Day At The Track

Harness racing opposes Belmont night racing

10:48 AM 30 Mar 2018 NZDT
Comment (...) Tweet Share Email Print
With a hockey arena being added to the Belmont Park property, NYRA officials hope to add some night racing
With a hockey arena being added to the Belmont Park property, NYRA officials hope to add some night racing

The Standardbred industry has opposed a plan to add night racing at Belmont.

A plan advanced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to permit nighttime racing at Belmont Park has died in New York State budget talks, officials say.

Two sources—one in the state Senate and one in the Assembly—say the effort pushed by the New York Racing Association to try to expand its fan base ran into trouble with the Standardbred industry.

"It's definitely not going to happen in this budget,'' said Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, chairman of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee.

Pretlow had been hopeful for a deal, but he said NYRA was unwilling to go along with a proposal put forward by Standardbred owners that would keep them financially harmless if Belmont added nighttime racing to its menu.

"So far, the nighttime belongs to trotters and the daytime belongs to Thoroughbreds,'' Pretlow said. "And the Standardbred owners believed this was an infringement on their time."

While Pretlow was definitive in saying the nighttime proposal won't be passed in a new state budget under consideration this week in Albany, the overall budget has not closed down. At the New York State Capitol, it would not be unusual if measures thought dead one day could come back to life—with concessions by stakeholders—the next day.

NYRA plans to continue its efforts to add night racing."As we have publicly stated throughout this process, NYRA believes that night racing is an important component in recruiting and maintaining new generations of fans to secure the long-term future of horse racing in New York, an industry responsible for 17,000 jobs and $2 billion in annual economic impact," said a NYRA spokesman.

Pretlow said a "hold harmless" provision was floated by Standardbred owners in return for them relaxing opposition to the Belmont plan. "NYRA refused to do that, which means that if NYRA doesn't want to give you a hold harmless that they do anticipate hurting your industry,'' said the Westchester County Democrat.

NYRA believes such restrictions should be ended and noted that there would be little overlap.

"The public has a right to choose the sporting events that they wish to watch, and legislation that would allow NYRA to conduct Thoroughbred racing at night provides them with that choice—the same choice that the public currently enjoys with respect to every other athletic league able to offer their product at night," said the NYRA statement. "The limited scope of night racing at Belmont Park means that the overlap with Standardbred racing would be minimal. In addition, NYRA believes that the addition of Thoroughbred racing at night would contribute to Standardbred handle by increasing the potential audience wagering at night. That's why we have been willing to collaborate with the Standardbred owners to stagger post times to benefit both parties. 

"We will continue to work on advancing night racing in order to reach new audiences, drive tourism and expand our economic impact in New York."

Based on a request by NYRA, Cuomo in January proposed racing after sunset at Belmont during limited periods. If the idea is not revived, it would be the second year the it has died in the Assembly. Senate officials indicated support for the nighttime plan.

Under Cuomo's plan, nighttime racing would have been offered only Thursday through Saturday evenings and had to conclude by 10:30 p.m. NYRA also would have had to coordinate race start times with Yonkers harness track in Westchester County.

NYRA wanted the plan to help it better piggyback onto future plans for re-development of non-racing parcels at Belmont, including a new arena for the New York Islanders and entertainment and retail space.

"It will be around again,'' Pretlow said of the NYRA Belmont plan. "They're not going to give up on it.'' He said any number of ideas—from better guarantees about start times to a more dramatic offer to have Thoroughbred and Standardbred races held at the same track—have been floated in recent talks. "That can't happen now because of the different track surfaces,'' Pretlow said. "So it's not going to happen this year ... but I'm hopeful in the future to move forward on something.''

By Tom Precious

Reprinted with permission of The Bloodhorse

Comment (...) Tweet Share Email Print

Read More News About...

Stallion Name

Next article: