10/20/2004 11:00PM

Suffolk takes Belmont simulcasts

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The simulcast signal from Belmont Park was restored to Suffolk Downs outside of Boston on Thursday after track management broke away from the MidAtlantic Cooperative and signed its own deal with the New York Racing Association, the owner and operator of Belmont.

The signal from Belmont had been cut off from Suffolk since Sept. 22, one week after the MidAtlantic Cooperative, a group of 19 tracks in eight states, formally ended negotiations with NYRA because of objections to several in-home broadcasting restrictions in the NYRA simulcast contract. Suffolk, along with Rockingham Park in New Hampshire, dropped the signal one week after the rest of the cooperative because their previous contracts with NYRA had not yet expired.

"The Red Sox finally beat the Yankees on Wednesday night, and on Thursday, New York is back on in Boston," said Bill Nader, the senior vice president of NYRA, on Thursday.

Nader said Suffolk's management offered to sign the contract Wednesday night and that the deal was reached on Thursday morning.

Robert O'Malley, the chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, was at a racing commission meeting on Thursday afternoon, Suffolk officials said, and could not be reached for comment.

The Belmont blackout has infuriated racing fans across the mid-Atlantic and cost the tracks involved millions of dollars in simulcasting fees and purse revenues. The MidAtlantic Cooperative has blamed the impasse on Television Games Network, the horse race broadcast and wagering company. TVG signed a contract with NYRA in early September giving the network the exclusive in-home rights to NYRA's signals, with some exemptions.

Martin Lieberman, the executive director of the cooperative, could not be reached on Thursday afternoon.

Suffolk was considered a weak link in the cooperative because the track is a non-exclusive partner track of TVG. Suffolk and its horsemen collect fees from TVG on any wager made through the network within a certain radius from the track.