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ROCHESTER FIRM INTERESTED IN RACEWAY

Wilmorite Inc., a Rochester-based development company, has shown interest in buying Buffalo Raceway, Finger Lakes Race Track and the Syracuse Mile from Buffalo-based Delaware North Companies Inc., but neither side has reported any progress in early negotiations.

The tracks -- in Hamburg, Canandaigua and Syracuse -- are the last three horse racing tracks owned by Delaware North, which also manages a thoroughbred track in Birmingham, Ala., and owns jai alai frontons and dog tracks in most states where the pari-mutuel betting sports are legal.

"Wilmorite expressed some interest a little over a month ago, but there's been nothing since then," said Sam Gifford, Delaware North spokesman. "There's nothing to say beyond that."

"We just haven't heard back from them," said Robert J. Wilmot, assistant vice president of leasing at Wilmorite. "They had some outside people (financial consultants) looking at it."

Wilmorite, which has developed several shopping malls in the Rochester area, entered the race track business two years ago when it purchased and rebuilt the fire-damaged Freehold Raceway, a track in Freehold, N.J.

Delaware North, a major sports concessionaire through its Sportservice Corp. subsidiary and the nation's largest pari-mutuel operator through Sportsystems Corp., has operated the Buffalo Raceway harness track since 1968 and the Finger Lakes thoroughbred track since 1970. Both were acquired after previous management had financial difficulties.

Delaware North owns the Finger Lakes physical plant, while it leases the facilities at Hamburg and Syracuse. Buffalo Raceway is on the Erie Country Fair Grounds, while Syracuse, which runs a short harness meeting in August, is on the New York State Fair Grounds.

Over the years, the Buffalo company has made no secret of the financial difficulties of its horse tracks.

"It becomes a greater challenge each year to make a profit, especially in horse racing. Costs rise, but income remains stable, particularly in New York State where off-track betting has canceled what used to be an annual growth rate of about 5 percent," Delaware North executive vice president Stanley F. Phillips said in a company publication a few years ago.

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