Horse Racing

Belmont at the Big A Meet takes NYRA back to 1963

After spending most of the past two months frozen in historical time Racecourse SaratogaThe New York Racing Association is taking another trip back into the past.

It’s 1963 and Kelso’s days repeat themselves.

It was a time when a pile of rubble Belmont Park was razed and rebuilt into a modern wonder of its time and the race shifted from Victorian Saratoga in August to the urban setting of Aqueduct race track in September while the “new” Belmont Park was built.

Fifty-nine years later, déjà vu is entering the starting gate.

With the construction of a field tunnel marking the beginning of another change for Belmont Park, once again the normal flow of the NYRA season has been juggled so Saratoga will enter the Aqueduct for the extended meeting. 28 days begins September 15 and has been labeled Belmont at Big A.

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“We’re building tunnels in Belmont and have a challenge for the horsemen. We thank them and (New York Thoroughbred Riders Association) for their support as we were unable to fully open the road. at Belmont, but we’re giving them an opportunity to make the best use of it,” said NYRA Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Frank Gabriel.

Unlike construction in the 1960s, when Belmont Park was closed from 1963 to 1968, construction of the tunnel was the first step that allowed the NYRA to rebuild the track surface, adding a second synthetic track. and remodeled the stands in the yard. for the next 3-5 years while continuing to race in the spring at Belmont and holding the Belmont Stock presented by NYRA Bets (G1) at his home.

And when completed, the goal is to have a state-of-the-art facility where the races downstairs can be merged into a sparkling, new complex.

“In the 1960s, the grandstand they built in Belmont was perfect for the environment they thought they were going to operate in. The customer experience was built on staking at the time,” said CEO. and NYRA President Dave O’Rourke said. “Now that we understand how people will interact with staking, for us it’s the experience of bringing people up close to horses, bringing people into nature, into green spaces and home spaces, and accessibility at different price points.

“In Saratoga, you can book a picnic table and spend the day there and that’s the concept we’d like to see in Belmont. The building doesn’t have any suites either. There’s been a proliferation of sports venues. sport for the past 20 years and we’ll benefit from all the experience building other locations over the past two decades.Our new president is Marc Holliday and I couldn’t think of a better person to do this. lead us at this time.”

Meanwhile, today’s trainers get a taste of the life of their 1960s counterparts, starting at construction work not far from their barn.

NYTHA President Joe Appelbaum said: “The mounds are impressive.

As for racing, the transition to the Aqueduct in the fall isn’t a curveball for year-round riders, who typically spend November through April racing at the Big A, where there are no stable areas. power. While the NYRA covers transportation to the Aqueduct from Belmont and Saratoga, much of the inconvenience involves having to send a worker with their horse to the Aqueduct and the relatively short commute from Elmont to the Park How irritating ozone can be, depends on traffic.

“Would you love to get out of your barn in Belmont and run? Of course. But we go to the Aqueduct six months a year and now it’s eight months, so it doesn’t make a huge difference. The positive part. is we’re going there to use two very good pitches,” said coach Dave Donk, who is based at NYRA tracks throughout the year. “The Aqueduct is 9 miles from Belmont and sometimes a 15-minute drive and sometimes a 45-minute drive, but at the end of the day it’s not a big deal.”

From a racing standpoint, the stakes schedule closely resembles the meeting last fall in Belmont. One key difference is that dirt road races at the 16th or mile and eighth are competed around two turns at the Aqueduct as opposed to one at Belmont, but that could pay dividends with the candidate. Horse of the Year Life is good will likely run in the Woodward Stakes (G1) match on October 1 as a final prep for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) because of the two-turn condition of the tier 1 stake. Sprint races at the Aqueduct are also limited to six outcrops, unlike those in Belmont which can be contested at seven outcrops.

Altogether, there will be four tier 1 shares out of 41 shares (23 graded shares) worth $9.9 million at the Thursday-Sunday meeting ending October 30.

“We created the stake program with very few changes, and the changes that we make, I hope will be positive and be able to produce as good races as we expect at Belmont,” Gabriel said. speak. “We moved Kelso (G2) later in the meeting (September 25, 2021 to October 29). It was difficult to fill it so we moved it in preparation for the Cigar Mile. (G1) (October 8) Vosburgh (G2) has been changed from six drags to seven so it can be a dual purpose race for the Breeders’ Cup, or (Qatar Racing) Sprint (G1) ) or (Big Ass Fans) Dirt Mile (G1).”

As a financial boost to the riders, the NYRA will be offering three participation bonuses at the meeting.

The final racehorses at Saratoga will receive $500 to both their owners and trainers if they finish worse than third on their first start in Belmont at the Big A meeting.

Trainers who have settled in either Belmont or Saratoga will also be paid $200 per start at the meeting, while owners of NYRA erratic starts will receive a bonus. $1,000 for shipping costs.

Construction will also affect training at Belmont Park. Although horses can operate on the main track and field, training time has been reduced and a long stretch of space has been fenced off to allow access to the site of the tunnel.

“The coaching situation has improved,” said Donk. “There’s been a lot of collaboration with the NYRA and we’ve made some good adjustments. It seems to be going well and most of us are comfortable with it.”

Belmont’s training path will not be affected, except for increased activity.

“The biggest issue is load management on the track. That’s what we’re focused on and we’re working with our coaches and the NYRA on that. We can train on the road. for about an hour and a half on weekdays and 2 1/2 hours on weekends.Our riders are very good at overcoming obstacles and everyone will do their best and we will be fine, ” said Appelbaum. “We want to make sure safety comes first. I think the concern that (NYRA Senior Vice President of Operations and Capital Projects) Glen Kozak and his team brought to the surface. Ours is very good.We know the construction will take several years to complete but we expect it to be completed quickly and done extremely well.We have noticed all the surface issues that we have received. racetracks are being encountered across the country and nothing is more important than taking care of our surfaces.”

In the end, while the Belmont meet at Big A might be more inconvenient than a typical fall meet at beautiful Belmont Park for riders and fans in Nassau County, it also promises a chapter New and exciting for the New York race in the next few years.

“There’s a reason work is being done in Belmont and we have to make a little concession,” Donk said. We will all survive,” said Donk, “and this is great for the future of the NYRA.

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