Paul Moran

For 30 years, more than 22 at Newsday, in New York, Paul Moran has covered thoroughbred racing on its highest level. During that time, he has covered 30 Triple Crown series, every running of the Breeders' Cup Championships, 23 race meetings at Saratoga, won two Eclipse Awards, a Red Smith Award for coverage of the Kentucky Derby and other writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Editors, Long Island Press Club, Society of Silurians (the oldest press club in New York), Long Island Veterinary Medical Association, Florida Magazine Publishers Association.

In 2002, he was named New York's best thoroughbred handicapper by the New York Press in its annual "Best of Manhattan" edition. His work has appeared in virtually every racing publication published in the United States and most major American newspapers. He is a licensed owner of thoroughbreds in New York Contact:

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Has the sun set on Hialeah Park?

A glimmer of optimism in this game seldom survives inevitable disappointment, so it is not surprising to learn this week that John Brunetti has rebuffed an offer from Internet entrepreneur Halsey Minor, perhaps the only person on the planet with the resources and desire to reanimate the cadaver that is the once-elegant Hialeah Park. Then again, irrational behavior is not new to John Brunetti.

Life and business present few real second chances and Minor’s emergence handed Brunetti a rare opportunity. No one who came to know Hialeah, even in its decline, was not hopeful that Minor’s effort at resuscitation would be successful, but those who know Brunetti were at best skeptical and more often dismissive. “Brunetti,” many said, “will never sell Hialeah Park.”

Apparently, Brunetti still answers a voice heard by no one else, is content to permit the rotting of Hialeah in the subtropical sun to continue unabated, a grotesque memorial to his stewardship and intransigence. There is nothing to be gained by not selling Hialeah Park to someone dedicated to its restoration and financially capable of bringing what is now almost inconceivable to fruition.

According to reports, Brunetti’s asking price was much higher than Minor anticipated. There is no guarantee that there will be a second offer from either party, there is no one in line behind Minor waiting to offer a better deal and the moribund property is not open for development given its place on the national registry of historical places. So, how does this make sense?

Hialeah has a future only if Brunetti agrees to life support and his reluctant position – evidence that he has not mellowed with age -- is a huge disappointment. Brunetti has nothing to lose. He once saw himself as the savior of Hialeah, there when no one else was willing. Now, he has a real chance to save Hialeah but only by letting go – by doing the right thing for the place he claims to cherish. Racing in Florida and the nation has much to gain but the disconnect between Brunetti’s thought process and the reality at hand is probably beyond repair.

As long as there is dialogue between Minor and Brunetti there is hope for a beneficial outcome, but those who believe that the long-time owner of Hialeah, which in fact is ownership nowadays of little more than a widely shared memory and a starring role in the death of one of the nation’s most gracious, elegant racetracks, will never agree terms of sale are, sadly, probably right. --PM

Written by Paul Moran

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Squeezing hard on a withering lemon

Having spent the week working with CNBC constantly in the background while the stock market careened from one extreme to the other and the government announced its intent to intervene in the credit crisis with a financial version of “Shock and Awe” the one-percent increase in the takeout at New York Racing Association racetracks with the exception of Finger Lakes, effective Wednesday, was met by less outrage than it deserves.

So, while the taxpayers are now unwilling, ad hoc shareholders in AIG and face the very real prospect of shouldering yet undetermined but inevitably staggering expense of a wholesale bailout of people whose greed, incompetence and sheer stupidity have brought free-market capitalism effectively to an end in this country, those who happen also to be payers of already onerous pari-mutuel taxes find themselves and their financial well being slammed from an entirely different direction.

This time, the state of New York – already renowned for the tax burdens imposed upon its citizens – is the culprit. This levy is intended to pay for its takeover of New York City OTB but will succeed only in providing another example of government of the oppressed by the incompetent and uninformed. In practice, it will accomplish exactly the opposite of what those who reside in the intellectual vacuum of the legislature intended, another bad idea supported tenaciously in the face of logic. Every attempt by those involved in various segments of the industry, which made a strong case for holding the line, was ignored with arrogance typical of those in power.

The takeout on sequential wagers and other propositions popular with bettors is now as high as 26 percent, a Draconian tariff that will eventually result in a decline in betting receipts, which are already substantially diminished from 2007 levels in a recessionary climate that gnaws at the fiscal health of most Americans.

Raising prices in a recessionary economy is not exactly an enlightened business strategy. The result is inevitable. One percent added to an already substantial off-the-top skim amounts to a stimulus that encourages the off-shore migration of funds that will no longer reach comingled pools and are rebated more generously that anywhere in the United States. Worse -- some bettors will turn to other pursuit, which, from a practical standpoint, is perfectly logical – unless they begin trading stocks.

Written by Paul Moran

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

NYRA: With solvency comes responsibility

The state sent the New York Racing Association $105 million on Friday and is now the undisputed owner of Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course (more than 900 acres of real estate that includes), which the government will lease back to the operator of the racing franchise for $1 a year.

And so, a sometimes acrimonious, drawn-out process that has overshadowed the sport here for more than five years, a succession of progressively lower points, comes to an end. NYRA now calls itself “new NYRA.” The newly reincorporated, not-for-profit organization will settle a $75-million mountain of debt including $24 million (to the relief of many retired employees) owed to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., pay delinquent real estate taxes that will in the future by paid by the state and begin the important process of reconstituting an organization that has for too long run on fumes.

For whatever reason, the state has yet to select an operator for the video lottery terminal operation at Aqueduct, a process that began last winter, before the Eliot Spitzer black-socks scandal put David Paterson in the governor’s office and remains several weeks (if not months) away, but once that facility is actually operational purses at the three New York tracks will be about 30 percent higher than current levels – something horse owners and breeders have been awaiting since 2000, when enabling legislation was approved.

No longer bankrupt, NYRA must immediately undertake the process of building a viable organization, which it has not been in a very long time. –PM

Written by Paul Moran

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