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.”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.
“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]
- 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.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."
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).