NYTB endorses NYRA proposal to restart racing operations

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. (NYTB) has endorsed the New York Racing Association’s proposal requesting permission to resume live racing at Belmont Park.

Reproduced below is NYTB Executive Director Jeff Cannizzo’s letter to the relevant State Agencies supporting NYRA’s roadmap for restarting limited operations with a broad array of mitigation strategies to keep employees and racing participants safe.

The New York Thoroughbred Breeders (NYTB) applauds the Governor for his leadership throughout the COVID-19 crisis, for making difficult decisions, and for laying the groundwork to strategically un-pause certain sectors. Moreover, we whole heartedly support the New York Racing Association’s (NYRA) plans to resume thoroughbred racing at its premier racetracks.

NYRA backstretch workers, like others responsible for the care and feeding of livestock, are already exempt from the Governor’s Executive Order 206 from March 22 mandating that 100% of the workforce for “non-essential” services across the state stay home.

These essential workers have been hard at work throughout New York Pause caring for, feeding, grooming and exercising horses. Whether or not live racing is being conducted, the backstretch workers care for horses in the same way and under the same conditions every day and will continue to do so. At the same time NYRA’s Preparedness and Response Plan Committee, in place since early March, is ensuring that these workers understand and follow NYS DOH and U.S. CDC guidelines about hygiene and social distancing. While being responsive to the health and nutritional needs of the workers and their families, the Committee also has contingency plans for dealing with any fresh outbreaks of COVID-19 among backstretch workers. It is appropriate, and timely, to now restart racing at the NYRA tracks.

Thoroughbred breeding is one of the most important economic engines of the New York’s equine industry – New York’s second-largest agri-business. As was highlighted in the 2018 American Horse Council Foundation report, the New York equine industry has experienced a resurgence in recent years, having grown by $1.1 billion and adding approximately 10,000 jobs. The equine industry collectively has a $5.3 billion economic impact on New York’s economy, and benefits counties across the State by generating hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. The breeding and racing industries are responsible for the majority of the equine industry’s 42,400 full-time jobs and aid in preserving 1.3 million acres of precious farmland. In addition to the 2,300 breeding, training and racing facilities across the state in all 62 counties, there are 23,000 family-owned farms and stables. NYTB is proud of its members’ commitment to the farming industry.

The New York-breeding industry has faced hardships before. As recently as 2010, New York-breeding was teetering on the brink of extinction. Video Lottery revenues helped reinvigorate the industry; farms started to reopen, new stakeholders brought business to the State, and the quality of stock improved. All of this has resulted in the best measure of breeder success: a boom market for New York-breds at thoroughbred auctions. In fact, over a 6 year period, the value of the average New York-bred yearling increased by more than 120%. We cannot allow COVID-19 to cause a reversal in this progress for the equine industry. With racing shuttered, there is no source of revenue for our industry to pay bills, continue employment, and support farm related services. The many small owners and breeders that make up our great sport are on the brink of bankruptcy. The only way we can keep them in business, fueling this agricultural economic engine, is opening racing at New York’s historic race tracks. To do so we need NYRA up and running as soon as possible with the proper safety and health protocols in place, consistent with the Governor’s un-pause strategy.


Jeffrey A. Cannizzo, Executive Director

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