New NYRA can't be another OTB
The Belmont Stakes is fast approaching and 100,000-plus will trek to Long Island to witness I'll Have Another's attempt at racing immortality. With money pouring in from the slots at Aqueduct, purses at the New York tracks are extraordinary. Saratoga is right around the corner.These should be the best of times for the New York Racing Association, but they are anything but. A recent scandal over overcharging bettors cost two top NYRA executives their jobs and led New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to wage a bloodless coup. Sometime after the Belmont, a new NYRA will begin to take shape, one that will take its orders from a CEO/President and a Board of Directors largely handpicked by Cuomo himself.
That a government, any government, is going to have such a huge say in the future of New York racing has a lot of people nervous, and it should.
Food Truck ManiaSunday was a remarkable day at Monmouth Park, where 23,020 people turned out for the live card. They weren't there to see the Little Silver Stakes. The attraction was "Food Truck Wars" The backyard area of the track was taken up by a dozen or so Food Trucks and patrons could munch on their goodies and then vote for their favorites. The good news is that it was a terrific promotion that helped attract the kind of crowd that usually turns out at a racetrack these days only for major events, like the Haskell. The bad news is that the Food Truck fans apparently don't bet much. The on-track handle was $869,594, which comes out to a per capita of $37.77 per customer. Getting people into the track is only part of the battle. Racetracks have yet to figure out how to get curiosity seekers to bet. A place to start would be to give out free programs and figure out a way to give them $2 vouchers without it costing the track. (How about bumping up admission on days like these and using the voucher as a rebate?). If they come to experience the falafel and not the exacta we haven't accomplished enough. Bill Finley is an award-winning racing writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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