Bill Would Let NYRA Trim Aqueduct Meet

Legislation is advancing to permit the New York Racing Association to reduce its winter meet at Aqueduct by nearly two weeks.

The state Senate unanimously approved a bill sponsored by Senate Racing Committee chairman William Larkin that would, at NYRA's request, change state law to lower the number of mandatory racing days at the track from 107 to 95. By law, NYRA would now lose such things as tax benefits if it runs fewer than the 107 days it now runs.

NYRA officials have been trying for at least two years to relax the requirement at Aqueduct, which runs from October until May. On the back end of the meet, fields get smaller. Moreover, NYRA officials have been looking to close the track for more days around the Christmas holidays to give track workers a break during the slow racing period.

NYRA president Terry Meyocks was unavailable Tuesday evening. Following Tuesday's Senate vote, the bill is expected to be reported out of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday. Assembly sources say the bill is expected to pass in the lower house.

"Experience has proven that forcing the New York Racing Association to run live programs per week of racing throughout the winter has not worked well," according to a Senate memorandum on the bill submitted by Larkin.

Aqueduct's on-track handle runs well below $1 million per day during the winter, so backers say the impact of the bill on the state, which gets a share of the handle, would be minimal, though they offered no precise figure.