10/27/2014 10:48AM

Future uncertain as refurbished Aqueduct opens meet


The long-term future of Aqueduct is uncertain, one likely to be determined a year from now by a governor who has already expressed an interest in finding another use for the part of the 210-acre property that isn’t occupied by Resorts World New York, the wildly successful video-lottery-terminal facility that marks its three-year anniversary Thursday.

For the time being, however, Aqueduct remains the hub of New York racing for the next six months, beginning Wednesday with an eight-race card that starts at 1 p.m. Eastern. Aqueduct conducts racing until the end of April, with a pair of one-month meets run over its 1 1/8-mile main track and four months of racing over the winterized inner track. Turf racing will be held at the mercy of Mother Nature both in the fall and in April.

While a long-term planning committee of the New York Racing Association Reorganization Board readies suggestions for Aqueduct, the company says it has invested $14 million in capital improvements at the track over the last year.

Fans will notice new high-definition infield boards as well as more than 500 HD televisions throughout the facility. A total of 450 bucket seats – some that have been there for more than 50 years – have been replaced by airport-style seating. New tile has replaced worn carpet on the first floor.

This will be the first complete, live race meet for which Longshots, a highly touted simulcast facility and bar, will be open. General admission is $10 to Longshots and $5 for NYRA Rewards members. Longshots, which has 270 handicapping carrels, opened in April and, according to NYRA, has attracted more than 40,000 people and generated $24 million in handle.

Money has been spent on the backside as well, with NYRA making improvements to barns and dormitories.

Horsemen will notice that purses at Aqueduct are down from last year’s fall meet and will reflect the level at which they were during last year’s inner-track meet. Still, Martin Panza, NYRA’s senior vice president of racing operations, said purses at Aqueduct “are still higher than anybody else in the country.”

NYRA will offer 24 stakes worth $4.9 million in purse money through Dec. 31. The Grade 1 Cigar Mile tops the stakes calendar. It will be run Nov. 29 on a card that also includes the Remsen and Demoiselle – Grade 2 stakes for juvenile males and females, respectively – and the Grade 3 Comely for 3-year-old fillies.

Like last year, there will be a tiered purse structure for the Cigar Mile. Its base purse will be $500,000. Any Grade 1 winners will run for the winner’s share of $750,000. A winner of a Breeders’ Cup race will be eligible to run for the winner’s share of a $1 million pot.

The added money helped draw a stellar field last year, including Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Groupie Doll and BC Dirt Mile winner Goldencents. The race was won by the 7-year-old Flat Out.

Though originally scheduled to open Friday, Aqueduct’s earlier opening is due to the creation of an early-December break, Dec. 16-26. To accommodate the break, two additional scheduled dark days – Nov. 10 and Dec. 15 – will be race days.

Aqueduct will run eight-race cards Wednesday and Thursday before going back to nine-race programs beginning Friday.

The nominal feature Wednesday is a $62,000 second-level allowance race going six furlongs on dirt. The 11-horse field includes two New York-breds returning from lengthy layoffs to tackle open company.

Bond Vigilante, trained by Chad Brown – coming off a third straight Belmont fall title – has not been seen since November, when he emerged from a fifth-place finish in an overnight stakes here with an ankle problem. Prior to that, he won three of his first five starts.

“It took a little while to get him back to the races, but it looks like he’s training well,” said Brown, who has Javier Castellano to ride from post 9.

Loki’s Vengeance, trained by Mike Hushion, has not started since finishing seventh in the Mike Lee Stakes at Belmont on May 31. In his start before that, Loki’s Vengeance won a New York Stallion Stakes race over Aqueduct’s main track.

The horse to beat may be Glickman, who has two wins and a second since David Jacobson claimed him for $20,000 back in July at Saratoga. Glickman, coming off a second-level allowance win at Parx, is being offered for the optional claiming price of $62,500.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 1 Doubledown Again. Trainer Michelle Nevin is 39-14-10-4 lifetime in dirt sprints at Aqueduct. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 2 Street Shark. Trainer Chris Englehart is 104-8-15-8 with a $0.71 ROI over the past year in dirt sprints at Aqueduct.  Click for more details.Mike Hogan