Updated 08/05/2006 10:15 AM
Bidders picking up key players
"I just hope whoever ends up with it doesn't forget the horsemen," said Gary Contessa.
"It" is the franchise to run Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct. Gary Contessa is one of those horsemen. People are picking sides as the race for the franchise heats up.
"I really like what they have to say. I think they have a strong will to do the right thing by New York racing," said Contessa.
"They" are Excelsior Racing Associates -- a group George Steinbrenner's son-in-law heads. But Contessa sits on the board of the New York Thoroughbred Horseman's Association -- an entity that Empire Racing Associates says NYTHA supports them.
"I was personally asked to advise them as a horseman. They need advise from a horseman. I gladly did it," said Contessa.
Hall of Fame Jockey Jerry Bailey is also on board with Excelsior. NYRA President Charlie Hayward said people will pick sides.
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"I think that if you look hard at NYRA and you look hard at the other entities, you'll see that NYRA really represents the horsemen," said Hayward.
Hayward said Empire Racing's support is only part of the NYTHA board. He said he is not surprised by big names being courted by potential bidders. Hundreds of millions of dollars more are at stake than the last time the franchise was awarded. VLTs at Aqueduct could create over $600 million in revenue.
"What it really comes down to, I hope, to the merits of the requests for proposals," said Hayward.
Also Friday, two big track owners joined forces. Churchill Downs and Magna announced they will bid together for the NYRA run tracks.