by Pat McKenna, Mark Bardack
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) will pay tribute to the nation's service members and veterans during Military Appreciation Day at Saratoga Race Course on Wednesday, July 24.
The day will feature free grandstand admission for all United States military service members and veterans with valid military ID or proof of military service.
NYRA will welcome local service members and veterans to the winner's circle before numerous races on the day's card. The service members will represent the sacrifices of those who have defended the United States from World War II through the present era.
"The New York Racing Association is honored to recognize the service and dedication of the men and women of the United States military," said NYRA CEO & President Dave O'Rourke. "Military Appreciation Day is one of the highlights of the season and we look forward to continuing this great Saratoga tradition."
This year's event will pay special tribute to the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which occurred on June 6, 1944 when more than 160,000 Allied troops invaded the beaches of Normandy, marking a critical moment during World War II.
NYRA will recognize the legacy of former Saratoga Springs Mayor Ellsworth Jones, who was among the first U.S. paratroopers to drop into France during the early hours of the D-Day invasion. Jones was severely wounded five days later and received a Bronze Star for his heroism. His younger brother, Sgt. John F. Jones, was lost during a bombing mission over China later that same year and is among the more than 72,000 Americans still listed as missing in action from World War II.
Ellsworth's son, Saratoga Springs resident Matthew J. Jones, will be joined by a World War II veteran to ring the bell in the winner's circle at 17 minutes to post prior to the day's third race, which will be named in honor of Military Appreciation Day. Following the race, several generations of veterans and service members will gather in the winner's circle for a special race presentation.
"My entire family is so grateful to NYRA for including us in their Military Appreciation Day," said Matt Jones. "It is both heart-warming and emotional for all of us. Our most sincere thanks."
NYRA will pay tribute to its own service member and veteran employees with a special ceremony in the winner's circle during the National Anthem, which will be performed by the local acapella group Racing City Chorus, at approximately 11:15 a.m. The National Anthem will be accompanied by a Presentation of Colors from cadets of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The Racing City Chorus will continue to entertain guests on the track apron with a patriotic medley following the day's third race. Performances form both the Racing City Chorus and local musician Michael Clement will also be held in the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion throughout the day.
A number of military-related organizations will be represented at the Coca-Cola Saratoga Pavilion throughout the afternoon, including the Albany Vet Center; Disabled American Veterans; Naval Support Activity Saratoga Springs; New York State Division of Veterans' Affairs; Patriot Flight; Patriot Guard Riders; Stars for our Troops; Stephen Siller Foundation; STRIDE Adaptive Sports; Veterans Community Housing Coalition; and VFW Post 420.
The 2019 summer meet at Saratoga Race Course will continue through Labor Day, Monday, September 2. Racing at Saratoga Race Course is held five days a week, Wednesdays through Sundays. Closing week will run Wednesday, August 28 through Labor Day.
For more information about Saratoga Race Course, visit NYRA.com.