Record Rain in New York, Track Super Confident for BC Day

There was quite a thunderstorm on Long Island Saturday night. The site of the Oct. 29 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships was hit with loud thunder and bolts of lightning accompanied by an inch of rain.

That inch of precipitation pushed the amount to a record for New York for a month of October -- -a month that is, of course, not over yet.

"At the track, we've measured 18.2 inches of rain in less than a two-week period and that doesn't include Saturday night," Belmont Park track superintendent John Passero said.

Passero is keeping his eye on Hurricane Wilma, which could bring more rain up the east coast. The forecast from the National Weather Center is calling for showers in the New York area Tuesday and Wednesday. Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships day is forecast to be partly sunny with a high of 56.

"If that forecast holds true, we won't have any problems for Breeders' Cup," Passero, one of the most respected track superintendents in the country, said. Races were taken off the turf Saturday and Sunday and the track is dark Monday and Tuesday.

The NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) and John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at 12 furlongs will both be run on the outer turf course, called the Widener Course. The Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) at 1 1/4-mile will be run on the inner turf course.

Passero, 63, became the track superintendent in New York in January. He had spent 18 years in Maryland and prior to that, 10 at Arlington Park and 19 in Canada.

The rail that is out on both turf courses at Belmont will be taken down for Breeders' Cup day, "so the horses will be running on turf that has not had a horse on it for at least six weeks," Passero said.

The Kentucky bluegrass on both courses is 5 1/2 to 6 inches long, Passero said, and is "just laying over a little bit." The courses are not sand-based by are on top of sandy loam.

"I'm watching everything very carefully but if we don't get any more rain, we will run on the turf Wednesday," Passero said. "I am totally confident in our track and turf courses. They will be in good shape for Breeders' Cup (day)."

The Breeders' Cup has been run at Belmont three times: it was sunny and 43 in 1990 with the main track fast and turf good; in 1995 it was cloudy and 66 after much rain had fallen, with the main track muddy and turf soft; and in 2001 it was cloudy and windy with 50 degrees as the main track waws fast and the turf firm.

The Breeders' Cup was held at Aqueduct in 1985 when it was cloudy and 54.