NBC Sports hockey analyst and racing fan Eddie Olczyk, a member of the 1994 Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers, paid a visit to Belmont Park on opening day on Friday.
“There’s something about the prestige and the history of this track,” said Olczyk. “Being able to come here as a fan and being able to watch it on the simulcast back home in Chicago, I’ve been known to get my feet wet every once in a while when Belmont is going, so I have always had a great respect for the horse racing and the people and obviously the track here at Belmont.”
With average daily purses at Belmont expected to reach $620,000, a number of high-profile outfits have opened up shop full-time in New York. Dale Romans, Ian Wilkes, Graham Motion and Mike Maker are among those joining established New York trainers Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott, Kiaran McLaughlin, Chad Brown, Linda Rice, Christophe Clement, and Jim Bond.
“It’s fantastic to be back at Belmont,” said Bond, who won a race on opening day.“We have nice stock, and we’re excited about the purses. New faces, new riders, it really is a lot of fun. Everyone is excited. We’re going to have quality racing, but that’s what the game is. We want to have the best racing, and we’ve always had the best racing in New York. This is going to make it even tougher. The strong are going to survive, but that’s the way the game should be.”
Traditionally deep, the riding colony at Belmont is expected to become even more competitive this spring with newcomers such as two-time Eclipse winner Julien Leparoux and Rosie Napravnik riding full-time in New York.
Ramon Dominguez, the two-time defending Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s top jockey and leading jockey on The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit for the last three years, won three races.
“Between the great weather and racing at its best, I’m always happy to be back at Belmont,” said Dominguez, in the winner’s circle for the first time since returning on April 6 from a separated collarbone. “The competition, before the newcomers, was pretty difficult to begin with and with the addition of Julien Leparoux and Anna Napravnik, along with Junior Alvarado being a full-timer, it’s going to be definitely challenging.”
–NYRA Press contributed to this report.
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and Eddie Olczyk/NYRA Photo