NYRA, Legislator Clash on Aqueduct Dates Bill

The New York Racing Association says legislation that would allow it to reduce dates at Aqueduct has met no opposition from other racing groups, but at least one legislator has reservations. The bill was reported out of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, and is expected to be approved by the lower House within weeks.

NYRA president Terry Meyocks said Aqueduct is forced by law to race six days a weeks during several winter periods when there is a shortage of horses. "It's not fair to fans, or the horsemen, or the racing office," he said. "It's just not the right thing to do."

By shortening to 95 days the mandatory minimum dates for the track (the current number is 107), officials would be offered more options to shut down during slow periods,
such as around Christmas or the Monday after Easter.

"It just gives us some options," said Meyocks, who noted the measure has met no opposition from other racing groups."More is not always better."

But Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette, a Queens Democrat, said he is concerned the measure could end up hurting horsemen, local businesses, and workers that rely on Aqueduct being open. He said the bill would also delete from the law a provision that requires NYRA to make up days lost when the track is closed because of weather or track conditions.

"So it could amount to a lot more than 12 days being lost," Lafayette said. NYRA "should not have the sole discretion of determining whether the track is fit or not, and then not having the obligation to make up those days," he said.

The bill, the Lafayette said, will reduce earnings potential for some horsemen, "particularly the marginal horsemen who need a decent place to race. My concern is (the Aqueduct meet) is the only opportunity for a lot of New York-bred horses, in particular, to get decent purse money."