Updated on 09/15/2011 1:02PM

Belmont, Meadowlands shut this weekend


ELMONT, N.Y. - Plans to resume racing Saturday at Belmont Park and The Meadowlands were canceled abruptly Friday with officials from both tracks pointing to the continuing efforts to recover from Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

In another development tied to the attacks, racing at Finger Lakes was canceled Friday when several jockeys refused to ride, citing the emotional atmosphere. Although not all riders refused to ride, there were not enough to complete the program, according to track general manager Chris Riegle. That track is planning to re-open on Saturday.

Belmont was scheduled to host five graded stakes over the weekend that serve as prep races for the World Thoroughbred Championships to be held here on Oct. 27. Four of the five stakes - Saturday's Grade 1 Ruffian and Grade 2 Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap and Sunday's Grade 1 Futurity and Grade 1 Matron - will not be rescheduled. The Grade 2 Jerome, for 3-year-olds, will be rescheduled for Saturday, Sept. 22 and redrawn on Thursday.

Belmont plans to resume racing on Wednesday. Entries for those races will be taken Monday as opposed to Sunday to allow track employees to spend time with their families.

Tracks throughout the country have been back on regular schedules since Thursday except for Belmont, which has not raced since Sept. 9, and The Meadowlands, which hasn't raced since Sept. 8. They are the closest tracks to the World Trade Center's twin towers that were destroyed Tuesday by hijacked commercial jets. After canceling all live racing and simulcast operations since Tuesday, the two tracks were scheduled to resume on Saturday. However, late Friday morning management at both tracks reconsidered.

"We had a conference call with the TRA tracks this morning and it was felt it was in racing's best interests to get on with it, but we're a little closer to the situation than other tracks," said Terry Meyocks, president and COO of the New York Racing Association. "We need to go on with our lives and our jobs, but the more we thought about it, it wasn't the proper time."

Both Belmont and The Meadowlands took a public relations hit Friday morning from nationally syndicated radio host Don Imus, who chastised both tracks for planning to re-open on Saturday while all other professional sports leagues canceled their schedules through Sunday.

"Everybody knows the racetracks are run by gangsters,'' Imus said half-jokingly, before adding, "but even gangsters tend to be very respectful."

Meyocks denied that those comments played a role in the decision to cancel. However, Meyocks did say that NYRA received calls from several fans who were irate about Belmont opening on Saturday.

The Meadowlands is hopeful to resume racing with a 10-race card on Tuesday. Simulcasting will resume at The Meadowlands on Monday. Simulcasting at Monmouth Park was scheduled to resume Saturday.

"Our racing management, led by [senior vice-president] Bruce Garland, just thought that after having some chance to review it, the appropriate thing would be to wait until next week," said John Samerjan, vice president of public affairs for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

NYRA officials said the reason they won't reschedule four of the five weekend stakes is because it would conflict with similar races to be run on Oct. 6. The Jerome does not have a corresponding race that weekend.

"With the Breeders' Cup early this year, the timing doesn't give the horsemen an opportunity to run in both races,'' racing secretary Mike Lakow said. "We felt the best thing for horsemen and management is to wait until Breeders' Cup Preview Day on Oct. 6."

Several horses and horsemen were stranded out of town. All three of New York's major area airports were still shutdown until early Friday afternoon. A Tex Sutton plane could not leave Lexington, Ky., Friday morning and bring Beautiful Pleasure and Hero's Tribute to New York. Tiznow, the defending Horse of the Year, is now stranded in New York until at least Tuesday, the earliest a Tex Sutton plane would be allowed to leave New York.

Most New York trainers who attended the yearling sales at Keeneland during the week were still stranded in Lexington on Friday. However, trainers Christophe Clement and Shug McGaughey were able to fly into Farmingdale Airport Thursday afternoon on a private plane owned by Peter Karches, one of Clement's owners.

Jockey Gary Stevens was stranded in London where he was visiting his in-laws. Jockey Jerry Bailey was stuck in Florida, but was booked to return home Friday before racing was canceled.

Trainers did not seem upset by NYRA's decision to cancel.

"I think they're doing the right thing; out of respect it wouldn't look good if we were racing here," said Bobby Frankel, trainer of You, who would have been the odds-on favorite in Sunday's Matron.

"I would have preferred to run, but I'm sure they had good reason for making their decision," said Clement, who had Forbidden Apple entered in Saturday's Belmont Breeders' Cup.

NTRA develops New York Heroes Fund

A percentage of revenue from this year's World Thoroughbred Championships will be dedicated to the families of New York firefighters, police officers, emergency services personnel and other victims who lost their lives in Tuesday's terrorist attacks, it was announced on Friday.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Breeders' Cup Ltd. and the NYRA have set up a special fund to be called "NTRA Charities-New York Heroes Fund." They will contribute a portion of each paid admission from the Breeders' Cup as well as a percentage of all other revenue in connection with the event. Also, the fund will be the recipient of all proceeds from the Breeders' Cup Charity Gala, scheduled for Oct. 26 in New York City. The Gala is expected to raise in excess of $100,000, said D.G. Van Clief, president of the Breeders' Cup and chairman of the NTRA.

The NTRA has set a minimum goal of $1 million.

"We want this year's Breeders' Cup in New York to have special meaning by honoring these true heroes and innocent victims, and by helping their families cope with this tragedy in some tangible fashion," Van Clief said.

New York-based Bessemer Trust, a NTRA/Breeders' Cup sponsor, has agreed to establish and maintain a bank account for the special fund at no cost. Contributions can be sent to NTRA Charities-New York Heroes Fund, c/o Bessemer Trust Co., 630 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10111.