ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A wide cross-section of people from racing, academia, business, government and entertainment — even a celebrity chef — have been tasked with remaking the thoroughbred racing scene in New York, home to one leg of the Triple Crown and one of the nation's most storied race meetings.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders unveiled the New York Racing Association Reorganization Board on Thursday, putting Cornell University President Dr. David Skorton in the chairman's job.
A statute enacted earlier this year gives the governor majority control of the NYRA board for three years to reorganize the private entity, which has held the franchise since 1955 to run racing at the Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga tracks. Belmont hosts the final leg of the Triple Crown while Saratoga enjoys a reputation as one of the country's most popular racing destinations.
NYRA has been beset by problems over the past decade including bankruptcy, claims of mismanagement and criminal probes. This spring, regulators replaced two top officers who were fired after the state began investigating $8.5 million in winnings that weren't paid to bettors.
A report released this week by a group of racing-related organizations said thoroughbred racing has a cumulative $4.2 billion effect on the state's economy each year and generates 33,000 full-time jobs.
The directors of the new board include eight appointed by Cuomo, two each by the state Senate and Assembly and five chosen by the former NYRA board. The new board is expected to conduct a national search for a new chief executive and general counsel.
Skorton, a cardiologist, is a professor of biomedical engineering.
Other Cuomo appointees are chef Bobby Flay, a thoroughbred owner who has cooking shows on the Food Network; Jane Rosenthal, a co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival and chief executive of Tribeca Enterprises; Leonard Riggio, chairman of Barnes & Noble Inc.; Anthony Bonomo, chief executive of Administrators for the Professions Inc. and a former litigator; Vincent Tese, executive chairman of Bond Street Holdings and former state economic development director; Joseph Spinelli, managing director of Navigant Consulting and former state inspector general; and state budget director Robert Megna.
Cuomo also named John Hendrickson special adviser to the board for Saratoga. He is breeding and racing manager for Mary Lou Whitney Stables, named for his wife, a storied socialite on the racing scene, particularly in Saratoga.
The Senate's appointees are Long Island builder Michael Dubb, founder of Beechwood Organization, a thoroughbred owner who was appointed to the NYRA board in 2008, and Earle Mack, senior partner at the Mack Company, a former U.S. ambassador and former NYRA board member.
The Assembly's appointees are Michael J. Del Giudice, chairman of Rockland Capital Energy Investments and former chief of staff to the Assembly speaker, and Rick Cotton, executive vice president and general counsel to NBCUniversal and former executive secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.