06/19/2017 10:19PM

Giwner: A Yonkers Raceway meet at Belmont Park?

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The Belmont Park training track, which sits just east of the main track, could be a potential site for a Yonkers meet.

Could Yonkers Raceway become the harness racing capital of North America? With some of the best horses and many of the top drivers in the sport, is it really that farfetched an idea?

If Standardbred Owners Association of New York President Joe Faraldo gets his way, that dream could become reality via a site location move to a one-mile oval.

For years rumors have swirled throughout New York of harness racing at Aqueduct since the larger track would allow for bigger fields and a style of racing that is more enticing to bettors. Once Aqueduct became the location of Resorts World Casino, that possibility was quickly erased, but a new idea seems to have gained some traction.

The concept would be to extend the current one-mile training track at Belmont Park to be a 1-1/4 mile track for Thoroughbreds to train on with a mile-long harness track in the center. The new location would then host Yonkers racing from Belmont Park.

I’m hoping that as soon as the current legislative session is over we can get everyone in a room to discuss it,” said Faraldo, who even spoke with the Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office about it and has yet to receive any negative feedback from any party. “I think [Governor Cuomo] would embrace it.”

In theory, according to Faraldo, the plan makes sense for almost all parties. Empire City Casino (Yonkers Raceway) would gain access to the land where the track is currently located and the backstretch barn area to develop further ahead of a potential full-blown casino possibility in 2021. Genting New York, which operates Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct, would be allowed to purchase the land from the government and winterize Belmont Park for year-round racing. That would free them up to also prepare for an even larger casino destination at the Aqueduct location in Queens.

Of course plenty has to happen for a yearly Yonkers meet to occur at Belmont Park. In addition to changes in the track configuration, access roads have to be built, parking has to be addressed, a grandstand needs to be constructed, a lighting system needs to be created, and certainly many other issues will come up.

“To make anything happen track operators have to see the benefit of it and I think with this they get what they want,” said Faraldo. “I do think it has a chance (of happening) and I’m serious about getting it done.”

The benefits to contesting a Yonkers meet over a mile track are numerous. First and foremost, larger tracks (one mile and seven-eighths) produce handle figures which dwarfs that of half-mile and five-eighth facilities.  With quality racing over a mile track, Yonkers could almost immediately give handle leader The Meadowlands a run for its money. Even Meadowlands operator Jeff Gural has said on multiple occasions that if Yonkers built a larger oval and he was unable to get casino legislation passed for his track, it would severely hurt his business.

Faraldo also believes that being able to contest races with more horses would greatly appeal to the overseas simulcasting market which Yonkers has been catering to in recent years. In addition, a new racing surface should help lure horses from Europe for major events like the International Trot.

While you won’t be heading to Belmont Park in the next year to watch Harness Racing, Faraldo hoped that maybe he could make some headway on the concept in the next two years, which means that perhaps by 2020 Elmont, New York will be the center of the Standardbred racing world.