Triple Crown: Odds of Strike at Belmont Stakes Set at 4-1

PHOTO: Trainer Doug ONeill, lower right, kneels to tape the leg of Ill Have Another after a workout on June 4, 2012 at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.
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A top odds maker has posted 4-1 odds that I'll Have Another's bid for horse racing's Triple Crown will be scratched by a strike at Belmont Park racetrack because of a dispute between a union and the track's management.

The odds on no strike were prohibitively low for bettors, set at 1-8 by www.Bovada.lv, an online sports book.

Workers for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 were authorized to go on strike at any time, after they were unable to reach an agreement with the New York Racing Association regarding scheduling and wage disputes.

The NYRA, which has been in contract negotiations with the union for two years, called the lingering threat of a strike "troubling" and "extremely self-serving" in a statement issued to ABC News. It questioned the timing of the strike threat, coming just before I'll Have Another's historic run for horse racing's Triple Crown.

I'll Have Another could become the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 34 years.

"NYRA employs approximately 130 Local 3 maintenance workers who believe their demands are more important than an historic day for 100,000 fans," the statement read.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo seized control of the scandal-plagued NYRA last month after the president and general counsel were fired. State regulators alleged that they knew the NYRA had shortchanged bettors by $8.5 million over 15 months.

If a strike is called, nearly 80 workers who maintain the track at the prestigious grounds and place horses in their starting gates would be missing from Saturday's highly anticipated race.

"It is simply unacceptable that a two-year-long labor dispute would imperil this special event," Cuomo said in a statement. "My administration has been in touch with NYRA and the unions, and we have urged both to resolve this dispute amicably. Both sides should put aside their differences and do what is best for the people of the State of New York: ensure a smooth and successful Belmont Stakes."

More than 100,000 fans are expected to come to the Long Island race track, where the Belmont Stakes has been called "The Test of Champions." Millions more will be watching on TV.

At issue is a dispute over wages. The NYRA's last best offer was a 30 percent reduction in wages and benefits, said Vincent McElroen, financial secretary of Local 3.

McElroen said NYRA has also unilaterally changed the workweek for union members at its three tracks. It had been Monday to Friday; now it was changed to Wednesday through Sunday -- effectively stripping them of the overtime they used to earn for working weekend events. No races are run at NYRA tracks on Mondays and Tuesdays.

"These are the changes they did without agreement to the union," he said. "We're always hopeful [there won't be a strike], but they have taken the position 'It's our way or the highway.'"

McElroen said the NYRA is using speculation of a strike before the Belmont Stakes to act like Union 3 members are "the bad guys."

"They're feeling threatened right now because of the strike authorization and that's just natural," he said. "[But] they're trying to pin it we're the bad guys.... But that's all smoke and mirrors."

If the workers don't strike and Belmont occurs on Saturday, I'll Have Another could be the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed who won all three jewels in 1978.

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