Category Archives: NYRA

NYRA Giveaways for Saratoga Race Meet

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) is continuing its tradition of premium giveaways with four scheduled during  Summer 2018 meet at Saratoga Race Course. The finest thoroughbred racing has been offered at the Race Course since 1863.

All giveaways are free with paid admission, while supplies last. Season pass or tick plan holders are guaranteed to receive each premium Saratoga giveaway if they are enter Saratoga Race Course through the designated season ticket holder lines on giveaway days and redeem the giveaway by 3 p.m. All redemptions may be claimed starting when gates open to the general public.

NYRA SARATOGA BASEBALL CAP

Sunday, July 22, gates open 10:30 a.m.
Giveaways

 

NYRA SARATOGA UMBRELLA

Monday, August 6, gates open 11 a.m.
It never rains in Saratoga, but girl, don’t they warn ya?
It pours, man, it pours*

 

NYRA SARATOGA BLANKET

Monday, August 20, gates open 11 a.m.

 

NYRA SARATOGA WINDBREAKER

Sunday, September 2

 

Plan ahead to avoid NYRA ticket supplements of 20% – 40%

The cost of a 2018 Grandstand season pass is $40; a Clubhouse season pass is $65. Season passes do not include reserved seating and are valid for one admission.

Single-day Grandstand admission is $5 and Clubhouse admission is $8 for guests who purchase their tickets prior to the day of the event. Single-day Grandstand admission is $7 and Clubhouse admission is $10 when purchased at the gate.

*modified from It Never Rains in Southern California lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC; Songwriters: Albert Hammond / Mike Hazlewood

All photos courtesy of NYRA

 

 

JOCKEYS’ GUILD STATEMENT ON NYRA ISSUES

From: The Jockeys’ Guild, Lexington, KY May 14, 2018.

On Saturday, May 12th, the entire jockey colony at Belmont Park, including Jockeys’ Guild Chairman John Velazquez, as well as Guild Senate members who regularly ride at NYRA tracks, Javier Castellano, Jose L. Ortiz, Irad Ortiz, Jr., and Mike Luzzi met with members of NYRA management, CEO and President Christopher Kay and Vice President of Racing Martin Panza.   When the NYRA Jockey Colony approached NYRA Management for a meeting on Saturday, there was never any intent to harm the owners, trainers, betting public and fans, nor was there ever any intention by the Jockeys to cancel races.  The Guild is an organization that exists for jockeys and is run by jockeys, including present and future Hall of Fame riders at NYRA, and these riders have every right to speak on behalf of the Guild as well as the NYRA jockey colony.

It is not unusual for members of any jockey colony to call a meeting or have discussions with management to voice safety and other concerns.  Many of the issues that were brought before management on Saturday are issues that have been brought to their attention on numerous occasions over the past year, with no resolution.  Several of which include the safety concerns that the Guild has been attempting to bring to the industry’s attention for many years as addressed in a social media post on March 27, 2018.  http://www.jockeysguild.com/news/4182

Although the discussion included concerns regarding the lack of agreement between the Guild and NYRA Management under Industry Partner Agreement, which has been in negotiations since the fall of 2017, it was not the only focus.  Many of the other issues discussed on Saturday are critically important to the health and safety of all jockeys and are issues that have not previously been included in the Agreement between the Jockeys’ Guild and NYRA or any other racetrack.

For more than a year, the Jockeys’ Guild and the riders have talked with NYRA management concerning revising the scale of weights to a minimum of 118 lbs.  A jockey’s published weight includes boots, pants, a light saddle, girth and silks, which typically total 3 to 3-1/2 pounds. With that said, a jockey would have to weigh between 114 and 115 lbs. stripped. In order to make the current weights being used, jockeys are endangering their health, by sitting in the hot box, using extreme dieting, or alternative measures, to lose 4 to 5 pounds each racing day.   In turn, jockeys can suffer severe dehydration and other health issues, which is not in the best interest of the owners, trainers, and betting public.  The scale of 118 lbs. that is being discussed is much lower than other major racing countries.

The field size on the turf courses at Belmont and Aqueduct has been another area of concern that the NYRA Jockey Colony has brought to the attention of NYRA Management over the past couple of years.  Riders are concerned for their safety and their horse’s safety because of the configuration of the turf course in races of certain distances.   In addition to the dangers, due to the field size, it potentially impacts the outcome of the races, which is not fair to owners, trainers, and the betting public.  However, Management has continued to write races with these field sizes.

One of the greatest areas of concern facing all jockeys throughout the country, including those at NYRA, is concussions and the lack of protocols and return to ride guidelines.  Racing still remains one of the only sports, professional or amateur, in the country that does not have some sort of standard in place with regards to concussions.  Additionally, the United States is one of the only major racing countries that do not have such standards.  After longtime NYRA Jockey Ramon Dominguez suffered a career ending head injury, Dr. Kenneth Perrine, Ph.D., of New York Presbyterian/Weill-Cornell Medical Center spoke at the 2014 Jockeys’ Guild Annual Assembly and said, “[J]unior high school soccer girls have more in place for looking at, managing, and treating concussions.”   This is an area that the Guild has been working to address for several years.  Most recently, the ARCI adopted a Model Rule regarding racetracks and concussions.  The Guild, in collaboration with the University of Kentucky, MedStar, and New York Institute of Technology, has created “Concussion Management and Return to Ride Guidelines”, which were approved and supported by the Jockeys’ Guild Board.  However, after several discussions, NYRA Management has stated it is not willing to pay to implement such protocols and is not willing to assume the liability of making a determination if a jockey is fit to ride after experiencing a fall that could potentially have caused the jockey to suffer a concussion or head injury.   They have stated that it is up to the individual jockey to make that decision.  However, many times, jockeys who have sustained a concussion are unaware of the severity of their injuries.  This is a major area of concern as a jockey who is potentially unfit to ride, but is allowed to do so, is not only a danger to him or herself, but also the other jockeys and horses in the race.

Unfortunately, another NYRA jockey suffered a concussion on Saturday morning during training hours.

As such, although not directly discussed on Saturday with NYRA Management, there is concern as to whether there was adequate staffing to handle such incidents.  One of the greatest areas of concern for the Guild is the assurance that racetracks have proper medical personnel, including having paramedics on the racetrack, both during training and racing hours.  Since NYRA was initially accredited by the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance, the Guild was led to believe that NYRA had provided a properly equipped to transport ambulance, “staffed with at least one certified paramedic during training and two certified paramedics during racing hours.”  However, in October of 2017, after legislation was adopted in New York requiring paramedics, it was brought to the attention of the Guild and the NYRA Jockey Colony that this was not in fact the case, even though NYRA had been accredited several times by the NTRA.  Not only has this caused distrust with NYRA, it also led to additional questions regarding the validity of the NTRA Accreditation process, as outlined in the attached letter to Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of NTRA, on February 6, 2018.  Having paramedics is not only important for the welfare of jockeys but all racetrack personnel including exercise riders, horsemen, etc.

Beginning in the fall of 2017, the NYRA Jockey Colony approached NYRA Management about the lack of cleanliness in the Jockeys’ Quarters at Aqueduct.  Specifically, their concerns were lack of hot water, mold in the showers, and a horrendous stench in the steam room.  The mold and the smell were addressed in a reasonable timeframe.  When the issue regarding the lack of hot water was brought to the attention of NYRA Management, the Guild was advised that it would be a period of time before this was corrected.  However, six months later, there is still not any hot water.  Regardless, all aspects of the Aqueduct Jockeys’ Quarters need to be renovated.

In addition to the safety and welfare concerns, other issues that the NYRA Jockey Colony has previously approached NYRA Management about includes the use of funds from the NYRA Purse Account to pay for bonus programs and the refusal to assist with contributions from the NYRA Jockeys to a retirement account.

Guild and its representatives had a productive meeting with NYTHA representatives, addressing the bonus programs, along with other matters.

In the summer of 2017, the Guild established a retirement account in which its members could contribute through the horsemen’s bookkeeper.  During the Saratoga Meet, many of the NYRA Jockey Colony members gave authorization to NYRA to deduct a portion of what the jockey earns and submit it to the administrator of the retirement account.  However, although the Guild paid for the software updates, NYRA Management has continued to refuse to implement the deductions.

In conjunction with its disregard of the concerns of the NYRA Jockey Colony, NYRA Management has continued to show a total disrespect for the members of the colony who regularly ride in New York.  Most recently, a text was sent last week to all NYTHA Horsemen promoting two individual, out of town jockeys who were coming to ride at Belmont Park on Saturday, advising the horsemen that these individuals would be available for mounts.  This is not a standard practice and was very troubling to the NYRA Jockey Colony, their agents, and other jockeys who came in to ride that day.

The Industry Partner Agreement between the Guild and NYRA, which was referred to by the NYRA Jockey Colony and NYRA Management in statements issued after the delay of racing Saturday, expired on December 31, 2017.  Although an agreement has not been reached, NYRA has continued to make payments.  However, the lack of an agreement has been troublesome to the NYRA Jockey Colony.  The majority of racetracks throughout the country have continued to contribute to the Guild under such Industry Partner Agreements, which are similar to those dating back to 1968.  The Guild has used funds received from the Industry Partner Agreements to provide temporary disability benefits, life and accidental death and dismemberment polices, and offset the out of pocket expenses for health and disability coverage for qualifying active and disabled jockeys.   During the ongoing negotiations, there have been several significant issues that have yet to be resolved.

In response to comments made by NYRA Management to the press, the Guild’s Counsel had sent follow up communication with a redrafted proposal to NYRA’s Attorneys on March 12, 2018. On March 14, 2018, NYRA’s counsel responded in an email stating, “We had a conference call to further explore the issues, but nothing was agreed upon.  I will have to discuss these items with NYRA Management and get back to you.”    There had been no further communication from NYRA Counsel, until today, Monday, May 14th.  This was only subsequent to the meeting held on Saturday and the statements by Guild Representatives made to the press, as well as posts on social media indicating a release of the Guild’s position would be forthcoming.

In light of the continued frustration and lack of response by NYRA Management, the NYRA Jockey Colony strongly believes that many of the areas of concern need to be included in the Industry Partner Agreement with NYRA moving forward.  The intent behind all of the concerns is to protect both the equine and human athletes, as well as provide adequate benefits for the jockeys who are regularly risking their lives at NYRA.

 

For more information, contact Jockeys’ Guild 859-523-5625

Belmont Park Development RFP OK’d by Franchise Oversight Board

In a 16-minute meeting Friday, July 28, the Franchise Oversight Board (FOB) that oversees the racing franchise and properties associated with the New York Racing Association (NYRA) reviewed and approved the release of a request for proposal (RFP) that covers long-term leasing for development of a maximum of approximately 43 acres on and adjacent to Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. This RFP differs from one released in 2012, in that it adds for development approximately seven acres of land currently under lease to NYRA. It is expected the New York Islanders will participate in the RFP to develop a sports facility on the proposed site.

FOB Chairman Robert Williams explained the goal for the RFP, developed by Empire State Development (ESD) for the board, is to

Strengthen Belmont as a premier destination for entertainment, sports, recreation, retail and hospitality on Long Island … In doing so, the projects must be complementary to horse racing and parimutuel wagering, and, maximize the economic benefits to the state while minimizing the state’s economic and environmental risk.

There are two parcels of property covered by the RFP. Site A is approximately 8 acres adjacent to the Belmont Park Clubhouse and bordered to the west by the Belmont Park spur of the Long Island Rail Road. Site B is across the street from Belmont Park comprising approximately 28 acres along Hempstead Turnpike.. In its current iteration the RFP offers a Site A-alternative option of adding seven acres – probably adjacent to Belmont Park’s Grandstand and Paddock area. Developers are required to submit plans that include both A and B sites; whether or not they submit plans for the additional seven acres for Site A is optional.

The ESD offered no rationale for the decision to add actively-leased property to the RFP. When asked about the actual configuration of Site A-alternative, the ESD representative said, “We haven’t prescribed in this RFP how this 15 acres is put together … (we are) flexible in terms of how that 15 acres is put together.”

ESD representatives said at this stage there was no expectation for bidders to consult with NYRA concerning the impact of the development project on NYRA’s activities. With regard to incorporating land already leased to NYRA as part of a development proposal, the ESD representative said any arrangement would have to be worked out in that scenario.

Saratoga Alliance Puts Cuomo Racing Plan Out to Pasture

According to a coalition of Saratoga Springs racing, political and business interests, the New York Racing Association’s reprivatization options presented in a plan to Governor Andrew Cuomo have been set aside. In their place is an outline that cedes control of NYRA to the state via an executive board stacked with public appointees, and financial and operational controls spread around the state’s bureaucracy.

What was. What is.

In 2012, irregularities in takeouts of exotic wagers were the tipping point that brought NYRA into a forced partnership with the state; the governor and legislators enacted the New York State Racing Franchise Accountability and Transparency Act of 2012. Originally scheduled to return to private ownership in 2015, NYRA produced a plan the governor elected not to pursue, and instead, extended state control for one year.

Earlier this year, NYRA submitted a reorganization plan with three options for going forward:

  • An option where the board of directors was made up of private sector members
  • An option where there were four publicly appointed members of the board of directors
  • An option to extend the current status of NYRA for another year

Shhh!

In Albany, nary a peep has been said on the record about the proposed reprivatization plans. Queries to legislators in both houses confirmed they had not been apprised of the Cuomo version.

However, the Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing has been monitoring the matter. It maintains that Cuomo is seeking to hold public control of NYRA and raid NYRA’s legally designated coffers to boost the general fund.

In a statement from the Concerned Citizens, released over the signature of Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus, the leadership group made its position clear:

We are vehemently opposed to the transfer of funds legally designated via prior agreements to support our state’s Thoroughbred racing industry into the state’s general fund. This change ignores the fact that New York State was given $1 billion in real estate at NYRA’s three tracks in return for the granting of a 25-year franchise agreement and a legislatively-approved revenue sharing formula from the VLT at Aqueduct. The VLT revenues are like mortgage payments for the land.

The Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing has been able to parse out these points of the Executive Chamber’s reorganization plan:

The Governor’s proposal will:

  • Allow the Governor to appoint one-third of the members to the new NYRA board of directors or 5 of the 15 members;
  • With one member also appointed by the Senate and Assembly, there would be at least 7 of the 15 members appointed directly by our state government;
  • The Governor would also appoint the new Chair of the board of directors;
  • Transfer VLT funds away from NYRA that were previously designed for Capital improvements at Belmont, Aqueduct and the Saratoga Race Course as well as funds for NYRA operations;
  • Provide sweeping new powers to various public agencies expanding their role from oversight to protect the public good, to empowering these agencies to be able to manipulate NYRA’s budget and operations.

Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing Rejects Governor’s NYRA Re-privatization Plan

(Press Release)

The Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing rejects a re-privatization plan now being circulated by Governor Cuomo that seeks to retain public control of NYRA and to unilaterally transfer funds legally designated for our state’s Thoroughbred racing industry into the state’s general fund.

The Governor’s proposal will:

  • Allow the Governor to appoint one-third of the members to the new NYRA board of directors or 5 of the 15 members;
  • With one member also appointed by the Senate and Assembly, there would be at least 7 of the 15 members appointed directly by our state government;
  • The Governor would also appoint the new Chair of the Board of Directors;
  • Transfer VLT funds away from NYRA that were previously designed for Capital improvements at Belmont, Aqueduct and the Saratoga Race Course as well as funds for NYRA operations;
  • Provide sweeping new powers to various public agencies expanding their role from oversight to protect the public good, to empowering these agencies to be able to manipulate NYRA’s budget and operations.

Four years ago, this Governor promised to return NYRA to a not-for-profit corporation in three years. He did not keep that promise last year. This year, his plan is another means by which he is seeking to exert his control over NYRA and the future of our state’s Thoroughbred racing industry.

We are vehemently opposed to the transfer of funds legally designated via prior agreements to support our state’s Thoroughbred racing industry into the state’s general fund. This change ignores the fact that New York State was given $1 billion in real estate at NYRA’s three tracks in return for the granting of a 25-year franchise agreement and a legislatively-approved revenue sharing formula from the VLT at Aqueduct. The VLT revenues are like mortgage payments for the land. If they can change the agreement this year, they will change it next year too.

We’re seeing a renaissance of racing in Saratoga and New York State. Here in Saratoga our race meeting is one of the most successful and most popular in all of the world. The Saratoga Race Course is the oldest sporting venue in the United States and the transfer of funds away from NYRA as proposed by the Governor could harm our plans to improve this facility so that it succeeds for another 150 years.

We greatly appreciate the efforts of Saratoga’s local legislators working collaboratively with the Capital Region’s delegation and the Chairs of the Assembly and Senate Racing Committees to re-privatize NYRA as a not-for-profit corporation. They clearly want to keep this promise before the legislative session ends this June. We hope that they will provide a clean stand-alone bill for the Governor to sign.
Members of the Executive Board of the Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing include: Maureen Lewi, Chair; Todd Shimkus; Charles Wait; John Hendrickson; Matt Jones; Cindy Hollowood; and Rod Sutton.

Todd L. Shimkus, CCE
President
Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce
28 Clinton Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
www.saratoga.org

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF THE NYRA REPRIVATIZATION PLAN

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF THE NYRA REPRIVATIZATION PLAN

Introduction

Pursuant to The New York State Racing Franchise Accountability and Transparency Act of 2012, NYRA management has a statutory plan for its prospective not-for-profit governing structure, which is comprised of three parts: 1) summary of NYRA’s reorganization efforts to date; 2) proposals for NYRA’s legal and governance structures; and 3) NYRA’s 2014 and 2015 actual results, approved 2016 budget, and proposed 2017 financial plan.

 

1. NYRA’s Reorganization Efforts – A Board-led Transformation: Progress and Accomplishments

       

The Reorganization Board has worked for the past three (and in particular, the past two) years with the NYRA management team to effectuate the change, and achieve the results, sought by Governor Cuomo.  The Board has succeeded in a way that makes the New York Racing Association stronger, better run, more trustworthy, and much better  able to continue to generate the significant economic impact, jobs and tourism that Governor Cuomo and the Legislature envisioned when they made the change in NYRA’s Board structure.

 

NYRA is under New Management – The management of NYRA has been transformed by new leaders with successful and established careers outside of NYRA.  Led by CEO and President Chris Kay, NYRA also has a new General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer, who formerly served as global General Counsel for one of the “Big Four” accounting firms (Deloitte); a Senior Vice President for Racing Operations from California’s Hollywood Park (pursuant to NYS 2012 Task Force recommendations); a Senior Vice President and Chief Experience Officer (the first in the sports industry) who formerly served as an executive with a sporting goods company and with a major movie company; a new Vice President of Security, who formerly served as the Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service’s New York Field Office, as well other new hires at various leadership levels throughout the company.  

 

Financial Performance – NYRA has instituted several initiatives to reduce costs and generate additional revenues. As a result, in 2014 NYRA achieved an operating surplus of approximately $1.7 million, its first operating surplus in recent years, and NYRA’s surplus will be $3.5 million in 2015.  NYRA is also debt-free for the first time in years, having paid off a $25 million note to Genting.

 

Governance, Integrity and Accountability – NYRA has made extensive operating reforms in areas such as risk management, compliance, corporate governance and attention to legal issues. For example, NYRA has changed from a local auditor to KPMG, one of the “Big Four” auditing firms. Over the last several years, NYRA’s audits have been “clean”, i.e. in the view of KPMG our financial statements accurately present, in all material respects, the financial position of NYRA.

 

Economic Impact – NYRA is the cornerstone of New York State’s horse racing industry, which generates $2.1 billion in annual economic impact and over 17,000 statewide jobs.  With a commitment to generate more tourism and provide greater financial incentives to NY bred owners, NYRA’s operation of Saratoga Race Course alone is responsible for the creation of an annual economic impact of more than $237 million in the Capital Region, a significant boost to that local economy which continues to grow.

 

NYRA DRAFT – 04.12.16

 

 

 

Safer Horseracing – NYRA has instituted a number of changes to improve equine safety for the equine athletes and jockeys, such as empowering veterinarians to take action when necessary, requiring record keeping on certain drug administrations, establishing a system for jockeys to report violations, creating a Board committee on equine safety, hiring a safety steward, and many others.  The number of equine catastrophic injuries on NYRA racetracks is below the average nationwide.

 

Improving the Quality of Racing – NYRA has made racing much more enjoyable for stakeholders and guests by creating “must see” big events days such as (a) Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, with over $10 million in purses, and many guest-centric innovations; (b) Stars & Stripes Day with horses competing from around the world; (c) increased grades stakes and purses on Whitney Day; and (d) a robust Travers card of races (“Saratoga’s version of the Breeders’ Cup”). NYRA broke records for wagering on Belmont Stakes Day and for the Saratoga meet. NYRA has also created new events that shine a bright light on New York agriculture, such as our Taste NY weekly Saratoga events, and Saratoga Showcase Day, which features New York bred horses.   

 

Support for New York Breeders – NYRA is dedicated to New York bred horses, and has worked closely with the New York Thoroughbred Breeders to make New York one of the few states to see an increase in the number of foals in recent years.  NYRA devoted almost $40 million in purses to owners of New York bred horses in 2014, and a like amount in 2015.  

Support for the Backstretch Workers – Over the last two years, a number of dormitory renovations has taken place at all three racetracks.  New construction on the first of three large dormitories at Belmont commenced in 2015, as part of a multi-year, $28.8 million renovation/new construction program.

Enhancing the Guest Experience – NYRA has taken considerable steps to improve the experience for all fans at all tracks, including:

 

Belmont Park:

  • NYRA installed 378 high-definition televisions and 3 high-definition video boards, as well as provided several high-definition “point of view” cameras for fans to customize the way they watch horse workouts, horses in the paddock, and the races. At the finish line, NYRA has also installed a high-definition slow motion camera.
  • At the 2015 Belmont Stakes, fans were able to experience a great package of entertainment, including performances by the United States Military Academy at West Point’s veteran band, the Jersey Boys, and the Goo Goo Dolls, who also performed a concert after the last race.
  • NYRA limited the attendance to 90,000 and, working with LIRR, completely renovated the LIRR station, all of which made ingress and egress much more pleasant and manageable for fans.

 

Saratoga Race Course:

  • NYRA installed 1,063 new high-definition televisions, three new high-definition video boards, enhanced Wi-Fi capacity, and a new sound system.
  • NYRA expanded the Saratoga Pavilion, which is the home of several Taste NY events, one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature initiatives. Each Thursday, Friday and Sunday, NYRA features Taste NY wines, beers and food products.
  • NYRA created the Walk of Fame, an open-air pavilion honoring the recipients of the prestigious “Red Jacket” award, created in 2013 to honor the best owners, trainers and jockeys in our sport, thus giving fans of all ages a way to “connect” with our stars.
  • NYRA opened a state-of-the-art sports bar in what was formerly known as the lower Carousel, enabling fans to reserve tables and watch other sporting events in addition to our great races throughout the day.

 

Aqueduct Racetrack:

  • NYRA constructed a state-of-the-art simulcast center, Longshots, with 270 dedicated carrels, a sports bar, and dozens of new high-definition televisions.
  • NYRA installed new flooring, airport-style seating and lighting within the clubhouse, as well as 507 new high-definition televisions.
  • NYRA created an urban art program unveiled in 2013 featuring vibrant, horse-themed murals from internationally renowned “street artists” throughout the second floor and on our exterior walls.

 

OLD NYRA CURRENT – NEW YORK RACING ASSOCIATION
•       $25 Million in debt since 2011.

 

•       Inconsistent profitability. .

 

•       Improper calculation of exotic wagering take-out (20112012).

 

•       High rate of equine catastrophic injuries, 38 in total in 2012.

 

•       Inadequate investment in facilities, especially those used by customers.

 

•       Debt free as of April 2014.

 

•       $1.7 million operating surplus for 2014 and $3.5 million in 2015.  First back-to-back profitability since the bankruptcy.

 

•       Implemented wagering accountability processes in 2013.

 

•       Equine injuries below the national average in 2013, 2014, and 2015 with 22, 24 and 19 respectively.

 

•       Spent $20+ million at all three racetracks during 2013-2015 to enhance the guest experience.

 

 

2. Proposals for NYRA’s Legal and Governance Structure

 

Legal Structure – Section 207(1)(d) of the Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law requires the Reorganization Board to “propose, no less than one hundred eighty days prior to its termination, recommendations to the governor and the state legislature representing a statutory plan for the prospective not-for-profit governing structure of The New York Racing Association”, and the statutory notes clarify that the “franchise shall be returned to private control, remaining in the form of a not-for-profit corporation.”  Therefore, going forward, NYRA will continue to be organized as a New York not-for-profit company and will be under private control.    

Governance – Upon consultations with various constituencies, NYRA offers the following options relative to the selection and terms of the new NYRA Board:

 

Option 1.  NYRA Board to have Majority of Private Members and Four Publicly

Appointed Members.  The NYRA Board will have 15 members, all with equal voting rights.  Two members will be selected by the Governor, one of which will be the first Chair. One member will be selected by the Temporary President of the Senate and one member will be selected by the Speaker of the Assembly. Ten members will be selected by the current Executive Committee of the Board upon the recommendation of the Nominations and Governance Committee.

 

Option 2.  NYRA Board to have All Private Members.  The NYRA Board will have 15 members, all with equal voting rights.  All members and the Chair will be selected by the current Executive Committee of the Board upon the recommendation of the Nominations and Governance Committee.

With respect to options 1 and 2, prior to its recommendations, the Nominations and Governance Committee will have held soundings with all members of the existing Board.  The NYRA CEO will also be a full member of the Board, and the following will be in effect:

  • Board Terms: Three years, and eligible for two additional terms.  Terms will rotate, starting end of 2017.
  • Ex Officio Non-Voting Members: To include representatives from the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA) and New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. (NY Breeders), with Board empowered to add others.
  • Board Committees: Keep current statutory committees:  Compensation; Finance; Nominating, and Executive.  We would add two non-statutory committees: Equine Safety and Racing Committees, both of which are currently operating.
  • To ensure transparency, NYRA will post on its website the reports of the CEO and CFO (and, as applicable, the Chair) from each Board meeting.

 

Option 3.  NYRA Reorganization Board to Remain in Place.  The Governor and Legislature may choose to retain the status quo and extend the tenure of the Reorganization Board for one additional year.

 3.  Financial Plan

In 2014, NYRA recorded its first operating surplus ($1.7 million) in recent years, as a result of our implementation of several revenue enhancing and cost saving initiatives.  NYRA budgeted a surplus of $2.2 million in 2015 (which is now $3.5 million), has budgeted a surplus of $2.3 million in 2016, and projects a $2.8 million surplus in 2017.  These operating surpluses, year over year, reflects our commitment to strong business processes and disciplines, which results in prudent cost cutting, strategic investments, and revenue enhancing initiatives.

Racehorse Retirement Final Frontier

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Grand Strand wins Maiden Claiming at Belmont, 7/10/14
Photo courtesy of NYRA/Coglianese
As the presenters at a racehorse retirement conclave in Saratoga Springs, New York, outlined their strategies for protecting racehorses after they leave racing, Grand Strand, one of those would-be retirees, was settling into a Pennsylvania quarantine stall after he was swooped from a kill-buyer’s bid the day before at the horse-hell known as “New Holland.” Three days after the daylong meeting that applauded how New York’s racehorses are placed after retirement, NY-bred Morning Herald went through the Unadilla, New York livestock auction where a woman and her 15-year old daughter outbid a handful of kill-buyers.

On Sept. 1, the New York State Gaming Commission’s Retired Racehorse Summit proceeded live (and online) at the elegant Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion. One panel covered Standardbreds and harness racing, the rest of the program focused on Thoroughbreds.

Where million dollar thoroughbred yearlings sold a few weeks before, the summit’s presenters outlined their goals and talked about funding thoroughbred retirement in terms of millions of dollars. Speakers from organizations representing New York’s thoroughbred racing industry outlined their plans to stream hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) that gives grants to over 40 racehorse retirement groups, including six facilities in New York.

While the attending thoroughbred retirement organizations do impressive work with horses surrendered straight off the track and providing prizes for retired Thoroughbreds participating in competitions, they and the industry need to address the truth that is tough to face. There are still former racehorses, with bright futures, dumped at livestock auctions that feed the appetite of the Canadian and Mexican horse slaughterhouses.

At the livestock auctions

Grand Strand

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Above: Grand Strand tethered at New Holland. Below left: Grand Strand’s wary glance at the auction. Photos courtesy of Omega Horse Rescue

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At the same time as the summit, the downward spiral, then rescue of Grand Strand played out on social media. It turns out he was spotted and identified the day before the summit, Monday, August 31, at the New Holland, Pennsylvania, horse auction. He was found by a representative from Omega Horse Rescue, who attends that auction to pluck former race horses from the maw of horse slaughter. The spotter alerted Mindy Lovell at Transitions Thoroughbreds. Lovell identified him by his tattoo and committed the funds to buy him outright at the auction. She knew the Canadian slaughterhouses needed a high number of horses to fulfill contracts that week and a horse like Grand Strand could easily disappear onto a truck heading north.

As the spotter engaged in bidding, the kill-buyers who buy horses for their meat and dislike do-good interlopers in their domain, drove the price far above what they would pay per pound for meat. Grand Strand sold for $950, about double the going meat-horse price at that sale. Horses that sell for meat ship to Canada or Mexico to slaughter. Traditionally, the meat is sold in Europe, Russia and Japan.

Morning Herald

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Above: A resigned Morning Herald tied at Unadilla. Below right: Morning Herald’s to-slaughter back-tag. Photos courtesy of Little Brook Farm.

Late afternoon, Sept. 4, Morning Herald was tied in the back of D.R. Chambers & Sons auction in Unadilla, New York. He whinnied to a teenage girl who was at the sale using her 15th birthday money to buy tack for a rescue, not a horse. After she went over to see him, plans changed. She enlisted her mother and they resolved to buy the friendly, big brown horse who was back-tagged for slaughter. There was no way they were going home without him.
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They checked his lip for a tattoo, there was one, but they were unable to identify him before the sale; afterward he was identified with the help of a veterinarian and the Jockey Club. Once Morning Herald entered the ring, it was between mother-and-daughter and the kill-buyers, no one else was bidding. When the price reached $460, the auctioneer dropped his hammer on the mother’s bid, at almost twice the going rate for meat-horses that night. With the Coggins blood test and auction fees, the total came to $537.40; shipping to East Chatham cost $80; veterinary costs are still accruing.

After learning about Morning Herald’s plight, a good Samaritan has given money to cover initial veterinary costs.

From Racing Prospect to Racehorse

Grand Strand
Grand Strand was born in 2011 and raised in Kentucky, a son of the highly regarded stallion, Tiznow. In 2012, he traveled to Saratoga to the elite Fasig-Tipton Sale of yearlings. As Hip No. 39, the young Grand Strand stood in the same pavilion, on the same platform where the aftercare summit would be held three years later, and the bids came in. He sold for $300,000.

Grand Strand spent most of his career on the highly competitive New York Racing Association circuit of Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. He won a couple of lower level claiming races. Through claims, he changed owners from Centennial Farms to David Jacobson to Nicholaos Panapoulos. His last race in New York was May 3, 2015, he came in fifth in a Belmont Park claimer with a $14,000 claiming tag. Grand Strand then moved to Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, for his final four races. His last race was July 12, 2015, he came in fourth earning $1,080. The official race chart’s comments on his performance are: wide, stalked, gamely.

Overall, Grand Strand raced 21 times, was on the board 8 times and earned $92, 509.

Morning Herald
Morning Herald was bred by Stonegate Stables, near Saratoga Springs. He raced 49 times at Finger Lakes Race Track, Farmington, New York.

A 2008 son of the hard-knocking multimillionaire racehorse Say Florida Sandy, Morning Herald won $96,887, racing his whole career for Everett Estabrooks’ Whitestone Farm. He won three races in the last and best year of his blue-collar career. His final race was Dec.1, 2014; he earned $315 for fifth place.

From racehorse to livestock auction rescue

Grand Strand
The path taking Grand Strand to New Holland is unclear. On July 20, 2015, Grand Strand’s trainer Ramon Preciado signed him over for $1 to used car dealer Salvador Dip of Freehold and Elizabeth, New Jersey. Grand Strand’s trail is documented to the transfer to Dip, after that it disappears until New Holland.

In a call to Salvador Dip, named as buyer on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission Bill of Sale that was notarized by his son Dairon, Dip said the horse was sold to a woman as a riding horse and he had a bill of sale. Other than that, what happened to Grand Strand between July 20 after leaving Parx and selling August 31 in New Holland is unknown. However, prominent ribs, cuts, scrapes and scratches on his body and legs, and a markedly swollen hind leg reveal recent neglect.

At New Holland, how Grand Strand got there was not a concern to Lovell, the focus was on winning the bid, and arranging his transfer for a month to the quarantine facility. Horses coming from auctions like New Holland and Unadilla are quarantined because of the frequency of highly contagious diseases that crop up in auction-horse populations that are stressed and crowded into often-contaminated quarters. After 30 days in quarantine, the risk of bringing a communicable disease, like strangles, to a new home is low.

While in quarantine, Grand Strand will be evaluated and treatment started for any rehabilitation. He’ll be vaccinated, checked for parasites and treated accordingly. After quarantine he will travel to Lovell’s farm for training and a career as a riding horse.

Upon finding out the plight of the horse he had recently given to Dip, former trainer Ramon Preciado reimbursed Lovell for Grand Strand’s purchase and quarantine costs. Years ago, a former Preciado-trained gelding Little Cliff ended up at New Holland and was rescued. Uproar over the near-fate of the popular Little Cliff initiated the Turning for Home racehorse retirement and rehoming program based on the grounds of Parx.

Morning Herald
There is no trail of how Morning Herald went from being a barn favorite at Finger Lakes to the Unadilla auction. Through the kindness of a shipper, friends and the guidance of Lynn Cross from Little Brook Farm Horse Rescue, the teenager and her mother brought Morning Herald home to East Chatham, New York and are taking care of his quarantine. His veterinary evaluations show a recent substantial wound, a slight soreness in his hind end and overall neglect.

When Morning Herald’s former owner Everett Estabrooks was contacted, he couldn’t remember to whom he gave the horse. Estabrooks did know that between the time he gave away Morning Herald and he appeared at Unadilla, the horse changed hands “three times.”

Like Grand Strand, while Morning Herald is under quarantine he will receive the care needed to bring him back to health. According to his new owners, he was withdrawn and nervous when he first arrived, now he brightens up, seeking a treat when he hears the crackle of a peppermint wrapper. The long-term plan for Morning Herald is to find him a carefully screened, permanent home as a riding horse.

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Morning Herald picking at some grass in his quarantine pen.
Photo courtesy of Little Brook Farm
 

Like closing the barn door after the horse escapes

In New York and Pennsylvania, it is often the smaller rescues without hefty endowments or wealthy benefactors, most unaffiliated with the TAA, and a network of individuals, who go to the livestock auctions to keep former racehorses from entering the slaughter pipeline.

Both Parx and Finger Lakes racetracks have on-site retirement and adoption facilities; the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program is accredited by and a grantee of the TAA. There has been no reason given why Grand Strand and Morning Herald weren’t sent to their respective retirement programs.

Grand Strand’s and Morning Herald’s examples are merely two of an unknown number of racehorses and former racehorses, that while eligible for aftercare programs, still fall through the cracks by no fault of their own. They are young, sound, healthy (aside from neglect), and good-tempered, not what you would think of as cast-offs.

(Disclosure: Liz O’Connell was a member of the New York State Task Force on Retired Racehorses)

NYRA Stalls On Belmont Stakes Attendance Request

On August 12, 2015, I made a simple request under the Freedom of Information Law for the attendance numbers on Belmont Stakes Day, June 11, 2015. See below in blue type.

When NYRA was taken over by the State of New York, the mandate to the newly formed NYRA board was

“This temporary reorganization board shall be under public control to ensure The New York Racing Association, Inc. works in the best interest of all stakeholders in horse racing including fans, owners and breeders by managing the state racing franchise with transparency and accountability.”

A copy of the legislation can be found here.

Transparent? Like lead.

Rather than supply the information as requested, NYRA though its Records Access Officer Iris Roberts has chosen to stall its response for 20 business days.  See below in red type.

 

8/20/2015                                                                                                   Gmail ­ FOIL Request

Dear Ms. Roberts/Records Access Officer, 

This is a request under the New York State Freedom of Information/Open Meetings Law. On 12/12/12 the NYRA board moved that NYRA would conduct business subject to compliance with the NYS Open Meetings Law and NYS Freedom of Information Law. http://www.nyra.com/assets/1/7/Reorg_Board_Minutes_Dec._12,_2012.pdf

Please email the following records:

Attendance numbers, not the attendance cap, for the 2015 Belmont Stakes day, June 11, 2105.

If any the requested records cannot be emailed to me, please inform me by email of the portions that can be emailed and advise me of the cost for reproducing the remainder of the records requested ($0.25 per page or actual cost of reproduction).Please advise me of the appropriate time during normal business hours for inspecting the above records requested prior to obtaining copies.

If my request is too broad or does not reasonably describe the records, please contact me via email so that I may clarify my request, and when appropriate inform me of the manner in which records are filed, retrieved or generated.

If it is necessary to modify my request, and an email response is not preferred, please contact me at the following telephone number: XXXXXXXXXX.

If for any reason any portion of my request is denied, please inform me of the reasons for the denial in writing and provide the name, address and email address of the person or body to whom an appeal should be directed. Thank you,

Liz O’Connell.

1/1August 19, 2015

Dear Ms. O’Connell:

On behalf of The New York Racing Association, Inc., I hereby acknowledge receipt of your Freedom of Information Law request received August 12, 2015. Your request is being reviewed and you will be provided with a further response within 20 business days hereof.  

Best regards,

Iris Roberts

Iris Roberts, Esq.

Records Access Officer

 

 

Legendary Native Dancer Honored in Maryland

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Eric Guerin up on two time Horse of the Year Native Dancer.
Photo courtesy of NYRA/Coglianese
Last Thursday night, Native Dancer became the first horse inducted into the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame. Raised and trained at his owner-breeder Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Jr.’s Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, Maryland, Native Dancer raced for three years, mesmerizing millions of fans both at the track and on newsreels and nascent television broadcasts.

The Galloping Ghost

Dubbed the Gray Ghost, the physically stunning colt won 21 of 22 races. His only loss was in the Kentucky Derby; he came in second. Going in as favorite, given his undefeated record over a course of nine rigorous races, the Triple Crown was Native Dancer’s to lose. What came between him and the turf’s Holy Grail, was a calamitous trip — from a fraught start to running out of track in his brilliant rally to not quite take down the winner, Dark Star.

The New York Times‘ turf writer Red Smith wrote:

At the end Native Dancer was going fastest, but the end came a stride too soon. It was Dark Star’s head that caught the camera.

Disappointing as the loss was, Native Dancer’s speed and physical beauty ensnared the nation’s psyche to the extent he was on the cover of Time magazine, and, television and theater newsreels broadcast his life both on the racetrack and at Sagamore where he retired to stud.

Native Dancer’s sons exert far-reaching influence.

It is as a stallion that Native Dancer’s influence on the modern thoroughbred race horse reaches into the furthest corners of pedigrees in champions and claiming horses alike. The Dancer’s immediate offspring acquitted themselves well, among them Kentucky Derby winners Kauai King and Dancer’s Image*, and stakes horses Raise a Native and Native Charger.

Freakishly fast but physically fragile, Raise a Native sired the likes of Majestic Prince (Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner), and Alydar (second in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, graded stakes winner). Although they could be ranked at best as respectable race horses, it was Raise a Native’s sons Exclusive Native and Mr. Prospector who truly shone as sires.

Exclusive Native sired 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed and the Kentucky Derby winning filly Genuine Risk. Mr. Prospector was a sire of sires, including Fappiano, Gulch, Forty Niner and Seeking the Gold. According to international pedigree authority Sid Fernando:

Mr. Prospector, a sprinter at the track, stood at Claiborne after beginning his career in Florida, and what he brought to the table as a sire — aside from phenomenal, game altering class – was speed that stayed and combined well with the stamina of other lines.

Native Dancer’s daughters beget dynasties.

Native Dancer’s daughter Natalma was the dam of Northern Dancer, whose influence on racing is global. Independent of her Northern Dancer connection, Natalma’s daughters’ families are responsible for the likes of the great sire Machiavellian, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victor Bago and the overpowering filly La Prevoyante.

Another of the Dancer’s daughters, Shenanigans, produced sires Icecapade and Buckfinder, the broodmare Laughter and the brilliant, ill-fated Ruffian. 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb is a direct descendant of Shenanigans.

Sixty years after the Gray Ghost of Sagamore Farm electrified the nation with his grit and ability, his bloodlines run strong. It’s only fitting that Maryland, a center for thoroughbred sport, has honored one of its own.

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Kentucky Derby winner Orb at Saratoga. His fifth dam, his great-great-great-grandmother, is Native Dancer’s daughter Shenanigans.
Photo courtesy of Liz O’Connell
*Dancer’s Image was subsequently disqualified and sent down to last place because of a positive test for a trace of the NSAID phenylbutazone.