They’re Off: Suffolk Downs, 1986

They're Off

Photograph by Henry Horenstein

“I had been to Suffolk Downs many, many times, because I like to bet on the horses. I was working as a photographer for the Boston Phoenix and had an assignment to take a portrait there. But this time I went specifically to photograph for my book Racing Days.

It’s not easy to get permission to mount a camera above the starting gate during the races, but somehow I had a connection at the track who said they could arrange it. It’s a great place to photograph because of all the characters, and, of course, the action and the expressions and gestures it all ­generates. Also, I love the races, so it’s fun to be at a place where you would go even if you weren’t working.

Suffolk at the end wasn’t much of a racetrack, truly. Still, as a race fan, it’s sad to see that track close. I understand all the reasons behind it, as racing is just not as popular as it used to be and it’s an inefficient way to run a gambling operation. The closing of Suffolk will have a serious impact on the lives of gamblers and horses, but also on farm workers, feed suppliers, transportation workers, and, of course, the many, many people who work at the track and are now under- or unemployed.”

—Henry Horenstein, photographer