Belmont splits with partners, signs Triple Crown TV deal

Track reportedly unhappy with take, moves to ABC

October 05, 2004|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Pimlico Race Course officials were mum yesterday after the New York Racing Association broke with its partner Triple Crown tracks and signed a separate deal with ABC Sports to broadcast the Belmont Stakes in 2006 and 2007.

The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park have negotiated television-rights agreements since 1986 through the Kentucky-based Triple Crown Productions. The current deal with NBC Sports runs through next year's Triple Crown series.

Jim Gagliano, executive vice president of the Maryland Jockey Club, and Joe De Francis, president and CEO of the MJC, declined to comment on NYRA's action.

Barry Schwartz, NYRA chairman, was quoted in trade publications as saying NYRA had been unhappy for years with the revenue split among the three Triple Crown tracks. Fifty percent goes to Churchill Downs and 25 percent each to Pimlico and Belmont Park. The deal with NBC Sports is for $51.5 million over five years.

This year, when Smarty Jones attempted to win the Triple Crown, the Belmont received a Nielsen rating of 11.3 compared with the Kentucky Derby's 7.4. Last year, when Funny Cide tried to win the Belmont, the Belmont garnered a 9.5 rating compared to the Derby's 6.4. However, with no Triple Crown on the line, the Belmont earned a 2.8 and 4.5 in 2000 and 2001, respectively. A ratings point represents 1 million households.

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