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Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I went to Belmont on Sunday, where the crowd was announced as 5,488. I dunno, the place is so big, and it's so empty these days, it's hard for me to tell anymore. But I gotta think that they had to be counting the guests of the (loud) reception being held in the tents behind the clubhouse; as well as the two clowns from Ringling Bros who were performing for the kids. And for of them was an incredibly amazing juggler. Between the legs, arms crossed or even completely behind his back; nothing fazed this dude. Though I'd like to see him juggle the existing horse population into a representative weekend card!

Look, I know it's a tough time for NYRA, and I'm not judging or assigning any blame. It was hard enough even in better times to come up with full fields as Saratoga draws closer. Given the current situation now, with the competition from nearby slots states, and from Monmouth, the infrequency with which horses race, and with pressure I'm sure to present knockout cards on opening weekend upstate, it must be darn near impossible. But, once upon a time not too long ago, I could never have imagined in my most depressing dreams that I'd see the day when the penultimate race, the spot traditionally reserved for the feature, on a Sunday at Belmont would be a 10K maiden claimer. If that wasn't depressing enough, I bet a race at Woodbine which was delayed by nearly a half hour by a thunderstorm; and then, when it finally went off, the satellite reception promptly cut off, returning only near the end to reveal my horses far out of the picture. If that wasn't a sign that my spring/summer meeting at Belmont was over, I don't know what is.


Figless said...

I too visited Belmont Sunday for the first 4 races and, although I did not venture into the backyard, I find it difficult to take that attendance figure seriously.

I have seen the Clubhouse quiet in the past, but Sunday it was vacant.

What depressed me was seeing the bar next to the owners boxes, which used to be filled even on weekdays with owners and trainers and patrons comingling, celebrating, drowning there sorrow or just discussing the upcoming races, not just empty but CLOSED. I had so many good times there hanging out with all those folks, clearly those days are gone and I am as much to blame as anyone since it has been ages since I even ventured into the clubhouse rather opting to enjoy the backyard.

In addition many of the other concessions were closed including the Gift Shop.


Then I looked at Monmouth's card and saw all those horses entered, then perused the amazingly full fields at Presque Isle Downs (13 entered in open MSW tonight (Wednesday)), and realized NYRA simply can not compete without the VLTs or some other purse supplement.

At some point the lack of quality horses has to impact the business no matter how loyal the customer base may be to the NYRA brand.

And I dont think they are saving the good races for Saratoga, at least not he opening week, because the condition book is filled with the same conditioned claimers and ny bred turf spring they are running here.

2010 is going to set all time lows for quality and average attendance, my buddy booked a room for Jim Dandy weekend (excuse me, Fasig Tipton/Shiekh Mohammend weekend) yesterday, no problem, three weeks out. Five years ago, these rooms sold out months in advance.

The ship be sinking, and the corrupt criminals claiming to represent NY's citizens in Albany are to blame.

El Angelo said...

Here's my question: I get that the horse population makes them run a decent number of claimers, turf sprints, etc., but can't they put most of those during the week and save the good ones for the weekends? Or are the fields too small? Or are the weekday cards even worse than I think?

jk said...

I have not been back since they canceled the LIRR service. They gave me one less reason to go and I took it.

alan said...

Goodbye detention barn. Hello Zenyatta?

ELMONT , N.Y. -- The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) announced plans today to expand and enhance its in-house drug testing program to detect illegal performance-enhancing substances in thoroughbred race horses utilizing state-of-the-art science, technology, and procedural processes. As a result, NYRA’s backstretch security barn, initiated in May 2005, will become obsolete and will cease operations as of opening day at Saratoga Race Course, Friday, July 23.

The expanded program includes random out-of-competition testing designed to effectively deter the use of blood doping agents such as Erythropoietin (EPO), bronchial dilators, and other emerging threats. Out-of-competition testing will focus primarily on claimed horses, horses shipping in and out of NYRA tracks, horses running in stakes races, and other random occurrences.

NYRA will also initiate an “in-today” process which will identify all horses, in their stalls, running in a NYRA race within 24 hours. This will afford NYRA the ability to monitor horses the day prior to and in the hours leading up to a race through the deployment of an even stronger backstretch presence of NYRA veterinarians and security officers. NYRA will continue testing for illegal levels of total carbon dioxide (TCO2, known as “milkshaking”) through an “assembly barn” where all horses entering a race will be required to report just prior to moving to the paddock for saddling.

The testing operation will be administered and supervised by Dr. George Maylin, director of the New York State Racing & Wagering Board’s drug testing and research program at Morrisville State College in upstate Madison County, New York. The program of thoroughbred and standardbred drug testing in New York currently overseen by Dr. Maylin is already the most advanced and comprehensive of any jurisdiction in the United States .

NYRA’s new robust testing regimen will be accompanied by equally robust mandatory penalties for trainers of horses testing positive for illegal drugs. Consistent with the uniform regulations promulgated by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI), trainers of horses testing positive for Class A drug violations will face a minimum mandatory one-year disbarment from entering horses or being allocated stalls at NYRA racetracks as a first offense; a minimum mandatory disbarment of two years for a second violation; and a permanent disbarment for a third violation. Moreover, trainers serving disbarments will not be permitted to transfer their training responsibilities to family members or current employees.

In an ongoing effort to further enhance the new policies and procedures being announced today, over the next 12 months NYRA management will closely monitor the re-instituted procedure of private veterinarians administering Lasix to horses on their race day, and re-examine TCO2 testing, historical TCO2 levels, and appropriate penalties for violations, and report on the results and impact of the elimination of the security barn to the Special Oversight Committee of the NYRA Board of Directors on a regular basis.

“The out-of-competition drug testing program combined with the new assembly barn and ‘in-today’ procedures will provide NYRA with potent tools to confront today’s challenges of detecting performance-enhancing substances and allow us to stay one step ahead of potential abusers,” said NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward . “The science empowering cheaters has changed since 2005 and these new procedures will ensure that NYRA’s countermeasures keep pace in order to preserve the integrity of the sport.”

alan said...

jk - Check this out, regarding the train to the Big A:

>>The track’s A-train station is also the loneliest subway stop in the city, with an average 52 riders per weekday.

jk said...

Not surprising considering the station is closed 6 months out of the year. I want to know the ridership on weekends when the track is open.

Once the slots are installed in Belmont, they will start up the LIRR service again.

Figless said...

Any stats on how many folks are using that expensive Metro North/Amtrack? station at Yankee Stadium??

They can build the most valuable sports team in the world a station but can not keep a station open for Belmont.

El Angelo said...

3000 on weekdays, 4000 on weekends, numbers that Belmont couldn't touch outside of Belmont Stakes day, when they run the trains anyway. It's an apples and oranges comparison anyway, because the Yankee Stadium stop is on the Hudson Line, and trains going to Tarrytown, etc., can just stop there en route. Belmont's a spur.

Anonymous said...

Love Monmouth park with it's big fields and their 15% takeout on the pk4's and pk5's.