by Paul Post
New York horsemen, breeders, and trainers rallied outside the state capitol in Albany on Monday, urging Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders to name an Aqueduct gaming operator.
The event was organized by New York Thoroughbred Breeders and brought together top racing figures such as trainers Gary Contessa and Linda Rice, Sackatoga Stable Managing Partner Jack Knowlton, and breeder Joseph McMahon of McMahon Thoroughbreds of Saratoga, where 2003 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Funny Cide was foaled.
Six firms have bid for the 30-year gaming contract. Paterson had hoped to name an operator by August 1, but a recent Senate power coup that paralyzed state government probably delayed the decision.
New York Racing Association President Charles Hayward said he expects an announcement before the end of the Saratoga Race Course on September 7.
Legislation allowing for Aqueduct gaming was approved in 2001, but the state has yet to reach agreement on an operator.
"We’ve been waiting eight years," said Jeff Cannizzo, NYTB executive director.
Meanwhile, other states in the region have developed lucrative gaming operations which aid their racetracks.
"Horses follow money," McMahon said. "You can trade on tradition for a long time, but money trumps tradition. They have to understand that in Albany. Unless they do something, we’re going to see loss of farms, racing and prestige. It’s because our state cannot get their act together and get this done."