NYRA Chairman Criticizes Magna Investment in Maryland

NYRA Chairman Criticizes Magna Investment in Maryland
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
NYRA Chairman Barry Schwartz
Early in a program about the Saratoga season at the National Museum of Racing Monday night, New York Racing Association chairman Barry Schwartz criticized the recent purchase of a majority interest in the Maryland Jockey Club by Frank Stronach's Magna Entertainment.

Though noting that Stronach needed more programming for his proposed television racing channel beyond the end of the Gulfstream and Santa Anita seasons, Schwartz said that Magna paid too much, spending just over $100 million for Pimlico and Laurel.

Magna and NYRA became rivals during the past two years as they tried to acquire the New York Off-Track Betting Corporation. Last summer, New York City officials announced that Magna had submitted the winning bid for the OTB. The deal never was completed.

"So where the value of the track might have been half of what he paid, it was invaluable to him because he needs to have content 12 months a year to put on that TV network," Schwartz said. "It still remains to be seen whether he can launch it successfully.

"I don't look at Frank Stronach or Magna as any kind of threat to us. We have the best racing in America, clearly. He does have Santa Anita and Gulfstream; he practically ruined Gulfstream this year. Great Lakes Downs doesn't bother me. Flamboro Downs doesn't mean anything to me."

Magna announced the purchase of Flamboro, a standardbred track near Hamilton, Ontario in June.

"He's got a lot of second-rate racetracks," Schwartz said. "As Maryland was major league at one time, when I first started playing horses, that is a second-rate, bush-league racetrack today...Let's face it. You look at those fields. Andy Beyer has been writing about it for years. He can't stand betting on it. Without simulcasting he would have nothing. So if he (Stronach) wants to spend $100 million for that, more power to him. I think one of these days, he's just going to implode."

During a luncheon last summer, Schwartz said New York Governor George Pataki assured him that state officials would never approve the sale of NYCOTB to Magna.

Schwartz said that Magna's plans for its many tracks have not been carried out.

"They didn't turn Gulfstream around," Schwartz said. "They didn't do anything that they said they were going to do at Santa Anita. They haven't done anything anywhere. He keeps talking about, `We're going to make this an entertainment center.' He owns 10 racetracks. Where are the entertainment centers in any of them? I don't know why Maryland would be the first one. And Maryland probably needs more money spent than any of the others."

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