How important is the Aqueduct meet?

By Lombardo David
Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ending the winter race meet at the Aqueduct Race Track has been a perpetual conversation going nowhere for years.

There was no new news on this front during the state's Franchise Oversight Board meeting on Monday, but New York Racing Association President Ellen McClain reiterated the fact that the winter meet is the third-string meet.

When asked why Aqueduct isn't the focus of more capital projects, McClain said it stemmed from the fact that Belmont and Saratoga are more valuable and receive more of NYRA's resources. She said that it would be up to the new board to come up with a strategic plan that determines the long-term value of Aqueduct.

The argument against closing Aqueduct primarily consists of the fact that the three NYRA tracks essentially support each other. As Assemblyman Tony Jordan noted in October, the successful Saratoga meet doesn't exist in a vacuum. He stressed the interconnectedness of the three tracks.

This summer Dick Powell, a former NYRA employee and current horse racing consultant, questioned whether NYRA would do better if its season ended in November and picked back up in March.

In response to that argument, Chris Wittstruck, director of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, noted this summer that horsemen need daily racing.

Without daily racing through the winter at Aqueduct, Wittstruck said, “You’re not going to have racing [in any form] for very long.”

McClain's statements don't reveal anything new about the future of winter racing, but they do enforce the idea that NYRA might be more successful if it only ran racing at Belmont and Saratoga or had an abridged Aqueduct meet. This is especially important considering the state wants NYRA to operate a lean and mean racing season that can turn a profit without video lottery terminal revenue going toward their operating budget.

This is something that could be broached at the new NYRA board's meeting on Dec. 12.

Follow @poozer87 on Twitter.

 

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