NYRA announces departure of Martin Panza
by Pat McKenna
Senior VP of Racing Operations to exit following Belmont Park fall meet
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today announced that Martin Panza will depart from his position as Senior Vice President of Racing Operations at the conclusion of the Belmont Park fall meet on October 31.
Since joining NYRA in 2013, Panza has been responsible for the leadership and oversight of racing functions at NYRA, including the overall development, planning, and execution of NYRA’s premier stakes offerings and daily racing programs.
“Martin has successfully maintained the history and traditions of New York racing while also modernizing the program to adapt to changes in the sport and the overall industry,” said NYRA President & CEO Dave O’Rourke. “His contributions have strengthened thoroughbred racing here in New York and across our sport. During his tenure, Martin has established a talented racing office team that will serve as the foundation for continued success. We extend our thanks to Martin for his years of service to NYRA and wish him the best as he enters a new phase in his career.”
Panza successfully led NYRA’s efforts to create significant events by bundling major stakes races into either a single day or across a series of days. The strategy resulted in blockbuster Travers and Whitney days at Saratoga Race Course, and the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival and Stars and Stripes Racing Festival at Belmont Park. Panza was also instrumental in the creation of the Turf Triple Series, which emulates the American dirt classics to shine a spotlight on the finest 3-year-old turf runners on the male and female side.
“I would like to thank my colleagues at NYRA and the NYRA Board of Directors for their dedication to this organization and the sport, which has allowed us to innovate together to enhance NYRA’s world class racing product,” said Panza. “I’d also like to thank the horsemen, jockeys and horseplayers who support our racing on a daily basis throughout the year.”
NYRA’s organizational commitment to safety and integrity now sets the industry standard. Panza played a leading role in the formation of a coalition of leading thoroughbred racing associations and organizations committed to phasing out the use of Lasix. Subsequently, NYRA and its coalition partners eliminated the use of Lasix in all two-year-old races in 2020 followed by all stakes races in 2021. As a result, the three Triple Crown races are now contested without the use of race day medication.
Panza served as chair of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Safety Committee, establishing the NTRA Code of Safety Standards in the process. NYRA was a founding member of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition, which was launched in 2019 to create and implement a series of significant safety, medication, operational and integrity guidelines across thoroughbred racing to ensure the well-being of horses and jockeys while increasing transparency and accountability.
Over the last eight years, NYRA has embarked on a sustained effort led by Panza to recruit prominent international horses and trainers to compete on the New York circuit. Driven by the interconnected nature of the sport, as well as the increasing popularity of turf racing, this initiative has generated an increase in global interest in NYRA and strengthened the foundation of New York racing.
“I’ve been lucky to have learned the craft from some of the best in the business,” Panza added. “It’s a responsibility to share that knowledge with the next generation, and I look forward to watching the NYRA racing office flourish and succeed for many years to come.”
Panza sits on the board of the NTRA, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, the Racetrack Medication and Testing Consortium and the Thoroughbred Racing Association. He also serves on the advisory board of the University of Arizona Racetrack Industry Program.
In addition, Panza has served on a number of racing committees and organizations, including the American Graded Stakes Committee, the Breeders’ Cup Selection Committee, and the North American Ratings Committee.