Night Racing At Belmont? ‘That’s The Smart Way For Us To Go In The Future’

by | 07.16.2017 | 11:03am
Chris Kay, president and CEO of New York Racing Association

The New York Racing Association has been pursuing legislation which would allow it to run night-time racing at Belmont Park, revealed NYRA CEO and president Chris Kay on a Thoroughbred Daily News podcast this week. The bill actually passed through the New York Senate, but has yet to reach the State Assembly and so will not be acted upon until the 2018 session. That said, Kay suggested that Belmont could see night racing as soon as the 2018 fall meet.

“How do we bring more people to our NYRA tracks to enjoy all we've done over the last four years to make it a compelling experience?” asked Kay. “That's our challenge. That's precisely why we are trying to get approval from the legislature to get racing at night at Belmont two nights a week during both the spring and fall meets. Most young people are at work during the daytime. Most people, period, are at work during the daytime. If you've never been brought out to the track as a young boy or girl how do I get you to come out now? Well, I let you come out after work, just the way the Yankees and the Mets and the Red Sox do. On weekdays they have their events at night. I think that's the smart way for us to go in the future.”

Kay added that NYRA has already looked into a state-of-the-art lighting system for Belmont's track, an LED system with lighting that could be both muted and intensified. Night racing is not being considered for Saratoga, Kay said, because the track draws a different crowd that those at Belmont and Aqueduct.

Listen to the entire TDN podcast here.

  • War Admiral

    This is about the best idea I’ve ever heard! I bet it would even bring in more ADW wagering. I can’t be the only human alive who isn’t comfortable placing bets from my day job.

  • Figless

    Two days per week? I guess they anticipate a permanent 4 day per week schedule. In June they could easily begin at 4pm every day if they really believe that. No one is staying at Belmont past 9pm on a weeknight, sorry.

    Not to mention the disruption on the trainers schedules…ugh, like the stable hands dont have a long enough day already.

    • Lost In The Fog – Robert Lee

      “No one is staying at Belmont past 9pm on a weeknight, sorry.”

      Really? So people in NY won’t stay out past 9 pm on weeknights? They don’t attend Yankees, Mets, Knicks night games? They don’t go to movies, restaurants, night clubs, bars, concerts etc. unless they can get home before 9pm?

      • Fallow1

        Yep. And how about an A class racing signal for all the home gamers?

        Have we forgotten 90+ of the money is bet AWAY from the track?

        It’s coming.

        • Figless

          Kay is arguing it will increase on track attendance and my comment addresses that issue alone. It will almost certainly help simulcast handle, but is that enough to justify disrupting the lives of the stable help and horses?

          • Fallow1

            That’s the last thing they are worried about.

      • Figless

        Belmont is not Yankee Stadium or MSG or Broadway. They cant draw on weekends with major Graded Stakes, they are not suddenly drawing on weeknights for maiden claimers. In fact they would now be competing DIRECTLY against those entertainment venues. Would it help simulcast revenue? Certainly, and therefore it may make sense but if he thinks he is drawing on track customers as he claims he is mistaken. Actually I think its just spin, he knows he wont draw, its all about the simulcast revenue.

        • Lost In The Fog – Robert Lee

          I agree that the real goal is to increase simulcast revenue. That said I also think there will be an uptick in attendance on weeknights versus weekdays. Will it be substantial? That remains to be seen.

          • Figless

            Could be but I am skeptical as most players I know are free during the day, usually retired/semi-retired. I will dabble in the day during the week, but actually have other interests at night. I will be watching those other sports competing head to head, not racing. They may get novices through cross promotion, concerts, etc on a Friday night but while that works somewhat in Kentucky I am skeptical it works in NY. We shall see. Its all about simulcast and getting the Breeders Cup in the end.

  • Fred and Joan Booth

    We have worked at a track that had night racing. The facility we worked at had racing on Wednesday and Friday nights. Incredibly hard on grooms, trainers, track workers. Especially when we also had day racing the next day on Saturdays or Sundays. Many times we would not get done with cooling off of the last horse until well after midnight. We all would be so wore out the following days that many accidents occurred. Many times we could not find people willing to work such crummy long hours especially since our meet was in the dead of winter. Unless it was done during the long daylight hours of summer with no racing the next day, this will just make it even harder to find people willing to work in the racing industry. Also the utility bills went sky high for the track too because of all the extra use of lights on track and backside areas.

    • Canarse

      LEDs make this much cheaper than in the past.

      • Fred and Joan Booth

        Yes . How true, we forgot about them. We have converted our entire farm to LEDs. We have actually converted some OLD tube fixture lights to LEDs that had not worked for years. They all work like new again without having to replace hard to get ceiling fixtures or ballasts either.

      • Larry Ensor

        LEDs have come a long way. But I don’t think they have come far enough at this time to be “bright” enough for night racing?

    • LongTimeEconomist

      How do the harness people manage?

      • Michael Castellano

        They don’t usually race both days and nights at the same track.

        • Kerry Fitzpatrick

          Some do, Michael. Meadowlands used to, Red Mile does. I’m sure there are more.

          • Michael Castellano

            Harness horses run once a week. It expands the fields and number of available horses for a given race and lowers stable space and costs. Purses and other expenses are often much less. And many tracks have long been set up for night racing as well. In fact, the era of the greatest harness racing in terms of attendance and popularity was made possible with night racing. As the thoroughbreds used to rule the day. Most TB tracks are not set up for night racing, and would be competing directly with the harness tracks if there was a major switch over. And attendance for both the harness tracks and the thoroughbreds has dropped dramatically, day or night. Saturday nights might help as long as there is no day card that day. Less so with any other days. Simultaneous day and night racing at the same track for TBs is not viable on a regular basis.

    • Sampan

      I completely agree with you.

    • Marc S Rosenblum

      That’s a very good point. No one thinks about the people who make the show go on

      • WT

        Yes, and it’s tough on the horses, too. It messes their schedule up big time. I get the track wants to increase attendance, but it’s at the expense of the horses and backside workers.

        • Larry Ensor

          Not in my experience. The majority of horses are very adaptable I promise you.

    • Robert Millis

      While some good points are raised, I think you are overlooking the (much) bigger issue here: the industry is in a death knell and basic changes to the operating model must not only be considered, but initiated.

      With the exception of the boutique meets, the concept of running races year-round on week day afternoons is , to put it bluntly, insane (from a business point of view). It’s the equivalent of operating a children’s play room between the hours of 11PM and 5AM.

      Adjustments can be made to at least partially alleviate your concerns. Like wise, the animals can adjust. LED lighting is a bargain.

      I’m an not arguing that night racing is the cure. or that it will even succeed here. But gee whiz, can this one operator at least be given the chance to adapt the basic concept of “serving your customers ‘ need” at least be tries here, without a “thats not the way we’ve always done it!” counter?

    • Larry Ensor

      When I worked as a groom in the early 70s we were stabled at Pimilco. But the trainers i worked for also ran hoses at Charlestown night races. Sure it could be long days especially if my horse was in the last, cool out and then 2+ hour drive back to Pimilco. I knew what I signed up for and was usually very well paid. I guess people had a different work ethic in those days.

      • Denise Steffanus

        I groomed at Waterford Park (now Mountaineer) in the early ’70s, and we had night racing during the week. It sometimes was tough, but the grooms would take turns working the late races if we had horses in late several nights in a row. Twenty-something grooms can handle the pace and be in good shape the next day. At least that was my experience.

  • David Worley

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Exactly the kind of common sense move the sport needs.

  • kuzdal

    Sounds like a very good change. Clearly, what they have at Belmont only works one day a year. But, as a tourist, I’m not inclined to get back on the Cross Island late at night. Even worse, making my way through Port Authority at 10:30PM. Still, somewhat hopeful.

  • Gene Cahalan cahalan

    Remember when the Cubs played all day games and the furor over lights at wrigley Field..time to cater/increase our target market

  • snowchrome

    This increases their chances of hosting the Breeders Cup again.

  • Michael Castellano

    I doubt it will work as far as drawing any more attendance. Heaven knows how the stable trainers and workers and riders will handle it. Any betting will remain mostly off track. Typical NYRA idea.

    • Figless

      Exactly. Reality, not fantasy. Perhaps they can make Friday night work, but they havent been able to make Friday party in the park work so I dont know how a later post time will help. Wed or Thursday, forgetaboutit.

      And they know it. Its all about simulcast revenue, but the impact on the horses and stable help will be enormous for a few bucks.

  • gus stewart

    Omg, omg, can it be true marty and chris kay get it. Marty always knew racing at night friday sat and probably thursday is the way to go. Hay horseman, i was in business to, maybe it’s time to train in the afternoons not mornings, maybe if you want to see this biz start to grow again, you have to change, the leaders have been in a time warp. Here in California what a stellar meet los al had, 1000 attendance on sat, and santa anita racing in the days hitting 100 degress on a thursday friday or sat,, u wanna race sunday afternoon fine. Del mar is stll a vacation scene, so it doesn’t matter. So watch for los al press report next couple days,, comments,,we are happy with how the meet went and continue to be optimistic racing during the day. There is no future for racing during the days technology and having to work trumps the track,, do entertaiment evening with some ambiance and a fun place to be for younger people, rebrand racing. So ny looks like they will take the lead. Here in california, we still have the same stewards the same chrb, all of whom are as old or older then me,, not judgemental because of age, but if u cant think in 2017, things have changed, so go ahead, stay onboard the titanic.

    • Figless

      Clearly you have never worked in a horse stable. Those horses cant simply stand around all day waiting for the help to show up at noon. It doesn’t work that way. Plus there will be different schedules for different days, day racing weekends, night racing weeknights. Recipe for disaster.

      • gus stewart

        Clearly, i have not worked in a horse stable,,, well i have been up at 5am at the barn, i have been doing something there till 1030am,, i have been at the racetrack at 1pm or 2pm until 6pm. Then i had dinner then i worked on going over works till sometimes 10pm. That was my shedule for a few years. Your missing my point, you have to adjust to the current business climate to continue to do business. Its that simple, if you want to tell me the horses cant stand around all day, well they would have to if their wasnt enough money in this business to pay for helping them. If you dont increase revenues and bring in more capitol and news fans and owners, how do you feed and take care of them. My point is simply, find ways to make the business better. The current methods no longer work, the horse business is not growing, things must be rethought. Its not oh no cant do that, it disrupts this or that. Cutting racing days or raising takeout hasn’t worked.

  • Elle D

    Churchill has night racing during the meets, although it’s weekends. While I don’t mind it, I do wish they’d move post time to 4PM as it would make a difference in the drive back to Lexington.

  • GBL

    Opinion As A Handicapper
    Chris Kay is wrong, very wrong.

    Modern day US racing revolves around Saturdays. There used to be days when Sundays will host significant stakes races as well. Not anymore.

    The racing fans like to see competitive, quality racing. Big name horses brings more people to the track. Stakes races feature horses which are responsible for the attraction. Who would like to come to the track on a weekday when six out of 9 races are for NY-breds and the feature race is an allowance race for State-Breds?

    Why Saratoga bode so well compared to her sister track Belmont Park on weekdays? Because it offers quality racing and at least one stakes race each day. If that is not enough, consider European racing which offers group races on weekdays as well with so many popular horses participating. People there come in doves on week days as well. Are you suggesting they’re all out of work?

    • Big G

      Dear GBL, please do not compare saratoga to the rest of the NYRA network ,,, first of all saratoga is and will always be the summer place to be,, most of the patrons are on vacation from the city and nearby Massachusetts , and the whole town of saratoga turns out everyday to promote and make saratoga special, remember the visitors come and stay and go to the races everyday, the party scene is unbelievable , the racing is top notch ( weather permitting ) betting pools are giant ,fields are full,, your comment betting NYBREDS brings no point, bettors want full fields which saratoga provides , great turf racing action all the time,, Excellent payoffs ,,, trainers and owners will tell you the toughest place to win is saratoga, hands down ,,, I remember years ago NYRA took a poll about what they could do to help racing , well the answer most received was to long between races,,, well NYRA tried speeding up the races and the patrons of saratoga did not like this because when you come to saratoga you come for the Experience , the beauty of the sport , great food, Ice cold drinks, great family and friends. saratoga is the king of summer time racing hands down…good luck to you ,, Big G.

  • DanM

    Thoroughbred racing in North America has to contract to a maximum of 25,000 races per year to be viable. NYRA can do it’s part by getting down to about 1,800 races per year. After the Belmont renovation, winter racing in New York should end. 42 weeks per year between Belmont and Saratoga is more than enough. I’m assuming that Aqueduct will be closed permanently in 2019.

  • Nytex

    What I would say to Mr. Kay is, why not use some of your political connections to get states like Texas, with 26 million people, to legalize ADW wagering, that was legal for approximately 13 years through Twinspires? There are plenty of horseplayers in Texas who would be thrilled to get online again, day(preferably) or night. You don’t have to sell them on anything, just open the gates. Twinspires claims they are trying, but maybe if more ADW’s pushed a bit, the handle would absolutely increase.

  • Guest

    Absolutely great idea!! Better for horses to run when it’s cooler instead of running in hot weather which isn’t good for them anyways! I grew up with night racing it’s exciting, fun, and you have a great crowd because people are off work and can attend racing! You will get a more diverse crowd probably alot of younger people going as well! Making a night of it at the clubhouse betting and having a great time! Yes it’s work for trainers grooms and everyone but better for horses. Believe me I know I did this night racing 30 years! I’m speaking from experience. Great idea!

  • Matthew Fitch

    I split my time between an office in California, and home on the east coast. NYRA is my wagering track of choice, but I loved Hollywood Park night time racing, both attending in person, and for the ability to watch from home after work. I can tell you it absolutely brought in a bigger crowd, and a younger crowd. It may not have surged the handle much, but you can’t create new fans unless you get them to the track at least once. Trying it two nights a week seems like a really smart idea.

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