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Monday, July 07, 2014

Big Saturday at Belmont Promises to Bring More Big Days

Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend.  The Head Chef and I are still down at my mom's place in sweltering Florida, so we were not around for the Stars and Stripes event at Belmont on Saturday.  But I understand it was a spectacular weather day, and the crowd was announced as 11,118 (a bit less than what was reported in the press, but that's the number in NYRA's press release).  An experienced observer who was there noted that there was a T-shirt giveaway, and opined that spinners may have slightly inflated the crowd; he guessed closer to 10,000.   But, we quibble.  There were just 5,047 on hand for the Saturday after the 4th of July last year.  (Though, while the crowd more than doubled, the on-track wagering was up only 56%, indicating that there were a fair number of freeloaders partying out in the backyard.)  So, while Tom Pedulla noted in the NY Times that the crowd was "below expectations," I'd say it was far closer to being the "resounding success" touted by NYRA.

It was sure as heck more than I thought would be there.  In a recent post, I snarkily, and wrongly, dismissed the notion that a couple of million dollar purses and the presence of a less-than-inspiring cast of foreign horses would attract many more customers.  So, good job by NYRA there; including their issuing of free admission to those who bought a seat for the Belmont Stakes.

And the successful day - over $18 million in total wagering - will no doubt lead to more of the "big days."  'Oh, for joy,' says the guy who's not a real big fan of the big days with the plethora of graded stakes and who couldn't care less about foreign horses shipping in.  Personally, I believe NYRA should be concentrating on filling the void left by NYCOTB by working feverishly towards establishing attractive off-track wagering facilities throughout the city rather than striving for the occasional big attendance day on track.  But it's hard to argue with success, or with seeing the old plant hopping.  So Sr. VP of Racing Operations Martin Panza promised more of the same.

"There certainly are a lot more opportunities for people to do something. So for me it’s trying to narrow down big days and narrow down holidays and try to concentrate on those days, provide people with good experience at the track and hope that they will come back on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. It’s going to be a slow process, so to me it’s try to do big events, try to do it right and try to produce product on certain days because it’s hard. You’re limited with what you can do.”
“Racing needs to reinvent itself,” Panza said. “People want to see a good product and they want to be entertained. That’s the way we can do it.” [NY Daily News]
In the abovelinkedto News article, Panza also had some comments on Belmont Stakes day.  He noted that 36,000 people came by train, and said that NYRA needed to work with the LIRR to transport them in a more orderly fashion.  He basically blamed the concession company for the food and drink problems; and those long delays getting out of the parking lot? "We need to work better with the local police departments to make sure the plans put in place stay in place for the day and how can we get people out of here better.”  Ah, so it was the cops' fault, should have known.

 - Interesting article in the Times Herald-Record about the ongoing "we're poorer than you" PR debate between Sullivan and Orange County in their bids to attract one or both of the casino licenses designated for that region. Sullivan County officials commissioned a report which concluded:
 Sullivan has the lowest percentage of high school and college graduates, lowest median income, highest unemployment rate and worst health out of six counties examined in the study, including Orange and Ulster.  “It is clear from this study that Sullivan County will circulate the most money the fastest, and have the biggest impact on New York State's economy.”
But Orange County supporters point to the bleak conditions in Newburgh, and furthermore:
The vastly bigger population in Orange means more poor and unemployed people, despite the county's higher incomes and lower unemployment rate.  In other words, Sullivan may be poorer by percentages, but more people need jobs in Orange.

State Department of Labor statistics for May showed that Orange had more than four times as many unemployed residents as Sullivan, and that the jobless total for the City of Newburgh and neighboring towns of Newburgh and New Windsor alone (2,500) was higher than that of all of Sullivan (2,200).
And, regarding those proposed sites in more affluent areas in the southern part of the  county, Orange supporters contend that their locations near NYC will translate into more revenue which will benefit areas throughout the neighboring areas.  The letter released last month by the Gaming Commission made clear that those benefits would "have to provide a considerably greater overall direct and residual economic benefit to the host municipality and surrounding region than a smaller project sited in a disadvantaged region."

This accompanying piece ranks the Catskills and Orange sites in approximate order of impoverishment, with the Concord, in Thompson (Catskills), being the worst - 34% of the 6,725 residents below the poverty line - and Tuxedo (Orange), the site of one of Genting's two proposals and the one, of all the bids, closest to NYC, the least worst (median income over $85,000 and a 30 minute drive from the nearest concentration of poverty).  So, good luck with that bid, Genting.


El Angelo said...

I'm actually curious to see *how* they can add more big days at Belmont. I mean, there are only so many graded stakes at the meet, and I doubt having a second New York Showcase day is going to pack people in. Unless the extra 6,000 that showed up Saturday were there simply because the weather was great and there were food trucks and activities for kids.

jk said...

The first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem.

At least they admit it which is a step up from past regimes.

Dan said...


Good day of racing on Saturday. Do you think they will do the star & stripes day next year on July 4th? It will be a Saturday next year. I was in Florida last week. The weather there is awful. Heat index near 100 every day & thunderstorms during the day.

Alan Mann said...

Dan, not sure when they will have it. The 4th might be a tougher sell as a holiday, maybe Sunday the 5th would be better?

We've been lucky, just missed several severe storms and one tornado.

Dan said...

Sunday the 5th would be a good. I will have a tough time betting at the family BBQ on the 4th.

Keep in mind NYRA reports "on track handle" from the following venues:

Belmont Park
Aqueduct simulcasting center
NYRA rewards- phone & online.

Figless said...

Fun day Saturday, food trucks were a BIG hit, this year they had more variety and they were top notch. The vendors I spoke with were happy and looking forward to a return, so this is one attraction that cost nothing and is easy to repeat.

The petting zoo, pony rides, kids games, were all popular.

Seemed to be more beverage variety as well although I brought my own.

Once a month is very doable with a bit of publicity, the million dollar purses were not intrinsic to the success.

ThomasMaloney said...

Interesting strategy at Belmont, although personally I would want to make sure that special events and so-called "big days" are spread out enough to make sure revenure is spread out through the year.