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May 02, 2008

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            When Belmont opened its doors on April 30th, 2008 there was a lot of hope and also a lot of changes. Hope from management that the deal in place to get the slot machines will be finalized, that the racing will maintain its quality and that the customers will come out in force. The changes were also plentiful with the starting date being the first, as far back I as can remember, opening up in April. The second change that I saw was that when I went to purchase the pocket program I was told that they no longer sell or give the customer that option.

            The pocket program has been the program that was used for as far back as I can remember and much further back. It was the original program at the track when the only track you could play was the live racing on tap. Over the years NYRA has introduced more programs. The Post Parade, which is probably the most popular program has the past performances, morning lines and silks for the live track and one other simulcast signal. They would also offer the Simulcast program which would cover 3 to 4 tracks for signals that NYRA was taking. Well on opening day they did away with both programs, and instead now are selling the Post Parade and the “Daily racing program” which is a program that sells for $3 on track and holds many tracks with limited and hard to read past performances. For those who buy the America’s Turf Authority since 1894, the Daily Racing Form you are out of luck because no more pocket program. When I emailed them for a reason why they did away with the program I was told that it was not a good business decision for NYRA who was just emerging from bankruptcy. Well that answer just doesn’t fly. At most it can only cost NYRA a few hundred dollars a day to print and whatever is sold they will easily make some back. Also, if they looked into it I’m sure that those who are using the pocket program along with the form are betting more money on track then those who are using the Daily Racing Program or Post Parade. They did away with the pocket programs a few years ago at the beginning of Saratoga and there were so many complaints from people, including myself that it was back a few days later. Let’s hope this situation works itself out.

            Another change is the new graphics used on the Belmont signal and at the track itself. Understandably there are going to be some glitches early on but one of the main problems is the replay after the race. Many fans, including myself, like to watch the replay of the race after watching the live race outside. The replay is showed on only a portion of the screen which makes it difficult to get the best view. The new color scheme of the graphics also needs some working out but like I said let’s give it a few days to see what they can do.

            Another major change was that they closed off a portion of the grandstand. I hated to see this for many reasons. The first is that I like to watch the races outside, towards the top of the stretch and they currently have that area blocked off on the second and third floors. The second reason they are going to limit areas to where the crowd can go so on the weekends it will become troublesome. The third and most disturbing aspect is, this is “Beautiful” Belmont Park, its not dreary Aqueduct and when you stop people from going to certain areas that’s what you are making it. I understand there is a lot of area to cover, to secure it and clean it but lets face it there wasn’t much being done to those areas anyway. On opening day there were a lot of people in the areas that were supposed to be blocked off, the betting machines and televisions were on so maybe the people in charge came to their senses.

            Some other changes are some, I emphasize the word SOME new televisions. That is apparently a work in progress as they continue to try an upgrade the plant. The backyard is missing some tables and benches but I was told that will be changed shortly, the televisions that are missing are soon to be replaced and upgraded with better televisions. Also the televisions that aren’t and haven’t been working in years are also in the process of being changed.

            For those fans that like trip handicapping and like to use the replay center they will have to be patient. Since they switched over to handling the televisions themselves NYRA is in the process of working on the replay center. I was told that it is supposed to be of better quality and will offer more tracks.

            There are many changes, some that are good and useful to the horseplayer and some that just don’t make any sense. Let’s hope the good ones work out and the ones that don’t make sense will be changed accordingly. We all want to see New York racing back on top; there is a long way to go but the foundation is starting to take place.

 



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