A New York state government panel is being created to evaluate groups interested in taking over the franchise to operate Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga racetracks, a process that suddenly makes wide open the race to replace the New York Racing Association.
Officials said New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer doesn't plan to reopen the bidding process for the state's Thoroughbred franchise--but he doesn't feel obligated to follow the recommendation of a screening panel, either.
An appeals court in Albany, N.Y., upheld trainer Todd Pletcher's 45-day suspension and $3,000 fine Dec. 7, dismissing his challenge to the penalties for using an anesthetic on one of his horses too close to a race in 2004.
Empire Racing Associates said it is willing to put more money on the table for the state of New York in order to win the franchise to run racing over the next 20 years at Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga racetracks.
The 2007 New York Racing Association stakes schedule highlights the inaugural Breeders' Cup Challenge with Belmont and Saratoga each hosting challenge-day events. The powerhouse race days highlight NYRA's stakes schedule, which features 38 grade I races and nearly $33 million in stakes purses.
Empire Racing Associates, which made a bid for the franchise to operate three New York racetracks, released a plan Nov. 30 to protect the historic charm of Saratoga Race Course and strengthen racing there. The plan will form a major part of the proposal Empire Racing will take to the state legislature in January, officials said.
Fueled in part by all-source handle declines at such meetings as Del Mar, Arlington Park and Monmouth Park, overall wagering on United States racing in the third quarter of 2006 dropped by nearly $7 million.
With the future of the racing industry in New York up in the air, the most immediate beneficiaries appear to be state officials running for office this fall, thanks to a steady flow of money from individuals and companies tied in one way or another to the Thoroughbred franchise renewal process.
Officials in New York are considering pushing back the Sept. 29 deadline for the recommendation by a state panel on which entity should be awarded the franchise now held by the New York Racing Association.
The first bids for the franchise to operate Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga for 20 years beginning in 2008 were submitted Aug. 29 by the current operator and two groups that included developers and casino and racetrack companies allied with Thoroughbred owners and breeders.
Jockey Kent Desormeaux took off his Sunday mounts at Saratoga Race Course after he was involved in an automobile accident in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. According to Desormeaux's agent, Mike Sellito, the jockey was the passenger in a vehicle that collided with another car sometime late Saturday evening.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano, who took off his mounts at Saratoga Race Course Friday after complaining of pain in his side and trouble breathing, will be out for an undetermined amount of time due to multiple rib injuries sustained in a fall on August 14.
Issuing what he termed a "call to action to horsemen and all of the racing community," New York Racing Association president and chief executive officer Charles Hayward asked horsemen for their cooperation in lobbying Gov. George Pataki for immediate permission to install and operate 4,500 video lottery terminals that have been delayed at Aqueduct.
Young & Rubicam Brands and Eric Mower and Associates will form the marketing communications team as part of Empire Racing's bid to operate New York State's Thoroughbred racetracks at Saratoga, Belmont, and Aqueduct.
Tom Albertrani is entering the fourth weekend of August with a huge bull's-eye on his back. The trainer will send out Balletto in the Personal Ensign (gr. I) Friday and the following afternoon will saddle Songster and Bernardini in the King's Bishop (gr. I) and Travers Stakes (gr. I), respectively.
Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing, a group that includes several prominent horsemen, has called on the state to make continuation of spring and fall training in Saratoga Springs, as well as submission of all expansion plans for Saratoga to local government for approval, required under the request for proposal to operate Saratoga, Aqueduct, and Belmont Park.
Chace City dueled for the early lead then pulled away in the stretch to win the Saratoga Special Stakes (gr. II) by a length at the Spa Aug. 17. King of the Roxy, who gave chase early, finished second in the $200,000 race for juveniles.
Darley Stable's Bernardini, the expected favorite for the $1-million Travers Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 26, turned in a strong five furlong breeze in 1:00 3/5 at Saratoga Thursday, the second fastest of 20 works at the distance.
Zabeel Racing International's Yard-Arm, South Africa's Horse of the Year in 2004, is fine after being pulled up in apparent distress following the third race at Saratoga on Wednesday, an allowance optional claimer on the grass.
Afrashad, unbeaten but untested against stakes company, faces a stern test Saturday at Saratoga in the six-furlong Alfred G. Vanderbilt Breeders' Cup (gr. II). Five battle-tested foes await in the $200,000 race, but jockey Richard Migliore is confident in Godolphin Racing's 4-year-old colt.
With English Channel heading out of Saratoga for a trip to Chicago for the Arlington Million (gr. IT), eight older turf horses have been entered for Saturday's Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT). The 12-furlong Sword Dancer goes as the ninth race and is one of two graded stakes on the Saratoga program.
Relative newcomer Ahmed Zayat went to $1.6 million for an Empire Maker filly Wednesday night to top the 86th annual Fasig-Tipton selected yearling sale in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The historic sale, now with a two-day run, had yet another solid performance with the average virtually mirroring last year's figure and the gross increasing significantly.
The NTRA National Pick 4 wager, offered in conjunction with "Road to the Breeders' Cup World Championships - Powered by Dodge" series installments airing on ESPN and ABC through Oct. 14, will be available Aug. 12, challenging fans to correctly select the winners of four graded stakes--the $1 million Arlington Million and $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park (both gr. I); and the $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap (gr. I) and $200,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Saratoga Racecourse. All races will air live Aug. 12 on ABC from 4-6 p.m. (ET).
The yearling selling season got off to a strong start last month in Kentucky. Now the action moves to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where Fasig-Tipton will conduct its boutique sale Tuesday and Wednesday nights.