02/16/2005 12:00AM

Friends of N.Y. Racing sets goals, selects board


A political lobbying group seeking to present the racing industry's case for how the sport should be run in New York will release its recommendations to legislators in late 2005.

Officials of the group, called Friends of New York Racing, also announced Wednesday that they had chosen a 16-member board of directors, including representatives from two non-profit racing associations, two large racing companies that operate tracks in more than a dozen states, and a national account-wagering company, and several New York Thoroughbred owners and breeders.

The announcements were part of a "grass-roots effort" for the group to present its goals to New York legislators and local media, according to Tim Smith, the president of FNYR and the former chief executive officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. FNYR was formed unofficially late last year with the goal to develop recommendations on how to restructure New York's racing laws.

Smith has said the group will conduct public-opinion polls and economic surveys of the New York racing industry as part of its plan to raise awareness of the sport's importance to New York. The group has said that it does not represent any one entity in New York and will limit its work to recommendations that it believes would improve the regulatory and economic framework for the racing industry as a whole.

On Wednesday, Smith said the group had incorporated itself and was now focusing on creating a website, setting up a political action committee for donations to New York legislators, and forming advisory committees that would help develop preliminary recommendations to go into the organization's final report. He said the group has already begun working with New York legislators and their staffs, and that he would be in close contact with lawmakers throughout the process.

"We're kind of viewed as a resource already," Smith said. "We've told them that we'll get the objective information, we'll get the research, we'll run the numbers for them, and we'll do the models. We've positioned ourselves as objective problem solvers, and I think that's where we need to be for most or all of 2005."

The group is planning to release its recommendations in advance of a politically charged deadline on the New York calendar. New York's legislature, by law, must issue a request for proposals to run racing at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga, by July 1, 2006, at the latest, and Dec. 1, 2005 at the earliest. The franchise is currently held by the New York Racing Association. It expires on Dec. 31, 2007.

One of the FNYR board members is Jim McAlpine, chief executive officer for Magna Entertainment, which has lobbied to take over the NYRA franchise. According to Smith, although board members will not be prohibited from lobbying for their own interests, they have promised to put New York racing ahead of promoting their individual companies, at least for now.

"What Magna and all the others bought into was that there is time six months from now, 12 months from now, maybe longer, to compete as entrepreneurs and private competitors," Smith said. "But the first thing, the best use of 2005 is to try to get an overall industry-government arrangement that will allow anyone, no matter who it is, a better chance at succeeding if they get the franchise. There's always time to fight, so let's try to collaborate for a year."

On the board

Jared Abbruzzese, Capital and Technology Advisors; Thoroughbred owner

Dennis Brida, Executive Director, New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc.

Richard Bomze, President, New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association

Charles F. Champion, Chief Executive, Youbet.com

Sherwood Chillingworth, Executive Vice President, Oak Tree Racing Association

G. Watts Humphrey Jr., Thoroughbred owner and breeder

Robert LaPenta, President, L-3 Communications; Thoroughbred owner

Jim McAlpine, President, Magna Entertainment

Alan Marzelli, President, The Jockey Club

Tom Meeker, President, Churchill Downs Inc.

Nick Nicholson, President, Keeneland Association

Suzie O'Cain, Stallion Manager, Highcliff Farms

Tim Smith, President, Friends of New York Racing

D.G. Van Clief, Comissioner, National Thoroughbred Racing Association; President, Breeders' Cup Ltd.

Lorne Weil, Chief Executive, Scientific Games

Davide Willmot, Chief Executive, Woodbine Entertainment