After I'll Have Another won the Preakness on Saturday--setting up a bid for the Triple Crown--the Belmont Stakes suddenly became a hot media property. In response, the New York Racing Association sent out a media advisory Monday with instructions on applying for a media credential.
Usually, these things are straightforward. But this one contained an unusual stipulation. "When determining access to the press box and photo room,'' it said in boldface type, "preference will be given to major media outlets and those which have previously demonstrated timely, prudent and responsible coverage of thoroughbred racing on a regular basis.''
That sounds suspiciously like an attempt to bar those who have published something NYRA doesn't like--and there have been many of those stories lately. NYRA has come under fire from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for keeping a larger share of bets than state law permits, costing bettors $8.5 million. That is just the latest trouble to befall an agency that Cuomo says the public doesn't trust--and which could lose its right to operate New York's tracks.
Racing has taken a beating in the media recently, despite the magnificent performances of I'll Have Another and jockey Mario Gutierrez. The New York Times has published a series of stories exposing problems, including trainer Doug O'Neill's record of drug violations and a significant increase in breakdowns at Aqueduct (a NYRA track). Some in the sport have used the bad press as a catalyst for changes to make racing safer and improve integrity and trust. Too many have blamed the messenger, complaining that the Times is trying to destroy racing and making all kinds of excuses for issues that are seriously damaging the sport.
It will be interesting to see if NYRA actually tries to deny Belmont Stakes credentials for any legitimate members of the racing or general-interest media. It's a spectacularly bad idea that will erode the public trust even more.
But given the pattern, it just might happen.