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Carrie Woerner: Start racing at Belmont (then in Saratoga)

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

New York Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner is urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to allow thoroughbred racing to begin at Belmont Park, without fans in the stands, as a prelude to saving the Saratoga racing season due to start on July 16.

“We want to get that started there, in hopes it makes the shift to Saratoga much more feasible,” Ms. Woerner told The Chronicle.

“They have been training 1,300 horses at Belmont, with about 600 people living on the backstrech and 600 coming on the track every day, working in support of training.”

She said, “NYRA is being very thoughtful about how they do this.”

The New York Racing Association “has really focused on the health of the people living and working there, controlling the coronavirus outbreak.

“They definitely have taken the right steps and are ready to switch from training to racing, with a live broadcast model rather than fans in the stands. That would be a significant boost to cover the costs they are incurring with training.”

Ms. Woerner said her aim is “to be in a position to have racing at Saratoga,” even if it’s done without spectators at first, but that she hopes as the summer progresses “they could allow some modest number of fans in the stands.”

“We recognize that might not be possible,” she added.

“Racing is a one-billion-dollar economic activity in the Capital Region,” Ms. Woerner notes. “A good 50 percent or more of that is tourism, but the other part is what’s around it, the agricultural people who support the activity from the supply chain perspective.

“Even if it’s not at 100 percent, but if 40-odd percent remains, just from training and racing, that would still be huge for the area.”

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