Horsemen sever ties with Empire

New York Racing Association's decades-old franchise expires at the end of this year. A decision on who would get the franchise after that was expected by now, and Spitzer has recently proposed splitting the franchise " having one entity run racing while putting another entity in charge of gaming operations.

When first bidding on the franchise, Empire said it was interested in both aspects and cited its relationship to horsemen as evidence of a strong commitment to racing. Empire officials have recently told media that they would be interested in running just the gaming operation, should the franchise be split.

In other franchise news, Saratoga Springs Mayor Valerie Keehn released a letter she's penned to Spitzer, conveying a sense of anxiety in her city over when the franchise will be awarded.

She called for a decision, as soon as possible, on who will operate the Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct thoroughbred racetracks after Dec. 31, when NYRA's franchise ends.

"In a few days, we will be hosting the annual racing meet at the historic Saratoga Race Course, featuring the Travers Stakes on Aug. 25," Keehn wrote. "I hope you will join us for the Travers, and I'm sure you can understand the community's excitement as we anticipate the 138th running of the race known as 'America's Summer Derby.' You should be aware, however, that this year's excitement is tempered by the uncertainty about the future of the thoroughbred franchise.

Because thoroughbred racing is such an integral part of the community and economy, people are "developing a sense of anxiety about the lack of a clear plan for 2008 and beyond," Keehn wrote.


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