SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Saratoga Race Course is set to open for the season, with the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes waiting in the wings and commemoration of its 150th summer of racing creating a celebratory mood.
The Saratoga meeting starting Friday is the first with recently appointed chief executive officer Christopher Kay at the beleaguered New York Racing Association's helm. He took over on July 1 with the mission of returning NYRA to the private sector after a three-year state takeover.
This year's winners of each Triple Crown race — Orb, Oxbow and Palace Malice — are stabled on the grounds in Saratoga Springs, and they're expected to face off in the Aug. 24 Travers Stakes.
Prominent older horses, including 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Fort Larned, are expected make appearances during the meeting.
Missing will be Ramon Dominguez, the dominant rider here in recent years. Dominguez, 36, suffered a head injury on Jan. 18 when he was thrown from a mount in a race at Aqueduct Racetrack. He announced his retirement in June, acting on the advice of physicians.
Events commemorating the 150th summer of racing have been in progress for more than a month and will continue beyond the meeting's conclusion on Labor Day. The newly unveiled Walk of Fame at the clubhouse entrance is the most conspicuous physical addition to the racetrack.
Heat in the mid-90s won't stop opening day, Kay said Wednesday.
"We've had hot days before," he said. "We have no intention to cancel racing on opening day."
A lawyer who headed Toys R Us and the Trust for Public Land, Kay will see his first race at Saratoga on Friday but said during an introductory news conference that he is fully aware of the importance of racing to the state's economy.
"This is a $4.2 billion industry," Kay said.
Kay said that despite his lack of experience in either racing or gaming, the basic tenets of business are universal, citing marketing and customer service as key ingredients in bottom-line growth.
"Our goal is for everyone to have an outstanding experience each and every day," he said. "One of the things we must remember is the number of people in this state who love horse racing."