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Feb 15, 2008

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


Well a catastrophe for New York racing and the racing world in general was avoided when the deal for the NYRA franchise was reached just a day before the temporary extension was up. The legislation was passed on February 13th  that will extend the franchise through the year 2033.

            This deal will end the discussion about the long term future on NYRA and will allow NYRA to emerge from bankruptcy. In exchange for the 25-year extension, the association will concede undisputed title of the three racetracks to the state. In addition, the state will advance NYRA a maximum of $105 million to fulfill its financial obligations and to pay for its operations until 4,500 slot machines come on line at Aqueduct. The casino operator - which will be selected by the state - will be obligated to pay back the $105 million.

            The legislation also allows NYRA to select a casino operator and it was the hope of the legislative officials that this would take place within 30 days. This should pave the way for continuing construction on the slot machines at Aqueduct that should have been in place years ago. Although this deal was done and a stoppage in racing was averted there are still many things that the bill does not solve. However, those issues will have to be looked at a later date.

            This will hopefully give NYRA the opportunity to regain prominence in the eyes of the racing industry. Once the top of its class, New York racing has become somewhat of a mockery over the last several years from the problems getting the slots up and running to the rampant fraud among mutuel tellers to the banned substances administered to horses for betting purposes. NYRA has to emerge from these problems and come out swinging. Give back to those fans that suffered through the bad times. Make the product strong again and don’t cut corners when it comes to customer service.

            If there was a shutdown of NYRA not only would racing have stopped in New York but the horses stabled on the grounds would have been forced to leave and the employees, most of them at least would have lost their jobs. The trainers, who are none too pleased that this deal was done did have something to say about what should be done now that the deal is secured. According to an article in the Daily Racing Form here is what some of these trainers had to say. "We got it, let's do the right thing with it to keep the future of New York racing respectable," trainer Rick Schosberg said. "We need to gain the respect back. I think we lost a little bit of respect over the years, and we need to get back to being the forefront of the racing world."

            "There's going to be a continuation of racing for 25 years; the racing body is in place, now we have gotten through the first part of the triathlon," said trainer Rick Violette, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. "It's a new beginning, but we still have a lot work in front of us."

Horsemen offered different views on what the priorities should be for NYRA.

            "S-L-O-T-S," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said when asked what he'd like to see happen for New York racing. "I don't care where and when. It's a big chance to bring in a lot of revenue for the racing world. From there, we're going to get improvements on the backstretch. The racing is great, it's only going to get better or stay up to the standards that we've all come accustomed to."

            Richard Dutrow Jr. said of NYRA: "I hope they do a better job than they've been doing. New York racing could be run a lot better than it's being run right now. They need to straighten a whole lot of things out. I hope they do."

Dutrow, who is based at Aqueduct, said he has been dissatisfied with the maintenance of the tracks and the barn area.

"Tracks are important, they're not being properly taken care of," Dutrow said. "I have to mention that. I don't care anything about the racing office stuff, the advertising they do, it doesn't mean anything to me. The maintenance of the tracks are absolutely ridiculous. It takes a week to get a light bulb fixed."

            Trainer David Donk said: "The biggest issue on the backside is new dormitories for the employees. Those are things that need to be addressed."

Donk said NYRA also needs to make a concerted effort to improve customer relations.

"My No. 1 concern is customer service, whether that's the $2 bettor, the big gambler, every racing fan, owners, trainers, backside personnel," said Donk, who suggested NYRA could learn a thing or two from other entertainment venues. "Last year, I took my kids to Disney World and thought, Why can't a racetrack be run like this?" Added Donk: "Now we need to move forward and all of us do a better job for the sport. No question, New York's the leader. Let's act like it."

            There is no excuse NYRA can give now why the customer shouldn’t be number 1. Everything is in place to get back to the top of the game and let’s hope it is done in a timely fashion because as I see it; everyone wants the same thing, great racing in New York, big purses to attract those to race here and of course a place that you want to come out to and watch the greatest spectator sport on earth.

           

 

 

 



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