by Pat McKenna/Mark Bardack
Belmont Park spring/summer meet to run 48 days beginning Friday, April 26 through Sunday, July 7
Saratoga meet to begin Thursday, July 11 and run through Labor Day, Monday, September 2
Saratoga to feature 40 days of live racing, same since 2010
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today announced an adjustment of racing dates for the 2019 Belmont Park spring/summer meet and the Saratoga summer meet to ensure the continuity of racing operations in New York in light of proposed timelines for the construction of a new arena at Belmont Park.
The adjustment is based on initial timelines presented by Empire State Development (ESD) and the New York Arena Partners (NYAP) for the potential construction of an arena for the National Hockey League's New York Islanders at Belmont Park.
The construction timeline presented by ESD and NYAP through the public hearing process in early January indicates that work on the new arena at Belmont Park could begin as early as the second quarter of 2019, leading to potential disruption during morning training and afternoon racing. These changes to the racing calendar are designed to protect equine and human athletes, and to mitigate potential impact to horsemen and the backstretch community.
As approved by the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC), the Belmont Park spring/summer meet will feature a revised 48-day calendar to commence on Friday, April 26 and run through Sunday, July 7.
In addition to the Belmont schedule, the NYSGC approved the 2019 Saratoga meet to begin on Thursday, July 11 and run through Labor Day, Monday, September 2. There will be no change to the number of live racing days at Saratoga. That number will remain at 40, the same since 2010.
Following opening weekend, Thursday, July 11 through Sunday, July 14, racing at Saratoga will be conducted five days a week, Wednesdays through Sundays. Closing week will run Wednesday, August 28 through Labor Day, Monday, September 2.
"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," said NYRA Interim CEO David O'Rourke. "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 (NYTHA) 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," said NYTHA President Joe Appelbaum. "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 steadfast support of the adjustment to the Saratoga race meet calendar.
"The City stands firmly ready to support NYRA in any way we can. We have no doubt that the new calendar has been thoughtfully planned and will be expertly executed," said Mayor Kelly. "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. I am looking forward to the 2019 meet - it's going to be another great season."
Saratoga-based stakeholder organizations, including the Saratoga Race Course Local Advisory Board and Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, offered their endorsement.
"In light of the potential for construction at Belmont Park later this year, this is a prudent and responsible decision by NYRA," said Saratoga Race Course Local Advisory Board Chairman Joseph A. Torani. "It is important to note that while the Saratoga meet will begin earlier this summer, there will be no change to the number of race days, which will remain at 40. We will continue to work with NYRA in the ensuing months to ensure a successful 2019 meet."
"Saratoga County's hospitality sector is excited to host the best thoroughbred horse racing meet in the world at historic Saratoga Race Course starting Thursday, July 11, 2019," said Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus. "We look forward to seeing the best horses, jockeys, trainers and owners in the business and we will be ready to welcome them and racing fans from around the world to Saratoga during the entire 40-day race meeting this year."
The 2019 spring/summer racing calendar will be highlighted by the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 8; the Grade 1 Whitney on Saturday, August 3; and the 150th anniversary running of the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers on Saturday, August 24.
NYRA will issue complete stakes schedules for the Belmont Park spring/summer meet and the Saratoga summer meet in the near future.
For more information, visit NYRA.com.