12/14/2011 12:26AM

Yonkers horsemen get improved, yet shorter deal


While the ink is barely dry and signatures have yet to hit the paper, the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, which represents the horsemen at Yonkers Raceway, have agreed in principal to a new two-year contract with track management covering 2012 and 2013.

The length of the deal is curious considering that the previous agreement covered five years. The time frame seemingly runs in line with the potential approval of table games and full-blown casinos (Governor Andrew Cuomo recently released his plan to seek Vegas-style casinos for New York). Inside sources confirmed that the SOA of NY was unwilling to go beyond two years unless a provision was in place incorporating the possible revenue from increased gaming options. Yonkers management was unwilling to offer future guarantees.

The new agreement comes with some pluses and minuses for both sides. Racing dates drop slightly while the percentage of gaming revenue shared with the horsemen will rise.

Yonkers will race 238 racing programs in 2012, down from 245 the prior year. Racing will begin on Friday, January 13 and continue on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday schedule through December 22. The exception is a planned break in the action from June 3 to June 14.

The horsemen’s take from gaming revenue reached a contract-high of 8.01% in 2011. That number will jump to 8.50% during the next two years. The additional funds should help Yonkers keep one of the premier purse structures in the industry despite the 8 to 10 percent drop-off in gaming revenue brought on by the recent opening of Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack, which is less than two dozen miles away.

In other raceway news, the backstretch barn area remains open despite management’s notice of a possible closure in October of 2011. While track officials retain the right to close the stables down on 30 days notice, they would require New York State Racing and Wagering Board approval to change any part of the plant.