01/21/2008 12:00AM

NYRA extension now through Feb 13.


The New York Racing Association has reached an agreement with a state oversight board to extend its right to operate Aqueduct racetrack until Feb. 13, NYRA said on Monday.

A short-term extension negotiated with the Non-Profit Racing Association Oversight Board is scheduled to expire at the end of Wednesday, Jan. 23, a dark day for Aqueduct. The new extension is a virtual carbon copy of the previous extension, which reserved NYRA's right to claim that it owns Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga, according to NYRA officials.

NYRA needed to secure another short-term extension because negotiations on a long-term extension of its franchise to operate the three tracks have not yet produced an agreement, and without an extension, the association would have been required to close its doors. Any long-term extension has to be approved by New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the state assembly, and the state senate.

"While we are disappointed that a final resolution has not been reached, we appreciate the diligent efforts of the Spitzer administration," said NYRA's chairman, Steven Duncker, in a prepared statement. "The latest temporary agreement provides the necessary time to enact legislation granting a long-term racing franchise."

Spitzer released a statement on Monday confirming the agreement, saying that the extension "will allow discussions of the final remaining issues related to the racing franchise to continue without any interruption to the current Aqueduct meet."

Negotiations over a long-term extension continue to occur, officials said, though the terms of the agreement are still being hammered out. Spitzer and the assembly's speaker, Sheldon Silver, both Democrats, have supported an extension that would give NYRA a 30-year franchise in exchange for the association granting undisputed title of its tracks to the state, but the state senate's majority leader, Joe Bruno, a Republican, has been pushing for a shorter extension.

In addition, Bruno and NYRA have clashed on the composition of NYRA's board. Bruno is seeking a board that would have as a majority appointees of state officials, while NYRA has sought to preserve a board structure that would give its own appointees a majority, according to officials.

NYRA officials were initially reluctant to accept a short-term extension to its franchise, and it was not until Dec. 31 that the association reached an agreement with the oversight board, whose chairman, Steven Newman, was appointed by Spitzer late in December, replacing Carole Stone, who was appointed by former Gov. George Pataki, a Republican.

NYRA officials had also resisted a second short-term extension, but several developments softened its stance. Bruno's wife, Bobbie, died on Jan.7, which put negotiations over the franchise on a back burner. In addition, NYRA officials have said that negotiations over a long-term franchise have not yet reached a stalemate, and so they wanted to continue to work on an extension without putting a halt to racing operations.