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?