05/16/2010 11:00PM

NYRA calls Belmont meet in jeopardy


ELMONT, N.Y. - The New York Racing Association reiterated on Monday that if it does not receive financial assistance from the state, it will be unable to complete the Belmont Park spring/summer meet. The meet runs through July 18.

"NYRA's current cash position will not allow us to make it through the entire Belmont Park race meet," NYRA's president and CEO, Charles Hayward, said in a press release issued late Monday afternoon. "We are in discussions with the state regarding potential avenues for us to acquire funding."

NYRA did not address the prospects for a Saratoga meet in its one-paragraph release.

Hayward and NYRA officials were scheduled for more talks with state officials in Albany on Tuesday. Last week, a plan that was to have advanced NYRA $17 million through a future bond for the construction of a casino at Aqueduct was scuttled because the move would violate legal restrictions on how the state can loan money.

NYRA is owed $17 million by bankrupt New York City Off-Track Betting. Also, NYRA is not receiving any revenue from the still-stalled slots project at Aqueduct. In 2008, when the state renewed NYRA's franchise agreement, it agreed to fund NYRA's operating shortfalls in the absence of a video lottery terminal operator having been selected to run the casino at Aqueduct. But the state is in a $9 billion hole and doesn't even have a budget in place for the upcoming fiscal year.

This comes on the heels of NYRA trying to market the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 5 that will lack both the Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, and the Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky.

Though a large field is likely for the race, there is hardly a name horse in the field. As of Monday, the headline 3-year-olds were Ice Box, the Florida Derby winner who finished second in the Kentucky Derby with a troubled trip, and First Dude, who finished a game second to Lookin At Lucky in the Preakness after setting the early pace.

Trainer Nick Zito, a New York favorite and a two-time Belmont winner and six-time Belmont runner-up, might be the main attraction. In addition to saddling Ice Box, Zito is also the trainer of Dwyer Stakes winner Fly Down. Bob Baffert, the trainer of Lookin At Lucky, is expected to run Game on Dude, the Lone Star Derby winner.

The last time the Belmont did not have either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness winner was 2006. A crowd of 61,168 attended the race, won by Jazil. Total handle was $81.4 million.

In 2006, grandstand admission was $5 and clubhouse admission was $10. Now, those prices are $10 and $20, respectively. Seats for the 2006 Belmont ranged in price from $40 to $300. This year, seats range in prices from $45 to $350. The most dramatic increase in the last five years is seats in the preferred grandstand that were $100 in 2006 now cost $120.