NYRA president/CEO Charles Hayward.

NYRA president/CEO Charles Hayward.

Associated Press

Plenty of Speculation in Wake of NYRA Shake-Up

The day after the New York Racing Association announced major management changes that included the replacement of racing secretary Mike Lakow, industry participants had plenty of questions but got no definitive answers.

NYRA president Charles Hayward announced the changes July 14 but said there was no message behind the moves. Along with Lakow, chief examining veterinarian Dr. Celeste Kunz was let go.

Hayward spoke to the media and horsemen July 15 at Belmont Park. The changes caught many people by surprise.

"We didn't learn anything," trainer Bobby Frankel said. "Hayward said in front of everybody if I came into his office, he'd tell me the real reason. I said to him, 'What do you think, I'm not gonna tell anyone else?' I would make sure I told everybody. I said, 'Just tell me now.' But he wouldn't do it. He looked very uncomfortable.

"From his comments, he makes you think he has something on Mike Lakow, but I know he has nothing on him. It might be simpler than anyone thinks. They might be so intent on trying to show a good image to the state that they're cleaning house.
"He said they lost $20 million this year and $10 million last year and the year before. I asked him, 'Are trying to tell us that it's Mike's fault you lost $20 million this year and $10 last year?' All he said was, 'Well, no.' We told him that Mike wore five hats, and he said if we have a problem we should get in touch with him.

"So, what we should do is, everybody that needs a light bulb or gets sand in their shedrow or has a board missing in one of the stalls or they think the track is screwed up, should get in touch with this guy. Put all the heat on him.
"I asked him about the timing, why he's doing it now, right before Saratoga, and he said they were contemplating it earlier, but they couldn't because of the Belmont Stakes. All he said was, 'We had to do it.' It doesn't make any sense."

After the announcement was made July 14, Hayward told The Blood-Horse the job changes aren't part of some broader shake-up. He said he merely wanted to make the personnel moves on a single day to avoid other people worrying about their job security.

"There's not a message in the terminations," Hayward said.

Hayward also said the dismissals of the NYRA officials "do not relate to any specific acts on behalf of these individuals." He said he has spent much of his eight months at NYRA focused on the business side of the organization.

"We want to try to do things differently, and we're going to do things a little different," Hayward said. "I said I was committed to making changes."

P.J. Campo, who joined NYRA nine years ago and most recently served as assistant racing secretary and handicapper, replaced Lakow as racing secretary and handicapper. Dr. Anthony Verderosa, a NYRA veterinarian for nearly eight years, has replaced Kunz in the examining vet's position.

In addition, NYRA steward David Hicks announced his retirement with NYRA, saying his position would be filled on an interim basis by NYRA racing officials. Also, NYRA will soon name a new vice president of human resources and labor relations to replace Ralph Chetcuti.