On the morning of the
Gotham Stakes I attended a meeting of the Racing Fan Advisory Council at
Aqueduct. On the third floor of the Resorts World Casino, the Council was
joined by most of the NYRA executives, members of the media, and some racing
fans. The third floor of the
racino is a vast finished space that has yet to be occupied by VLTs. The approximately 50 attendees of the
meeting were the only occupants of what was once the third floor of the
The meeting began with
presentations by NYRA CEO Charlie Hayward and NYRA COO Ellen McClain. They
reported that currently Resorts World Casino has 5,000 VLTs operating at an
average win rate of $342 per day for each machine. NYRA will receive $27 million each year for capital
improvements. Some of the money
will be used to remedy what Hayward called “the stark contrast” between the
Casino and the racetrack. Here are some of the major improvements coming to the
NYRA tracks in the near future.
•At Aqueduct there will be
165 new flat screen televisions and new carrels and chairs.
•At Aqueduct planned is a
new 20,000 square foot venue called LONGSHOTS that is for “frequent and serious
•At Aqueduct all of the
track will have wireless internet access by the fall/winter meeting. The Equestris restaurant already
•At Belmont there will be
wireless in the areas in the back, including the paddock for the fall
•At Saratoga there will
also be wireless in the backyard areas for this summer’s meeting.
•At Saratoga a viewing
stand will be built at the Oklahoma training track by East Avenue near the
Fasig-Tipton sale pavilion. The stands, to be finished for the 2013 racing
season, will include restrooms and some light breakfast sales of coffee and
•RaceQuest is a new NYRA
sponsored online initiative designed to make horse racing easier to understand
for beginners. Check it out at RaceQuest.
It was also interesting to
hear that since the Casino was built, basically leaving only what was once the
clubhouse area, that the racetrack now has a capacity of just 10,000.
In an effort to try and
get more two year-old starters NYRA and the New York Thoroughbred Horseman’s
Association have created a $100,000 bonus for any Belmont spring juvenile
starter that goes on to a graded stakes race.
In addition there were
discussions about an “I Love New York Racing” public relations campaign that is
in planning. Overall NYRA seems to be ready to make investments in the
racetracks that will make our experience more enjoyable.