09/07/2001 12:00AM

New York prepares for Cup's visit


With Point Given out of this year's World Thoroughbred Championships in New York, officials of Belmont Park and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association are revamping the public relations and marketing campaigns for the Oct. 27 event.

Point Given, who won four Grade 1 races in a row this summer - including three in the New York area - before being retired last week, would have been a principal focus of the effort to hype the championships. But with his retirement last week, officials are looking to other likely participants in the eight Breeders' Cup races for storylines, while mining traditional areas of promotion.

"It's hard to say what the impact will be" of Point Given's absence, said Bill Nader, a senior vice president of the New York Racing Association, which owns Belmont Park. "Actually, it was fortunate for us that it happened when it did, and not one or two weeks out. We've got a lot of lead-up, and we can prepare."

Nader said NYRA officials met Thursday morning to discuss promotional plans. Already, the track is planning on having Broadway stars perform between races in the days leading up to the event, while hoping to get approval from the city of New York to hold several promotional events in midtown Manhattan.

Belmont has a mixed history with the Breeders' Cup. The track last hosted the event in 1995, but only 37,246 people showed up, the lowest attendance in history. Fans complained about long lines for bets and concessions, and poor weather did not help the track's image either.

Damon Thayer, the marketing director for the World Thoroughbred Championships, said advertising for the event will be concentrated in the last week before the championships are held. There will be new commercials along the lines of the ESPN campaign in which jockeys sing country songs.

"It's very difficult to break through the clutter in New York, so we made a conscious decision to drive the walk-up gate," Thayer said. "And there are two things that drive that: advertising in the final five or six days, and weather on the morning of the event."

Thayer said the loss of Point Given will not substantially impact on-track business because the event is still too far away.

"There's eight races, and there are plenty of great storylines," Thayer said. "We'll find them."