Belmont Off Through Friday; Weekend TV Up in Air

Live racing and simulcasting at many racetracks was canceled again Wednesday in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. In addition, the New York Racing Association reported that Belmont Park will be closed Thursday and Friday.

NYRA officials previously announced that the Wednesday program would be scrapped. Belmont and Aqueduct, another NYRA track, are being used as emergency staging areas in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center towers. Aqueduct was made available to various agencies for other needs as well.

"Out of a deep sense of mourning and a respect for the many lives lost in this tragic event, we will not reopen until Saturday," said Terry Meyocks, president and chief executive officer of NYRA. "NYRA and its board of trustees want to express our sincere condolences to those who have suffered a loss, and applaud the heroic efforts of all those involved in the rescue and recovery operation."

This weekend, Belmont has scheduled five stakes that serve as preps for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, to be held Oct. 27 at Belmont. Scheduled for Saturday are the $300,000 Ruffian Handicap, the $200,000 Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap, and the $150,000 Jerome Handicap. On Sunday, the $200,000 Futurity Stakes and $200,000 Matron Stakes are slated.

The draw for Saturday's 11-race program will take place Thursday.

The Saturday races are scheduled to be broadcast on NBC from 4-6 p.m. EDT. A one-hour program featuring the Matron is scheduled for 3-4 p.m. Sunday on ESPN, and a one-hour program featuring the Futurity is planned for 4-5 p.m. Sunday on CNBC.

Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of marketing and industry relations for the NTRA, said the broadcasts hinge on two things: a decision by the networks to indeed produce and televise sports programming in light of the national crisis, and a resumption of air traffic by the Federal Aviation Administration. An earlier issue-whether Belmont would be open -- was resolved Wednesday.

"This affects virtually every sport," Chamblin said of the national crisis. "We have people traveling to New York by car, and some have airline travel planned for Thursday. We have more meetings scheduled for Thursday morning, and should have a better understanding of the situation by Thursday afternoon. We're monitoring the situation very closely."

Delaware Park and Rockingham Park raced Wednesday, but a laundry list of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse tracks closed up shop for live racing and simulcasting. Along with Belmont, Arlington Park, Bay Meadows, Calder Race Course, Charles Town Races, Churchill Downs Trackside OTBs, Ellis Park, Finger Lakes, Great Lakes Downs, Hoosier Park, Hollywood Park, Laurel Park, Lone Star Park, Meadowlands, Monmouth Park, Penn National Race Course, Pimlico Race Course, Prairie Meadows, Retama Park, Sam Houston Race Park, Sportsman's Park, Thistledown, and Turfway Park all closed.

Buffalo Raceway, Freehold Raceway, Maywood Park, Monticello Raceway, and the Downs at Pocono were closed for harness racing and simulcasting Wednesday, according to the United States Trotting Association. At least one harness track, Harrington Raceway in Delaware, said its Wednesday night program would go on as scheduled.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates Meadowlands and Monmouth, said both facilties would be closed through Friday. No decision was made on live racing at Meadowlands for Saturday night.

Fairplex Park at the Los Angeles County Fair was scheduled to hold its live Thoroughbred program Wednesday afternoon. But as a consequence of the Bay Meadows cancellation, Northern California simulcasting outlets were cut off from the Fairplex signal.

"We had no choice but to shut down," said Kate Snider, racing supervisor at Cal Expo in Sacramento. "We would love to stay open to support the fair, but we have no tote system and no signal."

Jack Liebau, who is in charge of Magna Entertainment's three California tracks, including Bay Meadows, said the "biggest factor is simply that we thought it was inappropriate to run. It's not different than any place in America right now."

It appears only one horse racetrack -- Plainridge Race Course in Massachusetts -- was open for live racing Tuesday in the United States. According to reports, few people were in attendance for the late-afternoon harness program at the facility located south of Boston.

Fort Erie Racetrack and Casino, located in Ontario, Canada, just across the border from Buffalo, N.Y., was open for Thoroughbred racing Tuesday.

The TV Games Network continued to cover the Keeneland September yearling sale Wednesday, though broadcaster Jeff Lifson, who has covered the event live from the sale pavilion, said he was calling in reports by telephone. The network's satellite truck, on hand at Keeneland Monday, was needed in the New York area.