• Lady Shipman dominates in Saratoga's Coronation Cup.Posted 1 day ago
  • Stopchargingmaria out-duels Untapable to win the G3 Shuvee.Posted 2 days ago
  • American Pharoah wins the Haskell completely in hand!Posted 2 days ago
  • Heart to Heart takes them wire to wire in the G3 Oceanport.Posted 2 days ago
  • Casual Smile closes from second last to win the G3 Matchmaker Stakes.Posted 2 days ago
  • Bradester snags the G2 Monmouth Cup in front-running fashion.Posted 2 days ago
  • Rachel's Valentina, daughter of champion Rachel Alexandra, wins her debut at the Spa!Posted 2 days ago
  • Beholder wins the G1 Clement L. Hirsch for fun!Posted 3 days ago
  • Texas Red returns to the winner's circle with a Jim Dandy victory over Frosted!Posted 3 days ago
  • Red Rifle squeezes through rivals to win the Bowling Green.Posted 3 days ago

Monday, August 29th - NYRA Hits Rock Bottom

Whether it was arrogance, ignorance or pathetic prioritizing doesn’t really matter. The New York Racing Association’s handling of its announcement that Sunday’s racing card at Saratoga would be cancelled due to onrushing hurricane Irene marked the lowest point in NYRA’s stewardship of racing in New York since 1955. And that’s saying a lot for a non-profit association that went bankrupt and has endured one scandal after another in the past decade and a half.

This was much worse. This wasn’t about horse racing; it was about people’s lives and their welfare, especially the lives and welfare of not only horsemen, but fans and the media as well.

By Saturday afternoon, practically everyone on the planet knew that Irene was going to hit not only New York City, but upstate New York, including Saratoga Springs, as well. This devastating hurricane, which had already impacted millions on the entire East Coast, was heading to New York.


By Saturday afternoon, hundreds of thousands of people had been evacuated from New York City. That decision was made Friday morning. The subway was shut down by weather for the first time ever. All five airports serving the greater New York metropolitan area were closed. 

Ten minutes before 6 p.m., NYRA President Charlie Hayward was interviewed on NBC, which had just televised Stay Thirsty’s victory in the $1 million Travers Stakes. Hayward disclosed that NYRA was happy with the crowd of more than 43,000, even though he said it was down six or seven percent. Hayward disclosed that NBC’s Saratoga meet coverage would be back in 2012.

Neither of NBC’s two commentators, Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens and Laffit Pincay, III, asked Hayward if NYRA was cancelling Sunday’s card because of Irene, even as Irene was bearing down on upstate New York.

The lead item on the local 6 p.m. Channel 13 (NBC) news was, of course, Irene. Irene could produce winds as high as 80 miles per hour and would impact the Capital District within six hours.

At Saratoga Race Course at precisely 6:06 p.m., Tom Durkin announced to the crowd who had stayed for the race after the Travers that Sunday racing would be cancelled.

At 6:15 p.m., NYRA issued a press release saying exactly that.

That decision to cancel, which could have, and maybe should have been made and announced on Friday, had been made by 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon. NYRA sat on announcing that decision for more than three hours.

While just about every responsible public official from North Carolina to New England had acted on Thursday or Friday to minimize the damage of this monster hurricane, NYRA ignored the fact that a huge majority of its horsemen had homes and families on Long Island, and in New York City and New Jersey who had not accommodated them for the entire, six-week Saratoga meet. Many of the New York City media were in the exact same precarious situation, a hundred and fifty miles away from their families and homes. What about the out-of-town fans who had come to Saratoga for the Travers or the weekend?

Clearly, NYRA made the decision to delay its announcement until after the Travers had been run. Heaven forbid NYRA’s handle drop a bit on Travers Day, and certainly not on the Travers itself. Only after the Travers was run, did NYRA address its fans and its horsemen and the media about Sunday’s cancellation.

In doing so, NYRA finally acknowledged that, oh yeah, there was a hurricane about to hit town which could cause fatalities and wreck people’s lives and their homes. Everyone else had strived to give potential victims as much warning and help as possible to mitigate the effect of this weather disaster.

NYRA’s conduct was an absolute disgrace.
(Check out Bill Heller’s new books at www.billhellerbooks.com 


comments powered by Disqus

Older Comments about Monday, August 29th - NYRA Hits Rock Bottom...

lighten up
it was bad judgment but rock bottom? Probably not.
While I think NYRA had privately wanted to cancel earlier, I also think they may have been under pressure from owners of some horses who were entered on Sunday to wait as long as possible before canceling, especially if such owners (and even more so those with horses in the Personal Ensign) might not have been able to make a return trip to see their horses run later this week in rescheduled runnings of such races. That may to me have been why NYRA waited so long even, hoping against hope that Irene would make a sharp right out to sea.

Related Pages

Related Stories

Top Stories