East Boston, MA - Tom Schwigen, the longtime starter at Suffolk Downs, died unexpectedly of a heart attack on Thursday, September 8 at his home in Chester, New Hampshire. He was 68 years old.

Schwigen has been the track’s starter since 1992. He served as the starter at Rockingham Park (from 1986-2002) and several other New England tracks over the course of his career. In 2010, Schwigen had the opportunity to be a member of the starting gate crew at the Kentucky Derby.

“Tom was not only the best starter I have ever seen, he was a one-of-a-kind,” said Sam Elliott, the track’s Vice President of Racing. “He was a gentleman, a storyteller and great guy. He will be sorely missed by anyone who ever had the pleasure to meet him.”

A memorial service will be held at Suffolk Downs on Saturday, September 24.