Category: Archive

Irishman bids for racetracks

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Speaking to gathered press at Tavern on the Green restaurant overlooking Central Park yesterday, Fermanagh-born entrepreneur Karl O’Farrell unveiled details of the bid by his gambling company Capital Play Inc. to buy and operate New York’s three thoroughbred racetracks; Saratoga Racecourse, Belmont Park and Aqueduct.
The Australian based company is offering New York State over $1.8 billion to in guaranteed payments for the racetracks as part of an ambitious plan to develop each site for a specific market and to revitalize horse racing in New York.
O’Farrell, who has lived in Australia for almost 20 years using a marketing strategies that have turned horseracing into Australia’s most popular sport.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel; we’re not curing cancer,” O’Farrell said. “We’re making racing work in New York. It can be done. It has been done in Australia.”
Four consortiums in total are bidding for the contract, including NYRA, which currently controls the racetracks but to date, no group has come close to matching Capital Consortium’s $1.8 billion bid.
O’Farrell’s proposal involves minor developments to the Saratoga track. He plans to reinvent Belmont Park into a top class racing and corporate venue. “We see Belmont as being like Manhattan’s Corporate Dining room,” he said.
Aqueduct, which has faced closure on several occasions, will transform into a “hip,” entertainment center, concert venue and five star hotel complex, capitalizing on its location Near JFK airport.
The Capital Play proposal also includes plans for an aggressive marketing campaigns aimed at attracting younger people, tourists and women to the sport, including concepts that are already popular in Irish racing such as fashion shows and “Best Dressed,” contests
“If you get women onto the track, men will follow,” O’Farrell said.
Hall of Fame Jockey Steve Cauthen also spoke at the gathering to offer his endorsement of O’Farrell’s bid.
“I’m very excited, I’ve raced in Australia and it’s fun and exciting,” said Cauthen, who took the Triple Crown in 1978, winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes with Affirmed. He now breeds horses professionally.
“They’re experienced; they know what they’re doing. I’m excited to be part of the team,” he told the Echo after the meeting.
In return for his support, O’Farrell made Cauthen a promise: “When we win the bid, he will give the Belmont Trophy to the winner on the 30th anniversary of his triple crown to the next triple crown winner at Belmont with Governor Spitzer.”

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