Why Not Aqueduct?

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Belmont Park, located on the Queens Village-Elmont border, is scheduled to undergo a $455 million renovation, as early as next year. The project is expected to take two years to complete, and there will not be any horse racing there until it is finished.

That means, of course, the last leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, will have to be relocated. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) has indicated it would like the Belmont Stakes to take place in Saratoga.

To paraphrase the late Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban, the New York Racing Association has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. They have done next to nothing to reverse the declining popularity of what was once known as the sport of kings.

Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, NYRA brought in well-known music artists to play at Belmont Park’s beautiful backyard. They would perform a 45-minute set before the first race as a way of attracting new patrons, and I was one of them. I feel confident I speak for many when writing we did not mind losing a few $2 wagers on races those afternoons. Sadly, the concerts stopped over 40 years ago, and attendance dwindled.

Yes, Saratoga is beautiful in June, and I enjoy drinking the mineral water there. Nonetheless, the best-known horse race, not counting the Kentucky Derby, should be run in Queens if Belmont Park is unavailable.

While Aqueduct may have less seating capacity stable space than Saratoga, it is nicknamed “The Big A” for a good reason. It is located less than five miles from Belmont Park, and only a mile from Kennedy Airport. Who cares if Aqueduct must hold a smaller racing card on Belmont Stakes Day? The Belmont Stakes is primarily a television event anyway. I am sure NYRA’s broadcast partner, Fox Sports, would rather have it take place in the World’s Borough.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce, the Queens Economic Development Corporation, along with New York City’s various tourist marketing organizations, should lobby the New York Racing Association to reconsider.

At her post-match press conference last week at Arthur Ashe Stadium last week, Coco Gauff expressed the frustration of many New Yorkers when she expressed dismay at not being able to watch the US Open in her hotel room because of Disney’s decision to remove all its channels, including ESPN, from Spectrum Cable in a carriage rights fees dispute.

Last Wednesday, ESPN CEO Jimmy Pitaro interviewed New York Giants Hall of Fame quarterback Eli Manning at the Paley Center in midtown Manhattan. Pitaro, who is known for his sharp wit, dealt with the proverbial elephant in the room immediately. “If you have any question about Charter Communications (Spectrum’s parent corporation), direct them to Eli!” he quipped. The audience immediately erupted in laughter.


Eli Manning gave a surprising answer when asked by Pitaro about the most overrated skill a quarterback possesses. “Arm strength. Being able to throw a football 70 yards is meaningless,” he quickly replied. He added being able to size up field situations immediately is the most important skill a QB needs to have.

When asked about the toughest place to play, Manning immediately replied, “Philadelphia. When I played there, entire families, regardless of age, would flip me the bird!’

Eli’s appearance at the Paley Center helped raise funds for the nonprofit Paley Center, and it served as a promotion for “The Manningcast,” the informal talk show hosted by him and his brother, Peyton, which runs on ESPN2 as an alternate broadcast to ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”

The Paley Center will be hosting an exhibit looking at the life of the late baseball legend and humanitarian, Roberto Clemente, from September 15 through October 29.

The 2023 US Open may be over, but Arthur Ashe Stadium has one more big event for the year, as All Elite Wrestling returns next Wednesday, September 20 with its annual Grand Slam card. Among the headliners are veterans Chris Jericho and Sammy Guevara, along with AEW champion, Maxwell Jacob Friedman, who is from Plainview, Long Island. Friedman’s comedic microphone skills are worth the price of admission alone.

Speaking of professional wrestling, sports and pop culture author Abraham Riesman, has written “Ringmaster” (Atria Books), which, is an unflinching biography of World Wrestling Entertainment czar, Vince McMahon. Riesman gives terrific behind-the-scenes nuggets of life in the WWE, including how Vince lied and humiliated one of the WWE’s most beloved stars, Bret “the HItman” Hart.

New York Comic Con and the New York City Wine & Food Festival will both be taking place from October 12-15.

The SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes means that few actors will be taking part in panels at New York Comic Con. Current and retired pro wrestlers should still show up as they do very well signing glossies for their fans. I wouldn’t be surprised if the various television networks send reality show contestants and personalities to Javits Center since they are not affected by those labor disputes.

The New York City Wine & Food Festival has long been a favorite for epicureans as there are a myriad of different tasting events around the Big Apple. The closing event this year will be the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop food tasting and concert. Hollis native Joseph “Reverend Run” Simmons is scheduled to perform.

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