Saratoga meet extended but will remain at 40 days

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Feb. 8, 2019

The New York Racing Association will extend the 2019 season at Saratoga Race Course but still race the customary 40 days, according to a calendar released Feb. 7.

NYRA said the change will accommodate potential construction of an arena for the New York Islanders at Belmont Park. Empire State Development issued a timeline that suggests work on the arena could commence in the second quarter of this year.

Saratoga will switch to a five-day racing week with Mondays—except Labor Day—and Tuesdays dark. The meet will begin July 11, a Thursday, and conclude Sept. 2.

Belmont will race from Friday, April 26, through Sunday, July 7, for a total of 48 programs.

“Given the initial and proposed timelines for the potential construction of a new arena at Belmont Park, we believe it is the responsible action to move our racing operations to Saratoga Race Course slightly earlier than usual this summer,” NYRA Interim Chief Executive Officer David O’Rourke said. “We appreciate the patience of our horsemen, fans and the community in awaiting this announcement. We are working diligently with our stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition to this new calendar.”

“The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and New York’s horsemen understand that the possible construction on the Belmont property will require flexibility and accommodation from the state’s entire Thoroughbred community,” NYTHA President Joe Appelbaum said. “We will work with NYRA to ensure the safety of our horses and riders and to do all we can to protect the thousands of jobs in our backstretch community as we navigate this challenging time.

“NYTHA supports the interim solution NYRA has worked out for summer racing dates. While it presents certain complications, we all get to spend five extra days a year in Saratoga, which is always good for the soul.”

Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly offered her support of the adjustment to the Saratoga meet calendar.

“The city stands firmly ready to support NYRA in any way we can,” Kelly said. “We have no doubt that the new calendar has been thoughtfully planned and will be expertly executed. The new schedule will bring both anticipated and unanticipated benefits to our summer racing season, and we will use the city’s resources to make it even more successful than ever.”

The construction timeline presented by ESD and New York Arena Partners through the public hearing process in early January indicates that work on the new arena at could lead to potential disruption during morning training and afternoon racing. The changes to the racing calendar are designed to protect equine and human athletes, and to mitigate potential impact to horsemen and the backstretch community, NYRA said.

(Saratoga Race Course photo by Coglianese/NYRA)