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Volume 20 No. 41
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NYRA adds tracks to Fox Sports 2 broadcasts

This year’s NYRA coverage begins April 8, when the Wood Memorial will be run at Aqueduct.

Editor's Note: This story is revised from the print edition.

The New York Racing Association is expanding its relationship with Fox Sports to broadcast more than 20 hours of races from Belmont Park and Aqueduct and has signed Claiborne Farm as the presenting sponsor.

NYRA last year aired nearly the entire Saratoga meet, about 80 hours of live summertime racing under the name “Saratoga Live,” so the new deal means Fox Sports 2 will broadcast about 100 hours of horse racing this year. Claiborne Farm, a renowned Kentucky horse breeding business, is the first sponsor to join the programming, but NYRA is in talks to bring on a few more companies as partners, said Christopher Kay, NYRA president and CEO.
Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed.

NYRA signed a deal with Fox last year in order to get national exposure for NYRA Bets, a national account deposit wagering platform it launched last year. The new coverage starts April 8 with the races before the Wood Memorial, a major prep race at Aqueduct for horses pointed to the Kentucky Derby.

The new deals are part of a plan to revitalize NYRA, which has rebounded after posting an operating loss of nearly $13 million in 2013, the year Kay took over (see chart). Other major stakeholders in the sport, including Churchill Downs Inc. — which owns the track of the same name, as well as Arlington Park and The Fairgrounds — and the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita Park and Gulfstream Park, already have national ADW platforms.

“We are entering a market with a new ADW that already has had significant competitors operating in that marketplace for the same 15-plus years, so it is

going to take time for us to get to where we want to be,” Kay said.
“This is one important way to do it.”

The plan to air races on Fox Sports 2 has already paid off, Kay said, noting that the races that were televised on “Saratoga Live” had an increase of 10.2 percent in money bet at home across all ADW platforms versus the same races in 2015.

In 2016, $2.24 billion was wagered on NYRA races, up slightly from $2.23 billion in 2015, despite the fact that 2016 saw eight fewer racing days than 2015.

“The [ratings] expectations were fairly modest. We were really focused on how it would affect handle,” said Mike Mulvihill, Fox Sports executive vice president of programming and research “We were pleased with the quality of the programming, and they were pleased with what they are seeing in terms of impact of their betting handle,” he said.

New York Racing Association operating net income (in millions) 

2016 $4.000+*
2015 $3.567
2014 $1.677
2013 -$12.918

* 2016 net income is
preliminary and unaudited 
Source: NYRA 

NBC has the rights to horse racing’s biggest events — the three Triple Crown races and the Breeders’ Cup — under long-term deals, but Saratoga is known as one of the top race meets for the quality of horses and size of purses.

“I like where we are in terms of having a partnership for an entire meet that includes a lot of quality stakes races,” Mulvihill said. “I’d love to have more (horse racing), but the reality is that NBC has done a pretty good job of locking up those rights for a lot of years to come.”

Tony Allevato, who joined NYRA last year as president of NYRA Bets and executive producer of NYRA television, is overseeing the racing program effort. He is a veteran of both the cable horse racing channel TVG and the NFL Network.

NYRA hired 15 to 20 people to work on “Saratoga Live” and the new additions, Allevato said, adding to the 40 people producing the race simulcasts broadcast around the country. In addition to Fox Sports 2, the races are also broadcast on MSG and Altitude Sports.

NYRA is in the second year of a two-year deal with Fox Sports, but is in talks to extend that by multiple years, Allevato said.