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Thursday, January 26, 2006

NYRA, Hayward Charging Hard

- Charles Hayward and the New York Racing Association remind me of a golfer that is said to be ‘scrambling’ – succeeding in achieving par despite visiting any sand trap or other hazard in sight. Despite repeated setbacks including a brush with bankruptcy, the scrappy CEO charged into this week’s hearings by the Committee on the Future of Racing and showed that NYRA intends to be a key player in the franchise battle. Hayward has been playing his cards expertly, seeming to at times hold the upper hand in last month’s deadline negotiations on the bailout package, despite his coffers being nearly empty, and with NYRA at the mercy of the state in the matter of the casino construction. Even now, NYRA refuses to back down on what land is being sold and on the issue of an increase in the takeout, insisting that it must be tied to a players’ rewards program.

At Tuesday’s hearing in Albany, Hayward played what he hopes is his ace in the hole, insisting that NYRA indeed owns the land that its three tracks sit on, drawing a legal red line that the state will have to cross if it intends to award the franchise to someone else.

Charles Hayward…..told six members of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of Racing that NYRA's initial founders in 1955 had purchased the three tracks, plus a fourth that no longer exists, using money that they personally raised. Hayward said that a franchise extension approved by the legislature in 1983 - which included language asserting that the state owned the tracks - "violates some fundamental constitutional rights" that prohibit the state from seizing land. [Daily Racing Form]
The timing for that argument seems poor at this time, considering the Supreme Court’s ruling on eminent domain last year. However, despite Albany’s insistence that the land belongs to the state, they seemed to blink at the prospect of a bankruptcy court settling the issue.

During the second hearing on Wednesday, Hayward lashed back at Frank Stronach, who reportedly drew smiles from the committee on Tuesday with a presentation that included a plan to turn Saratoga Race Course into a year-round destination.
[Hayward] told members of the committee during his testimony that Magna and Churchill Downs had made decisions in the past three years that had failed to benefit the racing industries in the states where they owned racetracks, pointing to Churchill's decision last year to sell Hollywood Park in California and Magna's $350 million loss over the past four years. Hayward also was critical of Magna's redevelopment of Gulfsteam Park in Florida, which has drawn critical comments from many horseplayers. [Daily Racing Form]
Given what he did to Gulfstream, just the thought of Stronach being only the 25 miles between Albany and Saratoga is enough to strike fear into the hearts of anyone who treasures the historic track for what it is. Saratoga residents reacted with predictable fear. Saratoga Springs businessman Tom Roohan said, 'It [Gulfstream] doesn't look like a racetrack.
'Saratoga Race Course is the Yankee Stadium of racing,' said town of Saratoga Supervisor Tom Wood, chairman of the county's Racing Committee. 'It is a national treasure.' [Saratogian]
Er.…that could be another mis-timed argument, seeing that Yankee Stadium is slated to soon be replaced by a new one. But fortunately, the track is protected by being on the National Register of Historic Places, and committee member Bernadette Castro acknowledged, 'There are federal and state guidelines for the property and its structures.’

- If, after just a few months, the best the Daily Racing Form can do for its poker column is drivel like this, perhaps they should devote the space to something its readers really care about. Like maybe… racing? Personally, I’d rather read Brad and Sue debate what constitutes a real martini.


Green Mtn Punter said...

It's great to see Charlie Hayward and NYRA on the counter-attack, especially against Stronach! Sort of the feeling you get when the Red Sox beat the Yankees- oops, sorry Alan! It is still disturbing to think that NY racing's future is in the hands of the Albany pols, the same lot we can thank for the current mess. We all should hope the franchise issue is settled before Spitzer, looking like a 4-5 shot at this point,is elected governor in November. I have the distinct feeling "State Agency" would be Spitzer's preferred solution to the NY racing franchise. State employees destined for a career at DMV being "promoted" to running the tracks?! And then the pols would take credit for "saving" NY racing!

Ruben Bailey said...

Good call on the DRF Poker columns. Not only was the 1/18 column pretty awful, but the latest entry from 1/25 makes the 1/18 artilce feel like The Da Vinci Code.

I actually enjoy the fact that DRf has a Poker Column-just as much as I love Dave Tuley and Richard Eng in the sports betting section. But I read a lot of poker stuff online, and the Form is just not hitting it right just yet.

It is still a young project, hopefully getting better with time. As they expand outside of the DRF Publishing family to find fresh poker writers, the section will grow by leaps and bounds.