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?