NYRA, New Jersey Horsemen Explore Deal With Hialeah

Representatives of the New York Racing Association and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association confirmed they have held discussions about reopening closed Hialeah Park for stabling and a winter race meet, though they differ on the plan's prospects.

"If it doesn't happen this winter it's not going to happen at all," said Dennis Drazin, legal counsel for the horsemen's association.
Drazin described a plan that entails leasing the historic track, closed since May 2001, for a training facility and a January- hrough-April race meet that would cater largely to New York and New Jersey horsemen who have been pinched in a stall shortage at neighboring Gulfstream Park.

"Gulfstream might not be crazy to have us racing against them, but they need the horsemen to fill their races," Drazin said. "We want to do something that would help everybody and not be destructive."

Drazin said he has had initial conversations with Hialeah Park owner John Brunetti but that it was "early in the process." While he mentioned that his organization had been awaiting NYRA taking the lead, he said he might begin to take the initiative in negotiating with Brunetti.

NYRA, according to chief executive officer Terry Meyocks, has other priorities. "We started some conversations about a year ago, but right now, there is nothing being discussed since we have a lot on our plate," Meyocks said.

A source at Hialeah described a plan that would call for racing at Hialeah each Saturday through Monday from mid-January through mid-March. It would compete head-to-head with Gulfstream. Additionally, Hialeah and Aqueduct would exchange simulcast signals at the exclusion of Gulfstream.

"The horsemen would have to be very committed for this to happen," the source said.

Magna Entertainment Corp. probably would significantly raise Gulfstream's purses in an effort to eliminate the competition, the source said.

Brunetti would not comment directly on the negotiations, but said he is exploring various options for the track that fell victim to the Florida legislature's deregulation of racing dates. By Scott Davis