Australian Firm Out of New York Franchise Race

The state panel considering bids for a new Thoroughbred franchise in New York has eliminated one of the potential suitors.

Capital Play, an Australian betting company, was disqualified by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of Racing Oct. 26 for failure to provide a litigation bond as requiring in the bidding package. Scott Reif, a spokesman for the panel, said the board unanimously voted to disqualify the firm, which was considered a longshot by most industry insiders.

The decision leaves three groups vying to take over the franchise to operate Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga: the New York Racing Association, which is trying to hang on to the franchise it has held since 1955; Empire Racing Associates, a consortium that includes New York horsemen, Magna Entertainment Corp., and Churchill Downs Inc.; and Excelsior Racing Associates, whose partners include New York Yankees executive Steve Swindal and casino developer Richard Fields.

The panel is rushing to finish its work in the next several weeks. It will make a non-binding recommendation to Gov. George Pataki and legislators; Pataki, however, is leaving office Dec. 31, and unless there is some sort of political deal that brings the legislature back into session to deal with the franchise and other matters, there is little chance a final franchise decision will come this year.

The NYRA franchise expires Dec. 31, 2007.