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Saratoga Heat: 150th Racing Season Opener

Dave Lucas (WAMC)

On what’s shaping up to be the hottest day of the year, Saratoga begins its 150th season of thoroughbred racing.

This week, the New York Racing Association's new president and CEO Chris Kay met with members of the media to discuss his plans for Saratoga Race Course’s season.  One of the first questions, right out of the gate, was about the weather and whether or not racing might be cut back or suspended altogether on opening day: Kay told reporters "We've had warm days in the past. We're prepared for it..."

An outpouring of concern for the nearly 1,900 thoroughbred horses has resulted in plenty of ice water, hosedown areas and cooling fans strategically located throughout the grounds.

In 2006, racing was suspended for a day in similar conditions. Roger Hill with Weathering Heights Consulting in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom says today's weather will be difficult for both man and beast.

NYRA says there will be veterinarians along horse paths, the paddock, winner's circle and track to monitor horses. Jockeys' quarters will be supplied with extra water, and there's water available for public consumption. Ice will be on sale at concession stands. Kay pointed out health officials determined that water at Saratoga Race Course is safe to drink following concern over chlorine levels.

Kay's goals for the season include passing the 1 million summer attendance mark, attracting younger racing fans and becoming even more family friendly.   Kay, new to the racing industry, says it’s critical for the oft-troubled NYRA to become profitable. And while he realizes there may have been a "difference of opinion between NYRA board and the state in the past, now their interests are aligned."

Kay previously served as chief operating officer for The Trust for Public Land, and for Toys 'R' Us, as well as a consultant to Universal Parks & Resorts. He's keeping a watchful eye on the casino chatter coming out of Albany and western Massachusetts.

Post time is 1pm;  racing continues through Labor Day.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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