It’s another family tradition. My brother started it in the 80’s; I joined in 2004.
That was my first Belmont Stakes. Smarty Jones’s—er, Birdstone’s—Belmont. Though my interest in racing rejuvenated in 2000, I didn’t follow it with the alacrity that I do now, and foolishly, I just never thought about going to the Belmont.
But that year, my brother called to say that one of his crew had defected, and he had an extra ticket, and did I want to go? Um, Triple Crown on the line, let me think about it, ok, YES!
And thus a tradition was born.
In about February of each year, my brother sends out the e-mail: “Who’s in?” We respond, he fills out the form and faxes it in, we wait patiently, and in most cases, learn with delight of our seats for that year. Oh yeah, and he usually gives me mine for my birthday. It’s virtually flawless, putting aside the occasional trepidation about where our seats will be, especially in the Triple Crown years.
But perhaps, that is all about to change.
In the last week, I’ve heard from three sources, including one who works at NYRA, that next year, the current Belmont Stakes ticket system will be discontinued and Ticketmaster will handle the sales. The person with whom I spoke today told me that NYRA is “considering” this change in the hope that things will go “more smoothly” (for whom? what’s not smooth now?). According to her, average fans will have no less of a chance of getting seats than they do now. She stressed that nothing is confirmed at this point, and I’ve contacted NYRA to see if I can get any more information, specifically about how it thinks that this new system will benefit both fans and the track.
I must say that my knee-jerk reaction to this is not good. My $60 seats will now go for closer to $80, if past examples of service charges are any indication, and I’ve loved that one can call the NYRA office and speak to a human about the seats, as I did on Tuesday. The person at NYRA with whom I spoke, like pretty much everyone I’ve ever contacted there, was friendly and helpful, and whenever we have called regarding our seats, the NYRA folks have been responsive, helping as much as they can. I can’t imagine that Ticketmaster will be so accommodating, and I am dismayed to think that a rapacious corporate behemoth will now have my Belmont Stakes fate in its hands.