SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NYRA) — The New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced Friday that Saratoga Race Course will open for spring training at 6 a.m. on Saturday, April 17. The barn area at the Oklahoma Training Track will open to horsemen on Thursday, April 15.
To accommodate the completion of a major renovation of the Oklahoma Training Track facility, training will begin on the main track at Saratoga Race Course.
When training resumes at the Oklahoma in early May, horses and riders will be met with a completely reconstructed track featuring a limestone base, renovated surface layer, and modernized drainage systems. In addition, the training track has been widened by 10-14 feet in most areas to address the increasing population of horses training over the Oklahoma annually from April-October.
Additionally, to enhance safety for exercise riders and jockeys, the inner rail at the Oklahoma has been replaced with a rider protection system designed by Horsemen’s Track and Equipment.
“The Oklahoma Training Track renovation is an investment in the future of Saratoga Race Course that reflects NYRA’s commitment to providing our athletes with the safest possible environment for training and racing,” said Glen Kozak, NYRA Senior Vice President for Operations and Capital Projects. “The Oklahoma is a special place in our sport, and these improvements will serve horses, riders, and the racing community well for many decades to come.”
The renovation of the Oklahoma Training Track was modeled after the work that was done to the Saratoga main track in 2020, which was universally supported by horsemen and riders. Just like at the Oklahoma, the main track renovation involved general improvements to the base and surface of the track, as well as a complete overhaul of the drainage system and installation of a new rider safety rail.
“Track surfaces at Saratoga need to stand up to a wide variety of weather conditions, including incredibly intense storms that can hit with almost no warning,” Kozak continued. “The main track can now recover from these weather events much more quickly while retaining consistency from day to day. We are confident the result will be just as positive on the Oklahoma as we have seen on the main track.”
Dr. Mick Peterson and the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory served as consultants on the Oklahoma renovation, performing regular testing of the quality and composition of the new surface. Prior to the re-opening of the training track, Dr. Peterson and the RSTL team will perform final inspections utilizing ground penetrating radar and the Biomechanical Surface Tester, which replicates loads and speed of a thoroughbred’s leading forelimb at gallop.
“NYRA prioritizes the scientific analysis and continuous data collection that have proven to result in consistent racing surfaces,” Dr. Peterson said. “It’s a privilege to work on these types of transformative projects with the world-class NYRA team led by Glen Kozak.”
The team assembled by NYRA to contribute expertise to the renovation included GRW, the architectural and engineering firm based in Lexington with deep experience in racetrack design. Michael Depew, a soil scientist and agronomist, provided additional consulting services.
In consultation with the New York State Gaming Commission as well as state and local public health officials, NYRA will maintain a number of health and safety protocols implemented at all NYRA properties to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19 and reduce the risk for employees, horsemen, backstretch workers, and the community. Facial coverings and social distancing are mandatory at all times at Saratoga Race Course.
Beginning on April 17, personnel working in support of training activities must provide a negative COVID-19 test or proof of full vaccination in order to access the property. This applies to both local personnel as well as those arriving from other regions. All personnel will be subject to a daily temperature check prior to entering the property.
According to current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, individuals are considered fully vaccinated 14 days or more after receiving the second dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or 14 days or more after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson / Janssen). NYRA will adhere to the current CDC guidance regarding COVID-19 vaccination standards. Testing and vaccination requirements are subject to change and will be adjusted accordingly as New York State and CDC guidance evolves.
The 40-day summer meet at the historic Saratoga Race Course, which will feature 76 stakes worth $21.5 million in total purses, will open on Thursday, July 15, and conclude on Monday, September 6. For additional information, visit NYRA.com.
New York State COVID-19 protocols do not currently allow for spectators at racetracks. As such, NYRA is working closely with New York State to secure the requisite approvals to welcome fans back to Belmont Park this spring and to Saratoga Race Course this summer.