SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NYRA) — The New York Racing Association (NYRA) is set to celebrate the Capital Region’s COVID-19 frontline workers during Health Care Heroes and First Responders Day on Friday July 16. Gates open at 11 a.m.

NYRA will welcome doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and vaccine site workers from Capital Region hospitals and healthcare organizations to the winner’s circle for a race named in their honor. Local police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics will also receive special recognition in the winner’s circle with their own race.

“The New York Racing Association is honored to celebrate the individuals whose selfless work, dedication and commitment were critical to helping us emerge from the pandemic,” said NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke. “This celebration will continue throughout the season as we recognize local frontline and essential workers through the new NYRA Hometown Hero program, presented by CDPHP. We thank CDPHP for their support and look forward to highlighting the contributions of essential workers this summer.”

The afternoon will include a special appearance by the New York State Police Pipes and Drums who will perform on the track apron. The day will begin with a special performance of the National Anthem by Raymond Agnew, Vice President, Hospital & Community Engagement from Glens Falls Hospital. Among the Capital Region health care workers recognized on-track will be professionals from Albany Medical Center, Glens Falls Hospital, the New York State Department of Health, Saratoga Hospital, and the Wesley Community.

“As the world reopens after a long and difficult year, CDPHP is excited to partner with NYRA to not only welcome racing fans back to the Capital Region, but to honor our health care heroes and first responders who worked tirelessly to keep our community safe throughout the pandemic. From all of us at CDPHP, thank you!” said CDPHP president and CEO, Dr. John D. Bennett.

Presented by CDPHP at Saratoga Race Course, the event features free grandstand admission for all health care professionals and first responders with proper identification. NYRA will honor workers for their dedication and service to the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as one element of the four-day Runhappy Opening Weekend to mark the beginning of the 2021 season.

First responders represented will include officials from the Albany County Sheriff’s Office; Clifton Park EMS; New York State Police; Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department; Saratoga Springs City Fire Department; and Saratoga Springs Police Department.

NYRA also today announced its Hometown Hero program, presented by CDPHP, a new initiative designed to honor local frontline and essential workers who went above and beyond during the pandemic, including health care workers; first responders; grocery associates; and public service, postal, and transportation workers, amongst others.

Each Friday of the 2021 summer meet beginning July 23, NYRA and CDPHP will recognize one Capital Region resident for their service to the community during the Covid-19 pandemic. Each NYRA Hometown Hero, presented by CDPHP, will receive the opportunity to present the trophy in the winner’s circle during a race that afternoon.

Nominations for the NYRA Hometown Hero program, presented by CDPHP, may be submitted via email at through August 15 at 11:59 p.m. Submissions should include contact information for both the nominee and the nominator; as well as a brief description (250 words or less) of why the nominee should be recognized as a NYRA Hometown Hero.

Fans will not be required to provide proof of vaccination for admission to Saratoga Race Course. Non-vaccinated individuals will be required to wear a facial covering during their day at Saratoga Race Course, in accordance with federal CDC guidance. NYRA reserves the right to amend admission protocols based on updates and adjustments by New York State.

The 40-day summer meet at historic Saratoga Race Course will feature 76 stakes worth $21.5 million in total purses highlighted by the 152nd renewal of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on August 28 and the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on August 7, as the anchors of two of the most prestigious racing days in North America.

Following the four-day opening weekend from Thursday, July 15 through Sunday, July 18, racing will be conducted five days a week, Wednesdays through Sundays, with the exception of the final week, when the meet will conclude on Labor Day.