ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) An Albany insider with longstanding ties to the Cuomo family is taking control of the New York Racing Association after its chairman went on leave just days before its premier event, the Belmont Stakes.
Michael Del Giudice, now the association's vice chairman, will lead the Association board following Chairman Anthony Bonomo's announcement Tuesday that he was stepping away from the job after his medical malpractice insurance company was linked to the corruption case against former state Senate Leader Dean Skelos.
Del Giudice is a veteran of Albany politics, having served as a top aide to former governors Mario Cuomo and Hugh Carey and chief of staff for former Assembly Speaker Stanley Steingut. He advised Gov. Andrew Cuomo following his 2010 election. Del Giudice is chairman of a private equity firm and a senior director at a New York investment banking firm.
NYRA spokesman John Durso Jr. said Wednesday that Del Giudice will lead board meetings until a new chairman is chosen. It's not clear when that will happen. The change in leadership comes as American Pharoah seeks to become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
In a letter informing Cuomo of his leave of absence, Bonomo explained he didn't want ''recent events to distract from the ongoing work of the NYRA.''
Bonomo is CEO of a medical malpractice insurer that prosecutors say provided a ''no-show'' job to Adam Skelos, the son of the former Republican Senate leader. Dean Skelos and his son have both pleaded not guilty to the charges, which also include allegations that Skelos extorted payments for his son from a real estate firm in exchange for his legislative influence.
Neither Bonomo nor his company has been charged with any wrongdoing. Both Skelos and his son have pleaded not guilty in the corruption case.
Cuomo has sought to reshape the long-troubled state-controlled Racing Association following an investigation in 2012 into why $8.5 million in winnings wasn't paid to bettors. The financial problems prompted NYRA to fire its top executive and chief counsel and Cuomo created a temporary board to oversee racing at the Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct tracks.
Cuomo appointed Bonomo chairman of the association's board in April. Bonomo is a thoroughbred breeder, operating Brooklyn Boyz Stables.
Cuomo weighed in on Bonomo's decision to take a leave of absence Wednesday.
''I support NYRA's decisions and his decision,'' Cuomo told reporters on Long Island.
Associated Press writer Frank Eltman contributed to this report from Seaford, New York.