Columbus, OH --- Most people would tell you that the third time is a charm, but not for New York Assemblyman Keith Wright. It was on his fourth try at Yonkers Raceway last Saturday night that the representative from Harlem in New York City was able to earn a trip to the winner’s circle with Strong Signal in the annual Legislators’ Challenge.
|Sean Hamrock photo|
|Assemblyman Keith Wright captured the veterans division in 2:11.3.|
“It was my fourth time, they’ve been doing it for five years and I missed the first one,” said Assemblyman Wright, who captured the veterans division in 2:11.3. “It’s about time that I came home a winner. We (with driver Jason Bartlett) won by two or three lengths.”
This year during the fifth annual Fall Harvest Festival at Yonkers, the Standardbred Owners Association of New York hosted 10 New York State elected officials who participated in three non-wagering races. The Legislators’ Challenge is an event that is designed to be fun for the representatives, but serves a more important function in educating them about harness racing and its economic impact.
“It was absolutely fun,” said Wright with a laugh. “It’s (Legislators’ Challenge) the most exciting racing in the State of New York.”
“This event, hosted by the Standardbred Owners Association, provides an opportunity for New York legislators to experience first-hand this growing industry that creates 33,000 jobs for New Yorkers and generates billions in total economic impact across every region of the state,” said Joseph Faraldo, USTA Director and longtime president of the SOA of NY.
The Legislators’ Challenge provides the opportunity for the elected officials to get a behind-the-scenes look at the people who are dependent on harness racing for their employment.
“We hear theoretically about the economic impact and the jobs that are part of the racing industry,” explained Wright, “but you don’t really see it until you get up close and experience it.
“I’ve been a representative from Harlem for 20 years and I met three people from my district working in different capacities at Yonkers Raceway,” added Wright. “It shows you how important it is. It’s about people’s livelihoods and the ability to feed their families.”
But it’s not just about the people who work at the track. The event provides the opportunity to educate the legislators on the large number of people, products and services that are required to conduct harness racing and the significant economic impact that it has on their constituents throughout the state.
“All New York legislators, even those from urban areas, understand the critical importance of agriculture to our state's economy,” explained Faraldo. “By exposing senators and assemblymen to the inner workings of the end-product through an exciting on-track experience, they learn first-hand how hard horsemen toil in this industry.
“While the tracks provide the venues to conduct the contests, it's the tens of thousands of breeders, owners, trainers, drivers, grooms, vets, farriers, hay and alfalfa farmers, transporters, etc. that are what drives the economic engine,” concluded Faraldo.
Following is the list of legislators that attended and the results of the three races they participated in:
Senator Joseph Griffo (47 SD – Utica) and Assembly Members Andrew Raia (12 AD - Northport), Keith Wright (70 AD - Harlem), Michael Benedetto (82 AD - Bronx), J. Gary Pretlow (89 AD - Mount Vernon), Shelley Mayer (90 AD – Yonkers), Joseph Saladino (9 AD - Massapequa Park), Rafael Espinal Jr. (54 AD – Brooklyn), Andrew Garbarino (7 AD – Bayport) and Frank Skartados (104 AD – Newburgh).
Previous Winners Legislators’ Challenge – Pretlow, Mayer, Saladino; Veterans Legislators’ Challenge – Wright, Benedetto, Raia; and the Rookies Legislators’ Challenge – Gabarino, Skartados, Espinal, Griffo.