Saratoga Springs weighs in on NYRA proposal to extend racing season

November 30, 2018 09:38 AM

SARATOGA SPRINGS -  Some around here feel you can have too much of a good thing.

The New York Racing Association is expected to propose lengthening the racing season at a meeting on Wednesday and not everyone is thrilled with the idea.

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It's the biggest sporting event in the Capital Region: the Saratoga racing meet, once just 24 days, expanded to 30 then 36, and back in 2010, it became a 40-day meet.

There's been speculation for years that NYRA, the organization that runs racing at Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct, would extend the meet by starting it earlier in the summer.

Now it appears NYRA's board of directors, at the urging of leadership, is going to vote on lengthening the season.

"They have not contacted the community members. They're not being good neighbors. And I would suggest before they make that decision, they contact the mayor and the other interested parties," said John Hendrickson, a former NYRA board member, and a horse owner with wife, Marylou Whitney.  "Of course, there's some hotels and restaurants that would say we'd like to have more, but if you ask a child, 'Would you like more candy?' They're going to say, 'Yes, of course.' But I'm looking at the overall stature of Saratoga in the racing world. I believe this will be the beginning of the end of our stature."

Details of a proposed schedule have been hard to nail down, but sources say if it's approved, it would start toward the end of the second week in July and end on Labor Day as it does now.

The proposal would include being closed or "dark" on Mondays and Tuesdays, for a total of 40 days.  There would be no more racing days than 2018, just a longer meet.

The change would require approval by the NYRA board, the Franchise Oversight Board, and the state Gaming Commission.

Charles Wait, a NYRA board member for 30 years before stepping down, agrees with Hendrickson. Wait said, "What has always made Saratoga special is that there wasn't enough of it."

However, there's a different reaction from hotel operators like Cindy Hollowood, who has run Holiday Inn Saratoga for 38 years.

"I think it will just spread it out a little bit more, give more people an opportunity to have that Saratoga experience and perhaps take advantage of some of the other great assets we have."

Georgie Nugent, Saratoga's only representative on the NYRA board, said Thursday she is "strongly opposed" to a longer season.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly also expressed her opposition Thursday saying a longer meet would "dilute Saratoga's boutique racing meet."

Patrick McKenna, NYRA's director of communications, said by email, "While we appreciate the interest that surrounds the Saratoga racing calendar, we will formally release the dates for the 2019 season at the appropriate time. This is and has been our standard practice in notifying the public."


Mark Mulholland

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