's manage to bankrupt the track by 1986. In February 1987 the track is padlocked and horseman are evicted, the final act begins in a few years.

While the Sullivan's are struggling a man named Robert Kraft is at work in the background. In 1985 he acquires a parcel of land adjacent to the racetrack and stadium. In 1988 he works out a deal with the bankruptcy court to lease Foxboro Stadium, setting the stage for his final victory.

O.K. enough football, back to racing. In 1990 another player, Charles Sarkis who owns Wonderland Dog Track in Revere comes into play. He finally persuades the Massachusetts Racing Commission to let him reopen Foxboro Raceway as a thoroughbred, standardbred venue. In May of 1992 the unthinkable happens, thoroughbreds are loaded into the starting gate at Foxboro. For all you purist, not to worry the meet closes after only thirty five days of a scheduled seventy two. In September Foxboro returns to normal when the harness horses return. In the background Robert Kraft is still working, in 1994 he finally owns the New England Patriots. Now having hit the trifecta, he decides to build a new stadium. With everything in place he overruns Sarkis, has the place padlocked again, this time for good. The track becomes a parking lot, game over.

Foxboro EntranceFoxboro Entrance

In 2012 there is no sign of the track where Wally Cryan so skillfully called the races. Over the years the track was known by several names, starting off as Bay State Raceway, then became New England Harness Raceway and went out of existence as Foxboro Raceway. Located off Route 1 in Foxboro, the track was able to accommodate up to 15,000 fans, with grandstand seating for 3,500 and 1,500 seats in the clubhouse. It was estimated to have parking for 10,000 cars.

I started going  to Foxboro in the mid-seventy's, just as Jim Doherty and Ted Wing were leaving for New Jersey, I remember many a drafty night standing in front of those old garage doors and more pleasurable ones sitting in the front row right on the finish line, in the reserved premier seating area. I can recall horses, like Ashgrove with her red mane flying down the stretch, or who could forget Mighty Sid, John Hogan got his hands on that one and they reeled off something like seventeen wins in a row. Because my favorite nights were .10 beer nights a fond remembrances to Nickel Beer, but my favorite was a foreigner.

Foxboro Raceway1971 New 5/8 Mile Track

He blew in with the cold wind from Canada in December of  74, his name was Bachelor Boy N. His first race he ran second, then between the end of 1994 and February first, he reeled of six straight wins. Under his driver, trainer Jim Doherty, Bachelor Boy would be dead last heading into the stretch, always closing with a rush to win, except his last race. The race on February first, Bachelor Boy would be facing a real challenge, a New York invader named Count Kef, came to town with regular driver David Dunckley from Yonkers Raceway. Count Kef had raced against some of the best horses in the country and was looking for an easy score. Maybe.

 This time when the starting gate took off Bachelor Boy took off with it. Unbelievably Bachelor Boy was cutting the mile. Bachelor Boy and Doherty who went off the second favorite held off a furious drive by Dunckley and Count Key to win by a nose. Whether that tactic surprised Dunckly or not it got the job done. After that race Bachelor Boy headed to Liberty Bell, where he won at least one race, then vanished, but not forever.

Foxboro RacewayWhere's Tonto ?

When the racing scene shifted to Rockingham Park in the spring, Doherty had Bachelor Boy in his stable but somewhere along the way the horse sustained an injury and missed the Rock Meet. When the circuit returned to Foxboro, so did Bachelor Boy, but he wasn't the same horse. His first start back, as a heavy favorite he finished off the board. He finally returned to the winners circle on his fourth race back, after that he disappeared again, this time for good. Forty years later harness racing could be right behind him.

I guess I should provide a little something about the thoroughbred era at Foxboro, an ill fated 75 day meet, that only lasted for 34 of them. In hindsight you probably have to ask what the new owners of Foxboro Park were thinking when they decided to run thoroughbreds there. I guess it made sense, Suffolk was closing, they were starting, they forced the competition at Marshfield out of business, Rockingham was running days, they were running nights, what could go wrong? A little thing called "Equine Virus" , Foxboro wasn't doing great, but when all the horse's at Rockingham and Suffolk got quarantined, they ran out of entries. At that point they decided to cut their loses and folded up the tent, hoping for a better outcome returning to the standardbreds. They had to they had spent a small fortune fixing that place up.

I always remember Foxboro as being a bit run down, and I did go there once or twice after the 1992 redo but I really don't remember if it seemed any different. The only thing I do recall was a hot new driver there named George Brennan, I guess he did OK for himself.

One last story about Foxboro, this one involves a masked man, (no he wasn't trying to rob the place). On opening night in April of 1980 Foxboro had a promotion featuring Clayton Moore, who for years played the Lone Ranger on Television. It was kind of sad as they paraded him in front of a small crowd in the back of an old convertible, looking nothing like he should, in 1979 the person who owned the rights to the Lone Ranger name was planning a Lone Ranger movie didn't want people thinking the then sixty something Moore would have anything to do with the film, so he was forced to portray himself as just "The Ranger" a sunglass wear'n non gun tote'n hero, without a sidekick, but where was Tonto?.

Unfortunately Tonto (Jay Silverheels) passed away about a month before this appearance, ironically in 1974, Silverheels obtained a harness drivers license  and performed at tracks across the country, winning a handful of races in a short career. In the nineteen nineties there was a pacer named for Tonto called Hi Ho Silverheel's who at one point set a world record for a mile and a quarter race at the Meadowlands. As for Clayton Moore, a happy ending. The Lone Ranger movie was a giant flop and over time he won a court decision which allowed him to be "The Lone Ranger" again. Hi Ho Silver !