Sports Beat & Above: Hail, Pharoah! • Latino Sports

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Sports Beat & Above: Hail, Pharoah!

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Image Credit: Chelsea Durand

Image Credit: Chelsea Durand

Queen, NY – American Pharoah winning the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes Saturday elicited the same euphoric feelings for spectators that Johan’s Santana’s no-hitter against the Cardinals at CitiField three years earlier did. The Mets faithful had to wait 50 years to see their team on the upside of a no-hitter while thoroughbred racing fans endured a 37-year drought.

Since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978 there had been a dozen horses, including California Chrome last year, who won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but fell short at the toughest race of them all, the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes. There was some concern that many race fans and television viewers might become indifferent to yet another equine contender for what was beginning to look like an unattainable holy grail.

The New York Racing Association was a beneficiary of American Pharoah’s success even before Saturday’s revenue bonanza for them. At the annual post-position draw press conference the Wednesday before the race NYRA officials announced that NBC had agreed to extend their contract to cover the Belmont Stakes as well as covering other key NYRA events.

Draft Kings, who compete with Fan Duel, in the fantasy sports gaming business which is big with millennials, recently signed a sponsorship deal with both NYRA. General Cigar, the manufacturer of such premium brands as Macanudo and Cohiba, rented a sizable booth at Belmont Park’s beautiful backyard for the big weekend.

The trick for NYRA officials is to get spectators to show up at Belmont and Aqueduct on regular racing card days. Belmont used to host last afternoon concerts in its backyard area by name acts in the 1970s and early 1980s but then stopped doing so. Attendance dropped precipitously and the crowds never returned, Belmont Stakes Saturdays notwithstanding.

NYRA had the 90s rock band O.A.R. perform late Friday afternoon and then had the Goo Goo Dolls play after the Belmont Stakes. That was a particularly smart idea as it prevented a stampede of people from leaving Belmont Park as soon as American Pharoah crossed the finish line.

I asked NYRA president Chris Kay if he planned to bring back post-race concerts on ordinary race card weekends. Kay shook his head no. “We think that marginal fans want to come out for big events and not for a regular day. It’s like baseball fans who turn out for a playoff game but not for a midweek Tampa Bay Rays-New York Yankees game,” Kay told me.

No one is asking that NYRA contract Taylor Swift or Katy Perry to play at Belmont, but there are plenty of affordable name musical acts out there. Based on personal experience, one winds up betting on races and developing an interest in the ponies even if the main purpose of a trip to Belmont Park is to enjoy the entertainment.

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About Lloyd Carroll

Lloyd Carroll is the Senior Columnist for the Queens Chronicle, an award-winning weekly newspaper that has served the communities of Queens since 1978. This article as well as many future articles will also appear at Queens Chronicle. In addition, Lloyd also writes for our friends over at NYSportsDay.com. In today’s world of online publications, we at Latino Sports understand and value the importance of collaborating with other online publications in order to showcase and create awareness of each other’s work and dedication to our respectable communities.

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