Dave O'Rourke Joins The TDN Writers' Room

David O'Rourke | Coglianese

Not much has changed at the New York Racing Association in recent years, but that's about to change. A new Belmont Park is now in the planning stages and is expected to be ready for the 2026 spring meet. And what about the GI Belmont S.? Will the three Triple Crown tracks stick to tradition or will there be an overhaul of the series, which would likely mean that the final leg of the Triple Crown will be pushed back a few weeks? To answer to those questions and more, NYRA CEO and President Dave O'Rourke joined this week's TDN Writers' Room podcast, which is presented by Keeneland. O'Rourke was this week's Green Group Guest of the Week.

When it came to possible changes to the Triple Crown structure, O'Rourke advocated that U.S. racing form something along the lines of the European Pattern Committee, a group that could work with the tracks so that stakes schedules are better organized and coordinated. Such a committee, he said, could look into not just changes to the Triple Crown schedule but at all stakes schedules.

“I believe that a pattern committee would work for the sport in the United States,” he said. “It would help in a lot of other areas-the spacing of the Triple Crown, the spacing of other stakes races around the country and lead us to a more cohesive schedule. (Changing the spacing of the Triple Crown races) is a conversation that you would always have to be open to. But I think if we just limit the discussion to just these three races that might be a mistake. We should possibly take a look at the entire stakes schedule in the U.S. The foal crop has changed and the dynamics of racing are different than they were 20 years ago. Everything should be reexamined.”

With a new Belmont Park in the offing, the plan is to run the 2024 spring meet at the current track and then start construction on a new grandstand that will be ready for the 2026 spring meet at Belmont. So what does that mean for the 2025 spring meet and, in particular the GI Belmont? O'Rourke said that decision has yet to have been made, but said that running the race at Saratoga was among the possibilities.

“That might send a benchmark that would be hard to match because that would be sort of unique,” O'Rourke said. “That would be really cool. There's no doubt on that from a fan perspective.”

Another change that will be ushered in at Belmont will be the addition of a synthetic surface track, which will help with having winter racing there. When it comes to synthetic tracks and their place in the future of racing, O'Rourke said the sport needs to closely examine the data.

“There's a lot of tradition with the dirt racing in the United States,” he said. “With safety, you can't compromise. So you go where the data leads us. Now that we have HISA and we have the ability to have uniform rules, we can let the data lead us to where we need to be. If you look at racing, it's a worldwide sport and the statistics for the sport are incredible. We can benchmark ourselves and best practices.”

Elsewhere on the podcast, which is also sponsored by Coolmore,https://lanesend.com/  the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders1/ST Racing, WinStar Farm, XBTV, Lane's End and West Point Thoroughbreds, podcast regulars Zoe Cadman and Bill Finley were joined by TDN correspondent T.D. Thornton. The group put on their handicapping hats and went through the huge Saturday card at Belmont, including the Belmont Stakes. Other topics of discussion included the decision by Churchill Downs to move its meet to Ellis Park and whether or not it's time for the sport to abandon dirt racing in favor of synthetic surfaces.

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