Thursday, 21 March 2024 13:09

NYRA President on Belmont at Saratoga: “Everybody Wants to be Here”

Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus talks with NYRA President & CEO David O'Rourke at a Chamber-hosted Industry Influencers event on Wednesday morning. Photo by Jonathon Norcross. Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus talks with NYRA President & CEO David O'Rourke at a Chamber-hosted Industry Influencers event on Wednesday morning. Photo by Jonathon Norcross.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — New York Racing Association (NYRA) President & CEO David O’Rourke heaped praise on Saratoga Springs at an Industry Influencers event on Wednesday morning hosted by the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.

O’Rourke said it was a “literal no-brainer” to host the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at the Saratoga Racecourse. “Saratoga has been an amazing partner for NYRA and horse racing period,” O’Rourke said. “In terms of Saratoga, since the 16 years I’ve been there, the growth has been phenomenal.” When asked how people outside New York are reacting to Belmont at Saratoga, O’Rourke replied that “everybody wants to be here.”

O’Rourke said that ticket sales for Belmont have “obviously gone well” and have attracted people from all over the country. He confirmed that Belmont would only be in Saratoga for two years: 2024 and 2025. In 2026, the new Belmont Park facilities on Long Island, which are currently under construction, should be ready to host racing events.

O’Rourke touched on a few other topics in his conversation with Chamber President Todd Shimkus, including NYRA’s partnership with television broadcaster Fox Sports. O’Rourke said that national coverage of horse racing at Saratoga would likely increase its emphasis on “the lifestyle aspect of Saratoga,” akin to coverage of Churchill Downs and Louisville during Kentucky Derby broadcasts. “That kind of allows us to really sell the whole package of Saratoga,” O’Rourke said. 

In terms of safety issues for the upcoming summer meet, O’Rourke said that NYRA was confident in the track surface last year and is still confident this year. He said the tracks are tested multiple times per day, and that there will be no change in their composition. “They are, every which way you could look at them, some of the best surfaces in the country,” he said. 

The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will be held at the Saratoga Racecourse from June 6 through June 9.  Belmont Stakes Day, on June 8, is sold out but some tickets are still available for the remaining three days. 

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