03/03/2008 12:00AM

NYRA seeks another extension


The New York Racing Association will seek a fourth short-term extension to continue to operate Aqueduct racetrack because of delays in coming to terms on a settlement agreement and bankruptcy reorganization plan, NYRA officials said on Monday.

NYRA's current short-term extension expires Thursday, a day after the association was scheduled to appear in bankruptcy court. The court hearing, however, has been postponed to an undetermined date, according to Brian Rosen, an attorney for NYRA, so that the association and the state can continue to work on a final agreement on a 25-year franchise extension.

"Any time you deal with something of this magnitude and an agreement that will run for 25 years, it takes a lot of time to prepare the paperwork," Rosen said.

The state legislature passed a bill on Feb. 13 that granted NYRA a 25-year extension in exchange for the association granting the state undisputed title to the Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga properties. The agreement also called for the legislature to advance NYRA money to allow the association to pay off its creditors under a reorganization plan.

In order for the legislation to go into effect, NYRA needs a legal document that transfers the titles to the state. NYRA is also working on amending its reorganization plan to reflect the details of the legislation.

Rosen said that NYRA did not anticipate having any problem reaching another short-term extension, which has to be granted by the Non-Profit Racing Association Oversight Board. The board has already given NYRA three short-term extensions.

"I'm certain it will be only a matter of talking to the board and filling in the appropriate date," Rosen said.

Charles Hayward, the president of NYRA, said that the association contacted officials at the oversight board and at the New York State Racing and Wagering Board on Monday afternoon to begin the process toward renewing the short-term extension. Hayward said that NYRA would likely seek an extension until at the very least April 1, and possibly as late as April 27, the last day of the Aqueduct meet. Belmont's spring and summer meet is scheduled to begin on April 30.

Hayward said that NYRA will seek to have its bankruptcy hearing postponed until March 19. The association's lawyers will make the request in court on Wednesday, Hayward said.

Hayward also said that NYRA did not expect to have its request denied, citing the board's willingness to grant extensions in the past and the approval of the legislation in February. In addition, Hayward said that negotiations with the state were proceeding smoothly.

"The only reason we haven't gone all the way forward is because the state needs more time to work on the language of the documents," Hayward said. "There are no significant issues going forward."