by Jennie Rees
Aqueduct Racetrack’s 2012 winter/spring meet will have a 44-percent increase in graded-stakes purses over 2011 thanks to the long-awaited opening of a slots operation at the track, the New York Racing Association announced Wednesday.
Editorial injection: There figures to be much more of this to come, and the disparity between New York and Kentucky racing will become a bigger and bigger gulf. You think New York with slots won’t greatly change the racing landscape? Consider the Kentucky outfits which are adding or beefing up year-round New York stables, including those of Kentucky residents Mike Maker, Dale Romans and Kenny McPeek.
Of course, Kentucky is not the only circuit impacted. Gulfstream could feel the impact as well this winter, with John Terranova not sending a string south and Todd Pletcher putting much more emphasis on a New York winter division.
Good for New York and good for NYRA. As a not-for-profit racing operation, here’s hoping New York follows Woodbine is showing how a slots operation can truly benefit live horse racing. Another thought: The Wood Memorial’s official name – see next paragraph – is longer than the race.
The centerpiece of Aqueduct’s 13 graded stakes totaling $3.75 million will be the $1 million Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial on April 7. The corresponding meet in 2011 had 11 stakes worth $2.6 million.
Back after a year hiatus is the $200,000, Grade III Withers for 3-year-olds, which has been moved up to Feb. 4 to position it as a legitimate prep for the Kentucky Derby and a stepping stone to the $400,000 Gotham on March 3. The Withers distance has changed from a mile to 1 1/16 miles.
In addition, the Big A will offer 16 listed and New York-bred stakes.
The New York Racing Association attributed the purse increase to in the opening of Genting’s Resorts World Casino New York City at Aqueduct. During the first year of the casino’s operations, 6.5 percent of the revenue from the video lottery terminals must go to NYRA’s purse structure.
The 88th running of the Wood will be featured on NBC’s "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series, airing April 7 from 4:30 – 6 p.m. during a broadcast that will also include live coverage of the Santa Anita Derby.