ALBANY, N.Y. — Night racing at Belmont Park? 'No Shot!' say the harness horse folks.
A proposal that would allow for Thoroughbred racing at the Elmont track on Thursday through Saturday night was left out of Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget despite strong backing from the governor himself.
The New York Racing Association's nighttime plan was aimed at expanding its fan base at Belmont during and after expansion at the track that would provide for a new home for the National Hockey League's New York Islanders and other entertainment and commercial entertainment ventures.
Gary Pretlow (D-Westchester), the chairman of the New York Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee, told reporters he was hopeful for night Thoroughbred racing but, “So far the nighttime belongs to the trotters and the daytime belongs to Thoroughbreds. And, the Standardbred owners believed this was an infringement on their time.”
Although the nighttime provision has been omitted from the budget, many Albany observers believe it can be resuscitated if the NYRA will agrees to a proposal that would hold the Standardbreds harmless if night racing is allowed at Belmont.
NYRA replied their plan for coordinated post times would counteract most handle losses at the harness tracks.
In a statement issued on March 29, the NYRA says, “The public has a right to choose the sporting events that they wish to watch, and legislation that would allow the NYRA to conduct Thoroughbred racing at night provides them that choice — the same choice that the public currently enjoys with respect to every other athletic leagues ability to offer their product at night.
“The limited scope of night racing at Belmont Park means the overlap with Standardbred racing would be minimal. In addition, the NYRA believes that the addition of Thoroughbred racing at night would contribute to Standardbred handle by increasing the potential audience wagering at night. That's why we have been willing to collaborate with the Standard-bred owners to stagger post times to benefit both parties,” the statement said.
The Cuomo plan would have allowed for nighttime racing Thursdays through Saturday evenings that would conclude before 10:30 p.m. Staggered post times with Yonkers Raceway in Westchester County was a specific requirement in Cuomo's plan.
According to Pretlow, the NYRA is “not going to give up on it. It's not going to happen this year...but I'm hopeful in the future to move forward on something.”
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