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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: paulmoran47@hotmail.com.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007


If racing comes first in New York …


The legislators who will determine the future of racing in New York convene in about 10 days to consider, among other things, which of three organization will operate two of the worlds great racetracks and Aqueduct, where someday about 4,500 video lottery terminals will be installed unleashing a geyser of cash that will flow to the state and the racing industry.

Of the remaining organizations that claim to be saviors of what is perhaps the most important racing franchise on the planet, only one remains as it was at the beginning of the process.

Empire Racing Associates once flush with the support of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemens Association, Churchill Downs, Magna Entertainment, Delaware North and Saratoga socialite Marylou Whitney, has been almost universally abandoned.

Excelsior Racing is in the same leaky boat having seen the flight of the Steinbrenner family fortune and Richard Fields, the casino developer. If fact, it is no longer clear whether or not Excelsior is functional.

Capital Play? Please. The Gambino family has a better shot than an Australian tote company and would probably be a better choice.

Even while in smoldering ruins, both Empire and Excelsior have severe political liabilities and questionable associations with lawmakers involved in the decision making process, notably the governor and the senate majority leader. This is no surprise but an encumbrance nevertheless. That pesky word integrity keeps coming up in this debate.

Of all the players in this chase, only the New York Racing Association remains as it did at the beginning of the process and for all the recent abuse it has endured from Republicans in Albany who are playing to the audience rather than dealing with the issues at hand, NYRA remains the only logical choice.

At the outset, NYRA appeared the least likely to prevail and in the eyes of many the least deserving. Its ace in the hole: The question of real estate, which would be a difficult issue to unravel in the courts. NYRA has possession of the deeds to the property on which all three racetracks stand and canceled checks dating back to the mid 1950s written to pay the taxes. While the state claims ownership, this point of dispute would literally take years to litigate and was probably the key to winning the governors support.

This does not take into account the question of intellectual property the names of ever stakes race run in New York, many more than a century-old including Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

For all the rhetorical flatulence that has clouded the debate, ownership of these properties is the single most important issue, the one that if forced into litigation could bring the sport to a grinding halt and the industry to its knees. The only path around this issue is acceptance of the governors recommendation that NYRA be awarded the franchise in return for relinquishing its claim to the property.

At days end, this is really about VLSs, not racing. Unlike the others who seek the franchise, NYRA, still without a partner to operate the Aqueduct facility has no real concern over the division of revenue as long as the portion earmarked for purses and breeders funds remains intact. Because of its not-for-profit structure, whatever profit is realized accrues to the state. The award of a contract to operate the Aqueduct facility is inconsequential. There is an abundance of gaming expertise but the supply of racetrack operators is on the wane.

NYRA is also the only organization positioned to move forward without the sport lapsing into chaos. Racing is the primary concern of those involved in the sport, its ancillary industries and the nations bettors, few of whom will ever lay hands on a VLT in Queens. Though it has faced many legal and dire economic difficulties over the past five years, NYRA has managed to maintain the racing product, increase purses significantly and solidify its position atop the simulcast market. It is the only organization in the picture the legislature included that views racing as the foremost priority.

So whats the problem?


Written by Paul Moran

Check out Paul Moran on Blogspot At the Races
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Friday, October 12, 2007


The nonsense never ends


The battle for the New York racing franchise has taken some strange twists and turns during what has become a torturous process that has seen all logic and concern for the sport, its patrons and its ancillary industries abandoned, perhaps inevitably since this is after all New York, in the interest of furthering political nonsense.

All the nonsense is not political, however. Some is just simple outright nonsense. On Tuesday, for example, the Australian interloper lacing both portfolio and cache, Capital Play never considered an option but nevertheless tenacious an almost slapstick sort of way wrote to the state government panel that is overseeing the New York Racing Associations finances through the bankruptcy process and offered to step in and run the racetracks should the legislature reach no decision on the franchise before Dec. 31.

The only appropriate reaction is to double over with laughter. What are these people thinking? What voices do they hear?

Capital Play and Empire Racing Associates are, meanwhile, in negotiations to merge, which is another exercise in futility. Lets offer a simple math problem to illustrate result of this potential joining of forces. 0+0=?

NYRA will not permit Capital Play, Empire, a combination of the two or the state take over the operation of the racetracks on Jan. 1 and president Charles Hayward has suggested a cessation of racing were such a scenario to become reality, something altogether possible in this state. Were that the case, NYRA would reinstate the claim to ownership of the land at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga, something it agreed to relinquish in a memorandum of understanding between the association and the governor. Once the franchise expires, there would be no entity legally empowered to conduct racing nor would any contracts, vendors, which ranging from catering to manure removal, exist.

That threat may be the thing that brings about a final solution to this morass. Cessation of racing would create and interruption of the flow of revenue from pari-mutuel taxes to Albany.

Who among the legislators would risk shouldering the blame for that?

Meanwhile, back at the sinking ship, Empire Racing suffered a severe blow, perhaps the knockout punch, on Wednesday, when Churchill Downs and Marylou Whitney withdrew.

When our Company took a position in Empire Racing in August 2006, we were joining a very diverse, accomplished, resourceful and highly motivated group of business partners, including New York horsemen, whose common goal was creating a framework that would ensure the success of New York horse racing, said Robert L. Evans, president and chief executive officer of Churchill Downs Incorporated.

Since that time, the make-up of Empire Racing has changed significantly, and the bidding and selection process is now undefined. We continue to believe that Thoroughbred racings success in the United States requires that New York racing be economically viable. Churchill Downs Incorporated simply wants whats best for New York horse racing, regardless of whether our Company plays a role in the ultimate solution. Remaining part of Empire Racing is not serving that goal, so weve ended our participation in Empire Racing.

Whitney: "Today I announce that I am stepping down as Honorary Chairwoman of Empire Racing Associates and divesting myself of all shares in the organization.

"I originally joined Empire Racing 14 months ago inspired by a unique collaboration of several of the racing industrys leading organizations, cemented by the support of New Yorks dedicated horsemen and women. Today, Empire Racing has evolved into an entity with a vastly different feel and look, one that I no longer recognize. Although I wish the new team well, I am no longer comfortable serving as its Honorary Chairwoman.

"Earlier this year, I donated half of my shares to the Backstretch Employees Services Team. I plan to donate all of my remaining shares to charity. In the end, I will support the organization that has a clear vision which places the best interest of New York Racing and our beloved Saratoga Race Course first, while remaining financially responsible.

"It is time for the brightest minds in the industry and in government to overcome the politically charged atmosphere that exists to do what is best for racing in New York. We owe it to the fans, to the horsemen and to its legions of supporters. We owe it to my beloved crown jewel, Saratoga Race Course, to sustain the sanctity of one of the most historic and legendary venues in all of sports."

Not much of Empire left, is there?


Written by Paul Moran

Check out Paul Moran on Blogspot At the Races
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