- On three separate occasions, I overheard people at Belmont on Saturday talking about how they were going to go to the new slots parlor at Yonkers. I dunno, maybe I'm just not much of a hardened gambler in that I've never had any desire whatsoever to go to any casino, anywhere. But there's little doubt that Yonkers is going to have an impact on the way people dispose of their betting dollars around here, especially once it's up to 5500 machines by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the Standardbred Owners' Association filed a complaint in state Supreme Court on Friday, claiming that the opening is illegal because there is no racing to accompany it. In a message from its president Joe Faraldo (via Albany Law Shcool Racing and Wagering page), he tells of a visit to the track he took last week.
It became clear to me that despite a closure in excess of sixteen months, too much work yet remained. For example, the paddock is not suitable for racing and is still a storage facility; there is no place for patrons to wager on races; there are no V monitors to view races for either the patrons or racing officials; there are no betting machines; no tote board, etc.The SOA stands on sound legal ground here, but the state has obviously given Yonkers a break by allowing them to race during this interim period. Only the law protects the racing in this situation, as there is obviously little business incentive for Yonkers to race.
We cannot allow racetrack owners to either ignore racing altogether, or to race a miserably small number of live race programs, as is the trend at some other New York harness ovals. In order to do that we need to race, and we intend to do all in our power to see that we are racing ASAP. Accordingly, we have now been forced to commence yet another unfortunate, but completely necessary legal proceeding, and have sought the assistance of the legislature and are making our case in the press.
And if management really cared about the racing there, they would have taken this opportunity to change the configuration of the track to a 5/8ths mile oval. Yonkers is a standing joke around here for its endless parade of wire-to-wire favorites. Not only is it a half-mile track, but it's one with a very short stretch. Several years ago, they tried to "stretch the stretch," moving the finish line down, and running races at a mile and a sixteenth to avoid having the race start too close to the turn. But they went back to running most races at a mile, and honestly, not having followed the racing there, I'm not really sure why. But I do know that harness racing is far more exciting on a bigger track where there is more racing room and a longer stretch; and Yonkers, as it's constructed now, will never be able to compete on a sporting basis with the mile track at the Meadowlands, no matter how big the purses may get.
- New York Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, having discussed the matter with Gov Pataki, says that NYRA will soon get their $19 million. "There's no reason on this earth for NYRA to go bankrupt." [Bloodhorse]