With the opening of the Belmont Fall meet yesterday and todays graded stakes offerings, this was supposed to be an upbeat look ahead at the Grade 1s to follow, all of them leading up to the Breeders Cup World Championships at Monmouth Park later next month.

But after doing some surfing of recent developments following a few days of down time at the conclusion of a truly exciting, albeit enervating, Saratoga racing season, it was relegated to the back burner for this:

Gov. Eliot Spitzers proposal giving the New York Racing Association franchise rights to run New York racing for the next 30 years in return for clear title to New Yorks three major-league thoroughbred properties is already under siege from his political rival, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

I understand that compromise is the nature of politics; giving something to your opponent in exchange for something you want. But Bruno is using his power to usurp whats in the best interests of New York racing even while he insists hes a big fan and has the health of the local industry uppermost in his thoughts.


According to a story on bloodhorse.com, the State Senate is considering creating a super agency that not only would have complete control over the racing franchise but also pick the bidders who would run all aspects of the racing and VLT operations. Further, the new agency would have the authority to pick other bidders, too, those responsible for everything from tote operations to maintenance. Everything.

Somebody has to stop this madness. But everyones scared to death of a man many have called the most powerful in the state.

Might doesnt have to make right.

What this is all about for Bruno is getting his players a place at the trough. He believes the racing/gaming pie is big enough to include a more universal approach in running it, mentioning such out-of-state interests as Churchill, Magna and Woodbine, with a super agency of his houses creation to control it all.

Can someone explain how does this makes New York racing better? Could this plan be any more transparent?

Whats the real agenda here? For all intents and purposes, this has the appearance of a covert state takeover, so that, what; Brunos associates can later gain a foothold through some kind of future compromise?

Racing needs more autonomy not more control. It cant get anything done now. The State Racing and Wagering Board doesnt even grant permission for tracks to change the betting menu without some big song and dance. Installing a 10-cent superfecta is still be treated like a matter of national security.

Another state agency? Thats just what New York needs. Were doing so good in this state now that corporations wait in line to leave. Been doing just that for years, actually. Like its citizenry, businesses cant afford the taxes here.

For its part the NYRA is getting what it deserves. From the time Kenny Noe Jr. took over the reins--then left two steps ahead of delayed prosecution--the NYRA has been kowtowing to Bruno.

Tell me if you think this is a coincidence. On the Friday before the Travers, Bruno made an announcement about the progress being made on the issue of horse slaughter. Great. But did it have to be made in the winners enclosure, before banks of television cameras and note-padded reporters, a half hour before the days first race?

Carl Nafzgers Travers press conference that week was held behind the jockeys room at 11 in the morning . It was seen live by about 10 racing fans looking on from the other side of a fence.

Later Friday afternoon, Bruno was introduced again, this time to present a trophy following an overnight stakes. On the following afternoon, Travers day, one of the few non-stakes on the card was named the Joseph L. Bruno.

There wasnt enough lip balm in Saratoga the next day to soothe the chaffing caused by all that smooching up.

Getting more people involved to run racing in New York, including day to day operations like tote and maintenance, is counter-productive and just a bad idea. If Bruno feels that Spitzers Memorandum of Understanding with NYRA went too far, was too one-sided, hes not alone in that.

But deal with that issue. Put in safeguards guarding against future abuses by the franchisees. Write legislation guaranteeing that the quality of New York racing be preserved and enhanced through an equitable split of gaming revenue. Be comprehensive. Do a good job at your scheduled meeting Sept. 12.

But please stop with the power politics and get the right thing done. Bruno, Spitzer, et al, are elected officials. Theyre supposed to work for their constituents. Its too bad that, elections notwithstanding, the man in the street runs a bad second to friends sitting in board rooms.