Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rally to Save NY Racing Sunday March 21 at Belmont

New York racing is facing a crisis. There are still no slots at Aqueduct, nine years after the concept was approved by the Legislature, and the latest attempt to select a casino operator has ended in a political farce. New York City OTB is in bankruptcy, owes NYRA and horse owners some $14 million, and wants to solve its problems by having us give them the simulcast signal for nothing. And New York State, which promised NYRA an additional $30 million in operating funds if slots weren't underway by March 2009(!), has shown no sign of coming up with the money, even though it's that state's fault that the slots aren't there. If nothing happens, NYRA really will run out of money sometime later this year.

NYRA, the horsemen and NY breeders all need the state government to step up to its responsibilities right now, before we have to start cancelling racing days and lowering purses even further. New York racing and breeding directly provides some 35,000 jobs at the tracks and on the farms. If the industry dies, or even is put on hold for a while as Albany dithers, many of these jobs will be lost forever. Already, upstate farms are closing, sending their mares out of state, or putting their operations on hold. Some of the big operations that have already shut down, suspended operation or are on the precipice include those of premier pinhooker Becky Thomas and leading NY breeder Joe McMahon. Further delay will only make things worse.

As part of our efforts to make New York politicians aware of the urgency of the situation, the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (I'm a member of the Board of Directors) and the New York Thoroughbred Breeders are holding a rally this Sunday, March 21st at Belmont. It will be from noon to 2 pm on the apron in front of the Belmont Cafe, near the finish line. Belmont's Gate 5, on Hempstead Avenue, will be open, and there will be plenty of parking available. We're hoping for a large turnout that will demonstrate to Albany that the ongoing delay and inaction have real costs -- jobs lost forever.

All thoroughbred owners who race in New York, and breeders based in New York who depend on the continuation of NY-bred racing to support their breeding operation have a stake in the health of New York racing. Sunday's rally is a chance to join with the rest of the racing community and show Albany that we need them to make good on their promises. It's certainly true that New York racing needs changes; in the long run, we should probably have fewer racing days and fewer NY-bred foals. But, if Albany continues its malign neglect of the industry, there won't be any long run to worry about. I'm not sure what it takes to get the folks in Albany to abandon their solipsistic power games and pay attention to the real jobs at stake here, but Sunday's rally is at least a place to start.

Come join us at Belmont on Sunday.

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