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Jan 07, 2005

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            Last week I wrote my opinions concerning the situation

at the NYRA and how the fan is affected and treated. I wrote how

 with no fan there is no racing and how the #1 priority is to keep

the fan happy. Yes, everyone wants to make a profit and nobody

blames NYRA for wanting to get into the black again, but when the

 main priority of the operation is not the fan then everyone loses. It would

 seem at some point that if there are no fans, no handle, then business is bad.

            I wrote last week about how the change to the new tote

system was one of their biggest mistakes. It was not like they didn’t

have enough problems with their fans, now they created new ones. I

 recently read in the New York Daily News that there would be some

 programming changes in the machines starting on Wednesday

Jan. 5, 2005. The reason I noted that I read it in the Daily News

 is that the NYRA didn’t have anything on their website about this.

 This is one of the things that NYRA should promote on their

 website, let the fans know the progress, let them know that they

 are trying, but as usual they didn’t. The reprogramming of the

machines were marginally better at best. I stopped by Aqueduct to see

the changes, they are slightly better but still very difficult to use.

Belmont is coming soon and Saratoga is only 7 months away, they

are going to have big problems with this tote system and company

if everything remains status quo.

As an aside, Gulfstream opened their doors on Monday

Jan 3, 2005, not without problems of their own. They built a

 brand new main track and turf course, they knocked down

the entire grandstand and are conducting the meeting out of

temporary tents. With an opening day crowd of just under

 7,000 people they had some problems with the amount of

space, betting windows, etc, things you would expect from a track that is operating out of tents. Other problems like the jockeys quarters, the toteboard in the

 infield and the public address system also arose. The very

next day, the president of Gulfstream, Scott Savin, was talking

to the Daily Racing Form and addressing the problems. He knew

 that there needed to be more televisions, more betting

windows, and just overall he knew that the fan was inconvenienced

 and he was going to make a change. That is the big difference

 between a track run right and the NYRA.

            There are many people out there that still believe that New

York racing is the best around. When I was growing up there was no

 doubt, no one could even come close. Now I would have to question

 if that statement is still true. Yes the trainers, jockeys, and horses are

still close to the best around. But to run these races in front of empty

 grandstands is a travesty. Yes we all understand that OTB has hurt

racing’s attendance greatly but there is no excuse for OTB’s a few miles

 from the track to be filled with people, those people should be at

the track. But the NYRA doesn’t make it easy. The admission, parking,

 the concessions, everything costs money. It doesn’t cost anything to

go to OTB. You don’t have to deal with unruly clerks, you don’t have

 to deal with nasty employees, you don’t have to deal with not being

able to make a bet because the clerks are closed for the time being. The

 NYRA needs to go to racetracks that are run with the fan in mind. 

 Nearby Meadowlands, Monmouth and Philadelphia Park are all prime

examples of how to treat a fan. They understand that the fan, the

bettor, is the key to their business.

            Even though there are all these problems, the NYRA still has a

 chance to make things better. The first thing they should do is change

back to Autotote. Make the fan know that not only are they trying but

they are taking action. The next thing to do is make parking and

admission free. They are running free parking and admission during the

 inner track meeting but that is not enough. The people betting at OTB

would want to go to the track if it didn’t cost them anything. The NYRA

needs to start being more customer friendly. Start with their NYRA One

 account holders. Give them things that a horseplayer needs, give them

admission, give them parking, give them programs, give them racing

 forms, give them free lunches. Obviously if you’re a NYRA One account

 holder you would have to use the account to get these perks. But this

 is a start, it is a start to getting people back to the track.

            Another issue that needs to be addressed is the employees, the

 mutuel clerks in particular. They don’t treat the customer with respect

or a pleasant demeanor. It is almost like you are putting them at an

 inconvenience by going to their window. I haven’t myself used the

mutuel clerks to bet, but when you are cashing or buying a voucher

you still have to deal with the unpleasantness. Especially when cashing

 they are always looking for a tip or something and if you are not

careful you might just miss few dollars. There needs to be extensive

training for the mutuel clerks in how to deal with customers.

            These suggestions are just starts, there is more that can be

done, I wouldn’t mind speaking to the new NYRA president and

trying to get some of these problems resolved and get New York

racing back to where it should be, on top of the racing world.

           



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