Former jockey and Hall of Fame member Steve Cauthen, who became the youngest rider to win the Triple Crown when he rode Affirmed to sweep the three classic races as an 18-year-old in 1978, has joined the team of Capital Play, one of four bidders engaged in competition for the franchise rights to Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga in New York.
“Steve has come on to endorse and support our bid; he cares about New York racing and he feels we’ve got the right plan to take racing here in the right direction,” said Karl O’Farrell, founder of Capital Play and chief executive officer of the Australia-based international wagering company Capital Play Party Ltd. “Even though Kentucky is obviously Steve’s home, New York was his career home while he was racing in the U.S., and he cares about the condition of racing here. He’ll be involved in various presentations and as a spokesman for us about our plan.”
Capital Play announced Cauthen’s endorsement during a May 22 press conference in which the company presented a vision of how it would promote the upcoming Belmont Stakes (gr. I) to draw maximum exposure without the added attraction of a potential Triple Crown contender. The current franchise-holder, the New York Racing Association, is facing that task for the third year in a row as the June 9 Belmont, final leg of the Triple Crown, approaches.
“In Australia, for example, when the Melbourne Cup is coming up, you cannot get flights to Melbourne--they’re booked months out,” O’ Farrell said. “The cooperation there between the racing industry and the tourism industry is something we can learn from, the way they work together to generate excitement around racing events.”
Cauthen said his endorsement of Capital Play stems from a personal concern over the state of the racing industry in New York.
“They were obviously looking for somebody with some name recognition, somebody who had experience with New York racing to come on board,” Cauthen said. “I know how important New York racing is to the industry as a whole. Without New York racing being healthy, the entire industry suffers. Obviously, there has been a problem up here for a while--that’s why this bidding war came about. But I’ve been to Australia and I’ve seen the success of the philosophies they’re presenting, and I think their plan has a lot of ‘pop.’”
Cauthen said he would appear for Capital Play on an as-needed basis, working from home in addition to traveling to New York to make presentations with the company.
“In the long run, whatever is good for racing is good for me,” said the former jockey, who now owns and operates Dreamfields Farm in Northern Kentucky. “I’ve decided to help them because this proposal would be good for racing all over America, not just in New York. Hopefully, they can bring some of their new ideas that have worked other places, and I see no reason why they won’t work here. Who knows? In a few years they could be spreading in popularity, just like Polytrack.”
Cauthen isn't the first retired jockey to sign on with a bidder for the New York franchise. Jerry Bailey, also a Hall of Fame member, has endorsed Excelsior Racing Associates and serves as a spokesman for the group. The other bidders are Empire Racing Associates and NYRA, whose franchise expires Dec. 31.