- NYRA, Belmont Park ripped as lousy neighbors read the headline in Newsday, referring to the Senate hearing held in Elmont on Monday.
In a hearing convened by the State Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, speakers criticized the track for ignoring Elmont and failing to help alleviate a declining local economy, an unkempt racetrack exterior and increasing crime.As you local readers know, Elmont is no Saratoga. It's not at all a destination, merely the place where Belmont is. It says a lot that the only press coverage I've seen of the hearing in a daily newspaper was the above referenced story in Newsday. It's a nice enough residential area, and I can certainly understand their feelings about the physical appearance of the track. The huge grandstand is unkempt to say the least; and worst of all is the decaying railroad station. There's a huge, hideous overhead walkway from the track to the trains which at one time was a bustling train station complete with ticket windows. It's probably been, what, 20 years now? since a ticket's been sold there, and it stands empty most of the time. The last train leaves around 25 minutes after the final race, and sometimes you'll see some forlorn losers walking over there well before the final race post.
NYRA and Belmont Park have become "the nightmare neighbor next door," said Assemb. Thomas Alfano (R-N. Valley Stream) to cheers by many in the crowd of 200 at the Elmont public library. He called the exterior of the track "an eyesore and source of community embarrassment." [Newsday]
I can't imagine that the track benefits the local economy much beyond the cars that fill up at the Mobil station across the street, or patronize one of the small stores nearby on Hempstead Turnpike. Maybe it was different when a lot of people went to the track. Community leaders made it clear that should there be slots at Belmont, they want a piece of the racino action, as is the case in Yonkers and Saratoga. A spokesperson for the Deputy State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos told the Form that a bill legalizing Belmont slot machines would go nowhere without local allocations.
But the bill won't be going anywhere as long as it's opposed by the Democratic Assembly leadership, and specifically, Speaker Sheldon Silver. As we've seen many times, the gambling issue transcends party lines; and New York is a state in which the Republicans have generally been in favor, and the Democrats stand opposed to any further expansion.
If we have to have slots, there's no place on this earth more suitable than the vast unused grandstand at Belmont. But while Silver's spokesperson told Hegarty that proponents can still make a case, he added, ominously: "The conference of the assembly majority would have to be convinced that it made sense." That's quite similar to the statements out of the Speaker's office before he single-handedly blocked the West Side Stadium (which, for the record and if you care, I was totally in favor of).
- Discreet Cat is headed to the BC Dirt Mile (and Seventy Yards). Well, I suppose he is. He has no Breeders' Cup points this year, but should the race be oversubscribed, the selection committee will no doubt include him, if only for the sporting factor of having one of the more interesting horses of the last few years participate on racing's biggest day. Trainer Saeed bin Suroor told RTE Sport:
'Discreet Cat needed the race - he gave a good blow - and he will be fine in the future when racing over longer distances.
.."When horses get sick, it can take months and you have to be very patient. Discreet Cat is a top class horse and you have to forget today's race and look to the future. I am expecting a good run from him over a mile at the end of October in the Breeders' Cup.'