Horse Racing Neophyte Chris Kay Tackling Myriad Issues As He Takes Over NYRA
NYRA President & CEO Chris Kay yesterday said that he "hopes to be at the helm" of the governing body for horse racing in the state of New York "for a long time," according to Teresa Genaro of BLOODHORSE. His comments came at a press conference that was "at times contentious." He took questions "for approximately 30 minutes on topics ranging from the heat expected on [Saratoga Race Course's] opening day to the salary incentives that are part of his compensation." Kay "faces the opening of NYRA's most important race meeting with less than two weeks of racing experience under his belt." He "immediately dispelled the idea that racing might be canceled on opening day" tomorrow at Saratoga, where temperatures are "expected to be in the mid-90s with a chance of storms." He said, "We're prepared for it. We'll be very concerned about the safety of patrons and horses and jockeys." Kay said that his priorities for NYRA are "threefold: to enhance the customers' experience; to improve the racing product; and to prepare the organization for re-privatization in October 2015." He "returned to those themes in his answers to multiple questions." Kay said that he would "like to provide patrons at the racetrack with an experience not available through simulcasting." Though he indicated that he "had some ideas for how to accomplish that, he said they would first be vetted by others in the organization, and then announced." Kay said that the "most important experience he brought to NYRA was figuring out ways for people to work together and find solutions" (BLOODHORSE.com, 7/17).
CASH FLOW: Kay said that it is "critical for racing operations to become profitable." In Saratoga, Paul Post in a front-page piece notes NYRA has "benefited from a large influx of gaming revenue" from Aqueduct's racino that opened in '11. However, racing itself has been "breakeven at best." Racing revenues during Q1 fell $5.7M "short of operating expenses." Kay said, "Clearly, how well we market is going to be very important; how well we use the digital media and social media." Plans specifically "call for targeting the 18- to 34-year-old demographic with a special emphasis on women" (THE SARATOGIAN, 7/18).
RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB: In Albany, Tim Wilkin writes Kay is "going to be very good for the game." He thinks that he can "help fix what used to be a beacon in the world of thoroughbred horse racing" in NYRA. Kay "might be wet behind the ears when it comes to horse racing, but the board of directors is full of people who know the game inside out." When they "hire a COO, you can bet he or she will, too." Wilkin: "One of the biggest chores he has in front of him, if you ask me, is getting the horse racing fans to trust the New York Racing Association again" (Albany TIMES UNION, 7/18).