The New York Racing Association could eliminate training at Aqueduct as an emergency step to help save money and avoid a racing shutdown this year.
NYRA outlined its fiscal condition and presented its 2010 budget on Wednesday in Albany before the state Racing Franchise Oversight Board, which monitors NYRA’s business operations.
NYRA said that it could run out of money by July unless it receives money from either the state or the entity selected to operate gaming at Aqueduct. If neither event occurs, the NYRA could end training at Aqueduct during the Saratoga Race Course meet at a savings of $300,000 per month.
“We’re looking at a number of different things,” NYRA President Charles Hayward said. “We want to make sure we get through Saratoga, obviously. The OTB situation is so fluid we want to make sure we’ve got some additional cash. We’re finalizing sometime next week the list of items that we’ll submit to the board for their consideration.”
NYRA’s next board meeting is scheduled for March 3. NYRA hopes to receive some money from New York City Off Track Betting Corp., which owes more than $15-million, but there is uncertainty surrounding that debt pending a federal judge considering New York City OTB’s bankruptcy plan on February 22.
“Right now we’ve got 500 empty stalls at Belmont [Park],” Hayward said. “Aqueduct would close at the end of April. Saratoga opens [for training] in the middle of April. Before the Saratoga meet, we usually only have 700 or 800 horses there. So we could accommodate some there, some at Belmont.”
Closing Aqueduct for training would be temporary until NYRA gets through its cash crisis and there are no plans for eliminating racing there, he said.
Some of racing’s more high-profile trainers such as Gary Contessa, Rick Dutrow Jr., and Rick Violette, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, train at Aqueduct.
“It would be a little bit of an imposition,” Hayward said. “This would hopefully be, at least for now, a one-time thing.”
However, Hayward said it would make sense to move all Downstate training to Belmont permanently. NYRA has 13 racing and training surfaces at Belmont, Aqueduct, and Saratoga, all of which cost money year-round to maintain.
Belmont has 2,000 stalls and Aqueduct 600. Moving Aqueduct’s horses to Belmont would cost $2-million for new barns.
“The return on investment is done in a year,” Hayward said. “Consolidation is really where the opportunity lies.”
However, NYRA will not have money needed for capital improvements until the Aqueduct racino starts up. The selected operator, Aqueduct Entertainment Group, said Wednesday that it expects to provide additional background information asked for by the state, provide a $300-million upfront payment and sign a memorandum of understanding with the state by March 31.