Thoroughbred racing on Long Island is changing so fast it’s hard to keep up. As the New York Racing Association (NYRA) made its annual seven-week summer pilgrimage to Saratoga, the future of racing at NYRA’s two Long Island racetracks, Belmont Park and Aqueduct, remains, in a single word, complex.
NYRA’s recent, stunning announcement that it was converting Aqueduct’s 40-year-old inner dirt track into a second turf course – the first major renovation of a NYRA track in decades – immediately prompted questions about Belmont Park and possible reconstruction that could close racing there for a year or longer.
It’s hard to believe that it’s being done solely to add a few grass races in April and November if the weather allows it. Regardless, having winter racing on Aqueduct’s main track will make it much more attractive to horsemen simply because it allows several different distances of races than the inner dirt track allowed.
The ongoing interest of the New York Islanders in building a new hockey arena on Belmont Park property may or may not have a lot do with Belmont Park’s future. Reportedly, a new arena would not affect Belmont’s existing grandstand and clubhouse. Reading that situation is a difficult task since New York State is involved and will have the ultimate say.
Then there was a bill that passed the New York State Senate in mid-June to allow evening racing at Belmont Park. The legislation didn’t make it out of the assembly but will be reintroduced next year. Meanwhile, in an interview with North American Trainer, NYRA CEO and President Chris Kay said that night racing is one of his priorities at Belmont.
Other things on Kay’s agenda, in conjunction with NYRA’s new Board of Directors named on June 7th, are incentive programs for two-year-olds and marathon turfers; making a concerted effort to attract European shippers and serve bettors in Japan; and a reshuffling of major stakes to be held on one day. Also, NYRA introduced a new multiple-race wager and a new partnership platform for messaging-enabled commerce.