Monday, September 29, 2014
Contact: NYRA Communications
Financial progress, Saratoga success highlighted at Monday's New York Racing Association Board of Directors meeting
NEW YORK, NY - Outlining the ongoing reforms which are transforming the New York Racing Association into a more accountable, efficient and sustainable racing leader, Chief Executive Officer and President Christopher K. Kay offered a positive, upbeat report at today's Board of Directors meeting in midtown Manhattan.
Streamed live on NYRA.com, Kay discussed the continued progress made toward building a stronger business model; one designed to support the long-term growth and success of the New York Racing Association. Integral to this effort is generating an operating surplus without reliance on VLT funding. According to Kay, the organization continues to make important progress towards this end.
"For the first eight months of this year, we continue on pace for an operating surplus for 2014, stated Kay. "Net revenue from racing operations totals $118 million; an increase of $7.8 million or 7.1 percent compared to last year.
"Our $9.9 million increase in income compared to last year is due to a $7.8 million increase in net revenue from racing operations," Kay continued. "It is also due to a $2.1 million decrease in operating expenses."
Controller Jelena Alonso reported that the New York Racing Association's financial performance continues on a positive trajectory. A review of industry data from January through August 31 reveals that the New York Racing Association continues to buck the national trend. While wagering on thoroughbred races across the United States decreased by 1.7 percent during this time, Alonso reported that wagering on races at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course increased by 2.7 percent.
Further, the data revealed that every dollar invested in purses at these three tracks during the eight-month period yielded $14.19 in handle, compared to $10.17 industry-wide. New York Racing Association tracks contributed 4.8 percent of total industry race days, offered 15.1 percent of purses, and generated 21.1 percent of thoroughbred handle across the United States, according to Alonso.
The open, public meeting also featured a comprehensive wrap-up of the recently concluded Saratoga meet, which showcased an enhanced guest experience and improved quality of racing. Kay thanked the guests and fans who participated in this summer's excitement at the Spa, and emphasized that these improvements were a direct result of feedback offered the previous year.
"The New York Racing Association listened to their feedback in 2013 and collectively took the action necessary to achieve a top-caliber race meet for our guests and industry stakeholders," said Kay. "We are pleased to report that our fans have positively responded to those measures and new initiatives."
For the 2014 Saratoga meet, the results cited by Kay included:
Enhancing the Guest ExperienceGuests arriving in July to historic Saratoga were able to enjoy nearly $2 million in capital improvements designed to provide an enhanced experience. This included technological enhancements, including hundreds of new HD televisions, enhanced Wi-Fi capacity, a new, improved sound system, Trakus technology for horseplayers, three new HD video boards across the property, and the addition of two hundred new picnic tables which were installed throughout the backyard. Structural enhancements to the Saratoga Pavilionprovided a new, convenient venue for the expansion of a signature Gov. Andrew Cuomo initiative - Taste NY, showcasing New York wines every Thursday, New York craft beer every Friday and New York-produced food every Sunday. The Pavilion also hosted the weekly International Heritage Series on Wednesdays and Fashion Saturdays, which were sponsored by the luxury, specialty retail department store chain Lord & Taylor. Families were able to utilize an expanded children's playground and visit the new "Horse Sense" exhibit, enabling children to get up close with the stars of the show and learn about the importance of outriders to the sport. In addition, Berkshire Bank Family Mondays held inside the Saratoga Pavilion featured a variety of free family-friendly activities for all ages, including face painting, arts and crafts, mascot appearances and bounce inflatables. Policy reforms enabled more guests to acquire a Saratoga Race Course giveaway item. These reforms limited the amount of giveaways which could be acquired at one time. As a result, each guest attending on giveaway days in 2014 was able to receive an official memento from the Spa. Major events left treasured memories for fans of all ages. In addition to the open house and the excitement of Opening Day, lasting memories were generated on Jockey Legends Day, at the Red Jacket Ceremony, and on Tom Durkin Day.
Improving the Quality of Horse RacingIn concert with the New York Racing Association's focus on "must-see" big event days featuring larger purses and a higher level of equine competition, the 2014 Saratoga season saw a record $17.45 million in stakes purses, topped by two blockbuster racing days featuring the running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on August 23, and the running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Whitney on August 2. For the Saratoga meet, the New York Racing Association made a conscious decision to run fewer races. With a continued decline in the foal count, this prudent step was made with an eye towards building more quality races, as opposed to running a greater quantity of races. There were seven fewer races run at the Spa this year - 413 in total, as opposed to 420 last year. Despite the fewer number of races, on-track handle increased by nearly $3 million over 2013. Building on an already-steadfast commitment to the New York equine industry, the New York Racing Association launched a new Saratoga Showcase Day featuring New York-breds on August 24. Guests wagered more than $4.2 million on-track, a 14.4 percent increase over the corresponding post-Travers Day card in 2013. Saratoga Showcase Day joins similar spring and fall-themed race days at Belmont, and will continue to be part of future tradition at the Spa.In conjunction with another of the organization's top priorities, the New York Racing Association continued to further promote the health and safety of its equine athletes and their jockeys. Racing operations at New York Racing Association tracks remain a national leader in safety.
Final paid attendance for the 40-day Saratoga meet was 972,018, with Travers Day generating the second strongest attendance since 2004 for this signature day of the season. On that day, trainer Jimmy Jerkens watched his top two 3-year-olds, V. E. Day and Wicked Strong, finish 1-2 in a nail-biting photo finish in the Mid-Summer Derby.
On-track handle for the Saratoga meet was $150,387,442. Not only was this an increase of nearly $3 million over last year's figure, but it was just short of achieving the highest on-track handle in the past ten years.
Final all-source handle was $571,163,484. This was a decrease of approximately $18 million from last year's figure, due to a variety of factors.
Finally, Kay updated the Board regarding the upcoming re-privatization process. The executive management team continues to confer with various stakeholders and experts as part of its efforts to study and develop recommendations regarding re-privatization.
Pursuant to state statute, the New York Racing Association is required to submit the proposed plan to Governor Cuomo and the state legislature in April. Kay emphasized that "we will meet or beat that schedule", and noted that New York Racing Association's re-privatization business plan will include a three-year financial component, including 2014 actual performance.
All materials discussed and reviewed during the Board's meetings, replays of past meetings and a list of current Board members are available at NYRA.com.
Founded in 1955 and franchised to run thoroughbred racing at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course through 2033, The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) is a not-for-profit, non-dividend paying corporation governed by a Board of Directors, whose members receive no compensation or dividends. The host of the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of thoroughbred racing's "Triple Crown", NYRA tracks are the cornerstone of New York's thoroughbred business; a sport industry segment which provides approximately 17,000 jobs and contributes more than $2 billion annually to New York State's urban, suburban and rural economy