The Sunday New York Times featured the latest in the paper’s dyspeptic campaign against horse racing, this time a broadside leveled at Aqueduct Racetrack. I find it surprising that the New York Racing Association has been silent in the face of an attack on the track that accounts for one-half of its annual race dates.
The piece was a photo essay in the Metropolitan section of the paper. There were six images – none of which I found particularly interesting – but the accompanying text by a Times staffer is what was odious. After an introductory sentence about racing providing one of the great American spectacles, we finished with six paragraphs that were downright laughable.
While saying that the Aqueduct facility is a “decaying building populated by lonely old men” may have elements of truth, the 24-year old photography student from Italy had other observations apparently based on his extensive experience. For example, he encountered – and I hope you are sitting down for this – someone who was divorced. He observed that “[t]there is a lot of psychological damage there…. Not all of them should be free on the street.”
The kicker, however, was this one: “One guy’s first memory of a racetrack was his father dying of a heart attack at a racetrack. Most of the people had a story like that.” While that certainly trumps being DQ’d from a winning Pick 6, “most people” have traumatic memories from the track?
Now, I have not been to Aqueduct in a few years since I live several hours away and can watch and wager from the comfort of my living room. But the condition of the building was the subject of a flurry of criticism a year ago (when the photographs were taken), and from what I can gather, much has been done to improve its appearance. Alan Mann of the blog Left at the Gate posted photographs last year of a clean and freshly-painted facility. NYRA CEO Chris Kay presented a slide show at the last Board of Directors meeting describing what seem to be significant improvements.
It appears that the nation’s leading newspaper cannot be counted on to conduct even basic factual reporting when they have the opportunity to take a shot at racing. But where is NYRA? Not only are they running Aqueduct, but should be the leading voice supporting New York racing. Kay purports to be an advocate for the fan experience. He even hired a “Chief Experience Officer,” paying her a salary equal to that of the General Counsel. Neither of them can respond to an attack on their product?
I am not suggesting that there are not issues concerning Aqueduct, some of which are considerably more serious that those alleged by the Times. But if I am running a business, I do not let shoddy journalism go unanswered. Unless, of course, there is a different agenda and the Times‘ hit piece furthers the interests of those wishing to close the track.