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Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I mentioned the small crowd at Belmont on Sunday only in passing, even though I was rather taken aback by how deserted the track was. I mean, we all know that not that many people come to the downstate tracks anymore, and how many ways are there to say that? Plus, I don't want to always be negative (and I guess I was kinda crabby about Saratoga this summer).

But I saw that Jerry Bossert also noticed that it seemed particularly empty on that day.

Sunday, on a cool, showery day, Belmont Park was empty, with an announced crowd of just 3,615.

The giant grandstand held approximately 30 people, and about another 50 were on the apron when longshot Gentle Ride lit up the board at 57-1 to take the eighth, returning $116. [NY Daily News]
I was gone by then myself, but I'd guess that Bossert is not exaggerating. In fact, at one point I felt the urge to count the number of people in the backyard. And though I got interrupted when I felt a bigger urge to bet the 3rd at Arlington, there couldn't have been more than 50 people back there. That's 130 total counted between Bossert and I; not sure where the other 3,485 were hanging out. But it's sure easy to get lost there.

It's not really negativity, just that I can't help but to be preoccupied with the emptiness there. I find it as oppressive, though in a different way, as when it used to be packed. The Foolish Pleasure - Ruffian match race was the most crowded day I've ever spent there, the fact that there have been more highly attended Belmont Stakes in recent years notwithstanding. They know how to handle crowds now; that day, me and my buddies ended up leaving and watching the match race on TV. I guess it's totally taboo to talk about this....but I had Foolish Pleasure. I booked any of my friends who liked the filly, thus getting a premium price too (hello, exchange wagering!).

I don't make it for a full day when it's like this either. The place is just too big for the sport in this era; and as excited as we all might be for slots the long overdue physical improvements and the higher quality racing which will presumably result from bigger purses, we know that it won't translate to bigger racing crowds. You can stuff everyone in a corner of the plant like they do at Aqueduct, and create some buzz, even in the dead of winter. Not so at Belmont, and if they're not gonna put a racino there, they could build an IKEA, and still have plenty of room.

It's been widely reported that Genting is going to spend some $1.3 billion on the racino, including I guess the $380 million upfront fee which is now officially due. Genting says it will deliver the check this month. I wonder if they'll have a ceremony with a beaming Governor Paterson being presented with one of those giant checks. (God, I'm gonna miss that guy, aren't you?) I'm guessing that the $1.3 billion is in addition to the $250 million to be raised by the state via a bond issue. If that's right, then this place will cost nearly as much as the $1.6 billion new Meadowlands football stadium.

El Angelo asked if I was at Monday night's Spoon show in Brooklyn, but I was instead making my first appearance at the new stadium for the Jets-Ravens game. (Guess the music would have been a better choice.) Man, I can't believe that Genting is going to spend as much as was spent on a massively big football stadium on a little bitty slots parlor in Ozone Park. Makes you wonder just what they have in mind....and just how appropriate it is going to be for that locale.

Whatever it's going to be, there will surely be more bells and whistles than at the Meadowlands. This stadium is little more than a big drab gray ring (next to a racetrack which could very well become additional parking spaces before too long). It doesn't even look like it was finished. Were they really going for the industrial motif?

Of course, I'm relegated to the atmospheric non-PSL sections; all the fancy stuff is reserved for those who shelled out the big bucks. Besides being unbelievably high up...I mean, really high up.....a swarm of aggressive moths settled in for the second half. I was eating a sandwich, looked down and saw one in my bag. Still, as a place to watch a football game, it's fine, despite the height. But I was expecting more.....more what, I can't exactly say. But just more.

Mario Batali was there. Or....maybe not really.

Green Day played at halftime, but not for very long at all.

OK, it was longer than that. But not much; just one song before all hell broke loose.

Yeah, I know, no fireworks from the Jets offense. jp is having some fun at my expense, and that's fine, and surely fair following all the yappin' we've all heard from the Jets. I will however point out that you didn't hear any of that bravado coming from this corner. I've been horrified at all the hype, both self-proclaimed and otherwise. I love the Jets as you know, but let's face it; this was a 7-7 team until the seas parted and the Colts laid down their arms. Sure, they played well in the playoffs, but that's where anything can happen and where Nate Kaeding can't kick field goals. And all the expectations presume a lot regarding the development of the second year quarterback (of whom, based on the game plan, the coaching staff remains wary and cautious). So I never bought into the Super Bowl talk, and wasn't very surprised at the result.

Having said that, the Jets committed 14 penalties and made six first downs. That's freaking pathetic, not worthy of a team calling itself professional. And still, they lost by a point to a very good team. The defense will keep them in a lot of games, even with the injuries. Don't know if they'll handle the Pats on Sunday, but I'll be looking - from far, far above - for a much smarter and more spirited performance.


steve in nc said...

I had my regular seat in the front row of the 2nd floor grandstand, close to the finish line the day Ruffian went down. When you're in the front row, you don't feel so crowded.

I favored the filly, but luckily, I don't bet odds on. It sure felt funny to care about betting for awhile after that.

The emptiness now is really weird the few times I've gotten to go to the track in recent years, especially when you contrast it with the sports events we're all used to seeing on TV. It's only sparse in a big market like NY when the games get meaningless, as in Mets/Pirates in September.

So when you're one of 14 people in the grandstand at Belmont, you feel like a loser even if you haven't made a bet yet.

Anonymous said...

You and the Jets deserve each other. With all the additions and all of the hype and bravado they're still a 8 - 8 team. Rex Ryan is still just an Assistant Coach until proven otherwise. He talks a good game. All of his additions and all of his bluster didn't mean crap. The 10 - 9 score belied just how badly the Jets looked and how poorly they played. I won't even bother discussing how bad they were coached during the game. They'll start the season 0 - 2. No offense and no defense, they'll be lucky to win 8 games this year. So much for all the Super Bowl talk. It will be a major undertaking to just finish with a winning record this year. The team is a joke.

Steve Zorn said...

Fewer racing days, night racing, buses from the senior centers (oops, that's only for the Florida tracks), making it fun. It can be done, and sometime soon a track operator will figure it out. Won't be Stronach or Churchill, though; the latter's just a gambling operation that happens to have some race tracks attached, and the former's, well, certifiable. And it probably won't be in New York, where doing anything requires way too much heavy lifting with the state government.

Anonymous said...

I understand that Belmont is huge, and the crowds are small, but it might have been fairer for Mr. Bossert to note that when he saw the 50 or so patrons on the apron it was also raining.

El Angelo said...

You missed a great show on Monday (versus a not any good football game)--tremendous set list, and Britt Daniels was in top form.

I would guess that at least 1000 of the people at Belmont on any given day are in the trustees' dining room, regular dining room upstairs, or way up on the 4th floor clubhouse where the 80 year olds go to relax and gamble. You'll never see any of them during the day unless you specifically go to those areas.

jk said...

NY State is borrowing $250 mil against future slot revenue. This is not a "cost" of the casino, it is a reflection of the State's poor financial position.

Anyone know if future Gov. Palladino is a racing fan?

alan said...

^^ Hope so, because otherwise he'll compare Charlie Hayward to Hitler and use eminent domain to tear the racetracks down.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see your Jests lost on Monday. They will be 0 - 2 after New England on Sunday. Maybe you could heal your wounds at the Hamas Mosque. I see the Harlemites didn't let me down. They will send corrupt Rangle back to Congress. They must like all the welfare checks his party provides. Nothing like corrupt blacks and jews from New York.

El Angelo said...

Nothing like bigoted morons from around the country, either. You'll be hard pressed to find anyone outside of Rangel's district that likes him.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe Rangel got reelected.

Man,that state is really screwed up.

alan said...

at least Espada got the boot.

Anonymous said...

If anyone wants a little excitement, I'm alive to the 1 and 6 for the entire pick 6 pool at fairplex. If you hate me you'll be excited that both my horses are longshots.


Anonymous said...

Never had a chance.

Anonymous said...

Bossert did write it was a "showery" afternoon

jeff said...

Alan - To suggest that "sure they played well in the playoffs, but that's where anything can happen" doesn't give proper credit to what the Jets achieved last year. This is a strong, legitimate team, and a one-point loss to a top AFC team doesn't change that. The 3rd-down conversion stats (both ways) need to change, the penalties reduced, and we need to start opening up the offense a bit (will be easier when our one stud receiver, Holmes, returns week 5). In the meantime, our defensive front looked great, special teams terrific, and I think we beat New England Sunday and get back on the Super track.

Anonymous said...

The Jets and their fans is nothing but a fool's parade. Desperation can be a terrible thing. The Jets think they're special. Starting the season 0 - 2, they're special alright. No offense, no defense, and players and coaches who have their heads up their asses. I've never seen a team that has so much in common with it's fans.

jeff said...

Who has their head up their ass, now?