Belmont celebrations mask racing's money troubles
By Julian Linden
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The connections of the horse that wins Saturday's $1 million Belmont Stakes may not be the only ones struggling to contain their emotions when the final leg of the Triple Crown is over.
Officials at the New York Racing Association (NYRA) might also be tempted to spontaneously join in the celebrations after enduring a tumultuous month in which they faced the prospect of shutting down for the rest of the season and sacking more than 1,000 people because of financial problems.
The Belmont Stakes is one of the world's great races and Saturday's event should be an epic event, with a massive crowd expected to roll into the picturesque track on a perfect summer's day.
But the roar of the crowd and the colorful sights of a packed course will only mask the problems NYRA has faced and could encounter in these turbulent times for the equine industry.
Just a few weeks ago, NYRA, which runs tracks at Belmont, Saratoga and Aqueduct, announced that the rest of the 2010 season might have to be canceled after Saturday's 142nd Belmont Stakes and there was no guarantee there would be a 143rd edition next year.
NYRA posted the grim notices to 1,400 employees that layoffs would start a few days after their showcase race before the New York state government intervened.
The government, which had been slow out of the gates in their promise of approving video lottery machines, hurriedly passed a bill giving NYRA a loan to keep it afloat.
"If we didn't get the money from the state we were going to have to close down because we wouldn't have had the money potentially to make payroll," NYRA President Charlie Hayward told Reuters. Continued...