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Key state lawmakers say night racing at Belmont likely

American Pharoah winning the triple crown in the

American Pharoah winning the triple crown in the 147th Running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park Race Track in Elmont June 5, 2015. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

ALBANY — The chairmen of the State Senate and Assembly racing committees said Tuesday that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to allow night racing at Belmont Park will likely be approved in the state budget due April 1.

The proposal, which was heavily lobbied for Tuesday by the New York Racing Association, would allow nighttime racing Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The bill contained few details.

“I don’t see a downside,” said Senate Racing and Wagering Committee chairman John Bonacic (R-Mount Hope). “NYRA wants it, Aqueduct wants it, I think it’s good for the Belmont area, the track.”

He said there is some concern from harness tracks such as Yonkers Raceway, which already races at night, but that doesn’t seem to be slowing Cuomo’s proposal. The governor has extraordinary leverage to pass policy measures in his budget under state law. Belmont offers thoroughbred racing.

“The governor proposed it and it is in his budget,” said Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee chairman Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon). “So I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen.”

Cuomo had no immediate comment.

Bonacic said NYRA and its nearby thoroughbred track at Aqueduct support the idea.

Yonkers is “not crazy about it,” Bonacic said, “but I think more powers-to-be want it.”

The bill would allow racing after sunset only at the main track under its current configuration. The races would have to conclude before 10:30 p.m. under the proposal.

A similar bill passed the Senate in June but died in committee in the Assembly.

The proposal is gaining support as the state plans for a new arena for the New York Islanders at the Belmont complex to create a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment facility.

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