Two of the fastest horses in the country, Pico Central and Speightstown, will take on 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint champion Cajun Beat in the Grade I Vosburgh Handicap this afternoon at Belmont Park. Racing fans at Maryland tracks and off-track betting sites, however, will be unable to wager on the race because of an ongoing dispute between the New York track and a cooperative that negotiates simulcasting and account wagering for the Mid-Atlantic region.
On Sept. 15, the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative, which comprises 19 tracks including Laurel Park and Pimlico, stopped importing the Belmont Park simulcast signal in reaction to the New York Racing Association selling exclusive rights for account wagering on its races to the TVG Network, an interactive horse racing television and betting network.
The Mid-Atlantic Cooperative has, in the past, purchased simulcasting and account wagering rights together from NYRA and is balking at the demand that its members conduct account wagering through TVG.
"We wanted to purchase the signal for account wagering and were denied that," said Martin Lieberman, executive director of the cooperative.
Lieberman said member tracks -- including Laurel Park and Pimlico -- would not accept the Belmont simulcast signal until NYRA agrees to allow account wagering on platforms other than TVG. Dropping the Belmont signal may be hurting the Maryland Jockey Club. The total Sept. 15-30 wagering handle came to $16.3 million, down $930,000 from the same time period in 2003, according to Dave Scheing, director of auditing and cash operations at the Maryland tracks.
"These are the races that pave the way for the story lines of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship day, and nobody can watch and nobody can wager," said NYRA Senior Vice President Bill Nader. "It's a disservice to the customer and the sport."
-- John Scheinman