Churchill Downs, Magna Join Forces With Empire Racing

The continuing consolidation of racing interests seeking the franchise currently held by the New York Racing Association took a quantum leap Wednesday when it was announced that Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment were joining the Empire Racing team.

"Our mission is to provide New Yorkers with racing that is both home grown and world class," Empire Racing CEO Jeff Perlee said in a statement accompanying the announcement. "The addition of these two great organizations to our team achieves that mission and prepares us to present the strongest possible bid to the state."

"Empire Racing was formed by a group of dedicated and innovative New Yorkers determined to create a bright future for racing in their home state," the statement quoted Magna chairman Frank Stronach. "Magna Entertainment and Churchill Downs share Empire's outlook on New York racing and by pooling our collective talents and resources, our companies can assist Empire Racing and its impressive list of partners with what we hope will be a successful bid for the New York racetrack franchise."

"By joining the Empire team, we have the opportunity to bring greater consistency to the quality and integrity of racing across the United States, to better market racing to new fan throughout the year and to take U.S. racing into the global market in a powerful way," said Churchill Downs president and CEO Robert Evans. "Empire represents an across-the-board win for the citizens of New York, New York horsemen and racing fans everywhere."

The two largest racetrack operating companies in the U.S. who compete against each other for fans, horses, and bettors, Churchill and Magna recently announced a joint effort in the New York franchise bid.

As part of the agreement, Churchill Downs and Magna Entertainment will each receive one seat on Empire Racing's 15-member board.

Also on Wednesday, Empire Racing announced that horse owner-breeder and socialite Marylou Whitney would serve as the group's honorary chair.

"Empire Racing has formed the best coalition in the history of Thoroughbred racing," Whitney said in a statement that identified her as an investor in Empire Racing. "Empire will be best for racing in Saratoga and New York state. I would not lend my name unless I believed the Saratoga Race Course traditions would be maintained and improved under Empire Racing."