Are the rumors of the demise of winter racing exaggerated?

Lots of talk lately about the possibility of a revised racing schedule in New York; as Jessica Chapel recently pointed out, Jeremy Plonk proposes a year-round, nationwide schedule, and Paul Moran recently speculated that NYRA is mulling a winter hiatus from racing. Haven’t seen anything to suggest that such changes are actually in the offing, but if they are, it would represent a significant shift in racing as we know it here (at least for those of us young enough to not particularly remember the days of a New York racing off-season).

I like that racing happens year-round in New York; I like that pretty much any week, I can get to live racing without too much trouble. That said, I also recognize the merits of some time off, and I can imagine the excitement that would be generated when racing comes back to New York in the spring—not unlike opening night at the Garden, when my section-mates and I greet each other like long-lost family members after not having seen each other since the previous April.

Left out of the speculation I’ve read so far is how such a closing in New York would affect the people in the industry. How many people would lose jobs? How many related industries would suffer? What would be the economic impact? What would become of the smaller trainers who make their money when the big guys head south, and for whom shipping out and racing elsewhere in the winter don’t make good financial sense? What about the owners who would now be responsible for the care and feeding of horses without any income?

Again—it’s all just a rumor at this point. And while such a decision might make good racing sense, I know that I’d be a little sad about not heading out on the A train to Aqueduct to relieve the February bleakness, and I’d hope that some thought would be given to those left unemployed if it were to come to pass.

In other news: I’ve posted a few feed links over the last few weeks, as a way to keep up with this and other racing websites, and I really hope that this is the last one. This link will take you a list of recently-updated Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance sites, providing the title, author, and first few sentences of the post. For a wider selection of racing reading, you can also check out Raceday 360.

4 thoughts on “Are the rumors of the demise of winter racing exaggerated?

  1. Plonk’s proposal is, to put it kindly, utter nonsense. Never going to happen, shouldn’t happen, should never have been allowed out of the deepest recesses of his mind.

  2. My opinion is that a short winter break will be good in the long run for not only NYRA but the rest of the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic.I’m dating myself here but winter racing started in the ’70s during Mayor Beame’s administration when NYC was dead broke. It was supposed to be a short-term fix.An eight-week break will put some NYRA folks out of work, sure, but they’ll be able to collect unemployment benefits until they return.AQU should remain open for simulcasting seven days a week to keep revenues coming in and peopleworking.The horsemen, especially the smaller outfits, will grumble. However, they can ship to Philly, Charles Town, Laurel and Penn National. The competition should be easier and three of the four tracks have slot-infused purse structures.The better outfits can ship their better stock to Gulfstream, Tampa and the Fair Grounds.NYRA’s purse account gets a break and it can sock away bucks for the Fall Meeting to offer rich purses to the September and October Grade 1 stakes that are now overshadowed by the Breeders’ Cup.The horseplayers will survive. There’s AQU open for simulcasting, OTB, Channel 71, TVG, in-home wagering, etc. The betting won’t stop.And, NYRA can get a head start on casino construction. Instead of the A train to AQU in Feb., why not a JetBlue flight to Florida for a weekend at Tampa Bay Downs?

  3. Thanks to Jim Gallagher of the NYTHA for pointing out that, under the new franchise agreement,NYRA can’t unilaterally make “substantial” changes in the number of racing days. Cancelling two months, with 40 racing days certainly sounds substantial to me. And so the state would have to approve, which is unlikely in view of the state’s dire need for revenue.More likely, given NY state’s need for $$, is a fast-track to slot machines for Belmont, on top of those already approved at Aqueduct.Two month break or not, though, I expect that a few of my horses will be at Tampa this winter. Good excuse for a vacation. 🙂

  4. Thanks, everyone, for reading and commenting. In retrospect, this is something I should never have written about, as it’s nothing more than a rumor–see today’s post. Interesting to speculate about, and Tom, your discussion of how it would play out is interesting, but given all the jobs that are at stake, I should have left it alone.

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