Nov 22, 2013
AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD
By: JOE GIRARDI
been going to the racetrack since I was four years old at least that’s as
far back as I remember it. I loved horse racing from the very beginning, the
horses, the jockeys, the trainers, the betting, everything about the racetrack
was fun and exciting to me. I can remember waiting for the weekends to come, I
would go to the racetrack with my parents, the harness track on Friday and
Saturday nights and then the flats over the weekend. Roosevelt Raceway was a
great place to be, it was at night, it was exciting, it was great racing and
just a great time. All of that came to an end in July of 1988.
reason I mention Roosevelt Raceway in this article is because I see some very
similar things going on at Aqueduct. Roosevelt Raceway’s property was sold for
huge profits in some shady deals that went on around that time. They ran place
into the ground and then said we can’t make any money so it was sold and
developed. Goodbye Roosevelt Raceway. Now moving on to Aqueduct’s state of
affairs. I have been there at least 6 times since it has opened on November 1st.
Since the Casino opened a few years ago, Aqueduct is now half a track. There
aren’t many places to stay to get comfortable but it is manageable if you want
to go to live racing. I was there again today, 11/21/13. I watched the first
few races outside and it was very irritating that you cannot here the call of
the race when you are outside. If you go inside, you can barely hear the call
as well unless you stand underneath a television. This is not something new,
NYRA had to know about this, it is a disgrace, something you would expect from low
level racetrack, not from what is supposed to be the tops in the country.
facility is run down, there has been some maintenance done but the plant needs
a major overhauling. There are pigeon droppings everywhere. The box seat area
that is open to the public and the horsemen is dirty, there are mismatched
seats, which are not in good shape, nothing appealing at it all. There are some
big races coming up over the next week or so, horses shipping in from all over
the country to run in the Cigar Mile, a big race for horses trying to win year
end awards, trying to increase their horses value as a stallion. It is an
embarrassment, you have a casino 50 feet away that is breaking records every
day as top earners yet the racetrack is in a shambles.
saw that with the opening of Aqueduct there is a new toteboard. Not sure who
made the decision about this toteboard but it is another poor decision. The
races are shown in the middle of the toteboard with odds on both sides of the
screen showing the races. The top four horses in running order are right next
to the odds as well sometimes causing come confusion for customers as seen
today and previous days. They don’t show the pool totals for win, place or show
for each horse with this new toteboard. It is amazing to me that this goes on
at a major New York racetrack.
end of Belmont there were some changes that were beginning to be implemented.
In the huge grandstand of Belmont, management was putting up chains with a sign
that said section closed to sit outside in the seats. Most of the time, those
signs were taken down and the customers went to sit in those seats anyway.
However, with the six months off I dread what changes will be in place when
Belmont re-opens. NYRA held a public forum at the end of August and there were
some questions posed to management with some of the concerns that the public
had. One question that was asked about what can you do to make Belmont more fan
friendly. Christopher Kay, NYRA President and CEO answered that question. He
said that they would move in the boundaries as to where you can sit thereby
giving you that “community” “family” feel you get at Saratoga. He said that at
Saratoga, invariably you can be right by someone that is cheering and that is a
good thing. Well sure it is a good thing, but what management doesn’t seem to
understand is that Saratoga crowds are different from Belmont crowds, Aqueduct
crowds are different from Saratoga and Belmont crowds, you can never get the
same feeling like you do at Saratoga. All you are going to do is make the loyal
customers that have been going to the racetrack for a long time mad. Why not
try and cultivate new customers instead of making the area they can sit in
smaller thereby giving you the illusion that there are more people. It boggles
my mind every time I hear some of the ideas that have been put out there. There
is so much more to say but it will have to wait for another day. Good luck at
the races and let’s hope New York racing can bounce back and weather these
changes, that are not for the better or the bettor!
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