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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Anthony Palmisano, Special Correspondent — I love horse racing. I especially love horse racing when I get to see the races live. particularly on the biggest stages the sport has to offer.

So when New York horse-owner sources told me about the cost NYRA is charging for the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga, I was infuriated.

I’ve been a horse owner, whereby I know one of racing’s unwritten rules is that owners do not pay entry fees to enter the track. Just show your owner’s license where applicable and walk in. Same goes for horsemen.

However, NYRA has decided for Belmont Stakes at Saratoga that unless you have a horse racing on either Friday or Saturday, you must pay an entry fee.

The general admission fee is $50 which is sold out. If you want to get in, the cost on the secondary market is now $150-$175–if you can get a ticket.

I also learned that seats for the Belmont are $150 per person which doesn’t include the cost for admission, not even a complimentary small food or beverage credit.

If you are planning to attend Belmont Stakes Day at Saratoga, you’re looking at $300 per person to get into Race Course and have a seat. A family of 4? You do the basic math.

Like many of today’s premier sporting events, management is looking to grab the money.

By pricing out the small bettor, NYRA once again is catering to big-pocketed elites, betting syndicates, and whales,. And the town’s hotels and motels have jacked up prices to never-seen-before levels.

I saw this happen in the NFL during my time with the Patriots. The upper middle class once had the ability to buy Super Bowl tickets and go to THE GAME. Not so much now.

Tickets are very expensive mainly because tickets are set aside for corporate sponsors, celebrities and billionaires.

I hope NYRA understands that the people who support and work on the backside can’t afford the above prices. They deserve the opportunity to see the fruits of their labor live. Not all backstretchers are super-trainers.

I’m a purist, so I really don’t like that the Belmont Stakes will be run at 10 furlong vs the International Classic distance of mile and a half. Please asterisk these Belmont Stakes at Saratoga.

Instead of he “Test of the Champion,” the alternative distance makes it more like a prep for the Travers.

On a national teleconference, Wayne Lukas said that horsemen’s liaison Phoebe Hayes would escort him up to a box next to the Governor free, as opposed to the thousands he paid for a seat on Derby Day.

Of the Triple Crown races, the Kentucky Derby stands alone.. It is not dependent on results as opposed to the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The Derby is a world wide international sporting event. And they take advantage of that status.

So Churchill, and now NYRA to a smaller degree, have taken the opportunity to grab money from horsemen and fans without whose support the game could not exist.

Tony Palmisano is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and a former Executive Director for Fox Sports Net NE and the New England Patriots.

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