12/16/2005 12:00AM

NYRA nearing bankruptcy

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - With a potential land sale that could bring $5 million in revenue to the New York Racing Association in limbo, it is becoming "more and more likely" the New York Racing Association will file for bankruptcy by the end of the month, chairman and chief executive Charles Hayward said Friday.

Last week, reports circulated that NYRA and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reached an agreement on the sale of some Aqueduct property that would bring $5 million to NYRA. But in the week since that news broke, no deal has been consummated, and Hayward said the Port Authority is seeking additional property in the parking lot that NYRA does not want to part with. NYRA has already lost a large portion of its clubhouse lot in a previous deal with the Port Authority.

Hayward said he would rather sell the Port Authority some of the 80 parcels of land on the other side of the subway tracks adjacent to the racetrack. NYRA has thus far been turned down by the state in its attempt to sell that land.

"They have a strong interest in parking, and we feel it would be more suitable for them to take some of the undeveloped parcels; it could also work for parking for them," Hayward said. "I don't think we have enough parking as it is, particularly when [video lottery terminals] get here. So we're trying to get them off the parking."

Hayward said NYRA needs $25 million to make it through next year.

Hayward said NYRA does not want to file for bankruptcy because of the "social stigma associated with it." But, Hayward said a bankruptcy filing could be good for racing because, he believes, a federal bankruptcy judge could make a determination on who owns the land on which Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga sit. NYRA and the state both claim ownership of the land.

Hayward said that if NYRA declares bankruptcy, it would do so after racing returns on Dec. 28 following a nine-day break.

"The reason we can wait till we get back is our overhead costs go way down while we're not here; we're not funding purses," Hayward said.

Lake excited about gutsy Spooky Mulder

Scott Lake remembers the first time he laid eyes on Spooky Mulder. It was at Canterbury Park during the post parade of the 2003 Claiming Crown Express, a race in which Lake had one of the favorites.

"He went by me and he looked like a rack of bones," Lake recalled. "I said, Who's this rat? Then I looked down on the form and saw he won 9 of 21 starts, and I said I need to keep an eye out for him."

Lake's eyes were right. Spooky Mulder was indeed a horse he needed in his barn. Now, with 23 wins from 58 starts and a tenacity few horses possess, Spooky Mulder, a 7-year-old gelded son of Brunswick, is the type of horse every trainer needs in his barn.

"He shows up every time; he gives you everything he's got every time," said Lake, who has twice claimed Spooky Mulder. "If every horse in the world was like him, this would be a real tough game."

Lake has entered Spooky Mulder in Sunday's $75,000 Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct, though he's not definite to run. If Lake scratches, there is a race for Spooky Mulder here on Dec. 29.

Spooky Mulder has won 4 of 12 starts this year and has run four triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures. In his most recent start, Spooky Mulder won an optional claiming race by a neck, coming back on Potrisunrise after being passed in the stretch.

Lake first claimed Spooky Mulder in October 2003 for $25,000. Spooky Mulder won 7 of 15 starts for Lake, who was also part-owner of the horse along with Bruce Golden. On Aug. 8, 2004, owner Michael Gill claimed Spooky Mulder from Lake for $65,000. Spooky Mulder made 10 starts for Gill and his vast array of trainers before Lake claimed him back for $50,000 last April. Two days after Lake claimed him, however, Spooky Mulder had to be sent to the New Jersey Equine Clinic for an infection in his pastern.

"It was dissolving away all his flesh," Lake said. "He was 50-50. Dr. [Patty] Hogan did a fantastic job saving his life."

Hogan said that Spooky Mulder "had holes in his skin where his tissue had melted. I told Scott, 'I don't know if he's going to make it.' We treated him real aggressive with antibiotics, and he responded."

In his first race back, Spooky Mulder won a $75,000 claiming race at Belmont Park. He has finished first or second in 6 of 8 starts since returning from the infection.