I don’t know that the Thoroughbred racing industry is overloaded with great administrative/executive talent. In fact, it is not – which is one reason there are trouble spots throughout the corporate landscape of horse racing.
A noteworthy exception is the two-man team that has been shepherding the New York Racing Association – Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga – through the ghastly travails of renewing the franchise for racing which expired on December 31, 2007. This would be Charlie Hayward, President, and Steve Duncker, Chairman of NYRA’s Board. It is Charlie’s day job, so he has borne the brunt of steering this battered ship through numerous hazards, most of which have been created by the New York politicians. This all began through the self-serving witch hunt of the previous Attorney General – now Governor – Eliot Spitzer, who sought to build a reputation as a crime fighter and valiant watchdog of the people. The quest for the renewal of the franchise for this nonprofit institution was “snafued” seriously by the ensuing political vendetta of Senate leader Joe Bruno directed at Spitzer. The New York Racing Association was bounced around like a shuttlecock in this melee.
Charlie Hayward kept his cool and then stood his ground when Bruno sought to ridiculously politicize the make up of NYRA. After several two- and three-week franchise extensions, Charlie threatened to close down New York racing, even though it would mean the loss of thousands of jobs – and he would have. At that point, the Governor, House Leader Sheldon Silver, and the loose cannon Bruno, got organized and hammered out a 25-year renewal that was - if not perfect – acceptable, and racing in the key spot of our industry will now continue.
Many people in racing are in it because they want to have fun, and there is pleasure to be gained. This does not include addressing thorny political and governmental issues.
So we all owe a debt of gratitude to the guys in the trenches – Hayward and Duncker. They demonstrated extraordinary patience, self control, guts and super delicate diplomacy. My vote for the Nobel Peace Prize goes to the boys at NYRA. I appreciate their efforts.
This is Cot Campbell, and this is my view.