Belmont Park Undergoes Major Changes at the Start of the Fall Season

Written By Cheryle Kaus on September 12, 2019 - Last Updated on March 4, 2020

The Saratoga meet that came to a conclusion on Monday was considered a blockbuster. The very best when it comes to East Coast racing just seems to get bigger and better. The total handle from all available sources came in at a record-breaking $705 million for the entire season even though the second Saturday was lost to a scorching heat wave.

Most of the tweaks worked beautifully. The five-day schedule assisted greatly as well as the early start to the season. The total handle increased to $46 million which was a decent 7% increase from 2018.

“We wouldn’t be in this fortunate position without the unmatched enthusiasm from our loyal fans, the incredible talent of the horsemen, and the phenomenal dedication of the owners,” stated Dave O’Rourke who is the CEO and President of the New York Racing Association.

However, the good times never last forever. With the successful Spa season making it’s way to the rear-view mirror, the New York Racing Association now looks towards Belmont Park for the start of a brand-new era on Friday.

Nothing will be the same after Belmont Park makes the transition from a prestigious racetrack to a phenomenal multipurpose facility. History indicates that a transition like this is usually bad for the world of horse racing. However, times are definitely changing and Belmont Park will be given a sparkling new arena which the New York Islanders from the National Hockey League will eventually call their home. The arena will be constructed in the backyard picnic area that is available at the track.

For those of you that don’t really follow hockey, the New York Islanders are considered a once-proud NHL championship franchise that was unfortunately mismanaged in recent years where the team is now considered a band of gypsies. The NHL team initially abandoned their home at the Nassau Coliseum for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, a facility that was never suited for an ice hockey team. When that experiment lead to failure, the New York Islanders were drifting in the abyss without a clear roadmap to their future.

This lead to the idea of creating a brand-new home for the New York Islanders at the prestigious Belmont Park, essentially developing a win-win situation for everyone involved. The future of the New York Islanders from Long Island will definitely be secured when they arrive at a complex that includes a marvellous hotel, allowing Belmont Park to also receive loads of facility renovations which is definitely needed at the property.

This is obviously fantastic news for the New York Islanders team. However, we are not 100% sure how this will benefit horse racing in the long run.

Prestigious old racetracks like Hollywood Park and Belmont Park once commanded massive tracts of land. Unfortunately, over time the area that surrounds the racetracks starts to fill in and hungry developers eye the huge chunks of real estate. Everyone is well aware of how things turned out in California, unfortunately.

Obviously, we are not suggesting that things will turn out the same in Belmont Park. However, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out going forward.

Horse racing enthusiasts who closely follow racing action have long believed that 3 racecourses are an unsustainable operation for the New York Racing Association. In the past, Aqueduct seemed destined for development, forming part of the Kennedy Airport expansion. How times have definitely changed.

Saratoga will remain the crowned jewel of New York racing due to its safe and secure position while Aqueduct is moving forward thanks to its hugely popular and successful casino. If a domino should fall, we strongly believe that Belmont Park would be the odd one out.

As for the business side of things, Belmont Park will play host to a short meet, lasting 23 days, before the Belmont Park at Aqueduct session begins on 11 October 2019.

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