August 8, 2022

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Holliday Speaks on New Position, Way forward for New York Racing

When Marc Holliday was offered with the chance to turn out to be chairman of the board for the New York Racing Affiliation late in 2021, he knew in his coronary heart what he wanted to do.

“I really like racing. I really like the equine business, and I really like New York,” stated Holliday, a NYRA board member since 2014 who was appointed chairman in December. “I’d say these are the large three the reason why I took the job. The game actually does a lot for therefore many individuals, and I don’t assume everybody appreciates simply how vital the equine business is to New York State, be it upstate or downstate.”

The 53-year-old Holliday brings to the place the sort of racing and enterprise expertise that’s very important for NYRA because it faces an important interval that options the redevelopment of Belmont Park whereas coping with day-to-day points such because the excessive value of racing in New York and the specter of challenges for wagering {dollars} from sports activities betting.

One in every of New York’s high enterprise leaders, Holliday is the chairman and CEO of SL Inexperienced Realty Company, New York Metropolis’s largest industrial landlord. He joined the corporate in 1998, turning into CEO in 2004 and including the extra tasks as chairman in 2019 whereas main the event of a core enterprise technique for an organization with greater than 110 belongings within the tri-state New York space masking roughly 50 million sq. toes.

A longtime fan of horse racing, the Lengthy Island native has raced underneath the banner of Blue Satan Racing since 2007 and owned the grade 1-winning filly sprinter Come Dancing , who received 9 of 19 begins for coach Carlos Martin from 2016-20 and earned $1,216,783. His New York-based steady has posted 131 wins since its inception, with earnings of $6,355,862.

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“I used to be thrilled to be part of the board for the years main as much as (chairman) Mike Del Giudice stepping down on the finish of 2021, and it gave me a chance to step up and assist out a company that employs a various personnel and helps upstate farms and allows individuals to attach with animals, the jockeys, and racing in a really tangible approach,” Holliday stated. “I actually wish to do my half to assist NYRA preserve and enhance upon its market-leading place in Thoroughbred racing.”

In a query and reply interview after his first Belmont Stakes Introduced by NYRA Bets (G1) as chairman, Holliday spoke with BloodHorse senior correspondent Bob Ehalt about his imaginative and prescient for NYRA whereas addressing a wide range of subjects of significance for New York racing and its followers.

Picture: Chad B. Harmon

Racing at Belmont Park

BH: How will your experiences as an proprietor enable you to along with your job as chairman?

MH: Being a longtime proprietor, breeder, and fan of the game, it offers me a fantastic perspective with which to work with my co-trustees and likewise with (NYRA CEO and president) David O’Rourke and his staff to try to repeatedly enhance the racing product, enhance the fan expertise, and hopefully enhance the bodily constructions by which we placed on our present. Most significantly, we wish to enhance a whole lot of the backstretch services which all the employees—who’re exhausting staff working six, seven days per week—name dwelling, whether or not or not it’s right here at Belmont or at Saratoga. We wish these individuals to have a fantastic working expertise as a lot as we would like followers to have a fantastic leisure expertise.

BH: Together with your expertise as an proprietor you already know the monetary strains of working a steady in New York. What might be performed to assist house owners and trainers and make it extra economically possible for them?

MH: The primary factor we now have to do, working hand-in-hand with the State and the Gaming Fee, is to determine methods to cut back the price of doing enterprise right here in New York State for the horsemen. It’s very costly, with labor being far and away the primary trigger right here in New York, and it goes from there to workman’s compensation and all the opposite bills of stabling and getting good individuals to look after these horses. In different jurisdictions the prices are a lot much less, however right here in New York we now have a really excessive value construction, and I feel we want methods to get extra money to have the ability to assist the horsemen and to assist the employees and to try to provide you with incentives for horseman so they may wish to run right here. We additionally want incentives for individuals to deliver their stables right here so we’re at full capability all year long. With the intention to do this, we’ve bought to make it economically achievable, not only for the highest house owners and trainers however for all of the trainers and house owners which are dedicated to working in New York 12 months a yr.

BH: Is there something particularly that may be performed to assist the state of affairs?

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MH: (President) Joe Appelbaum and (the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Affiliation) and NYRA have labored collectively on self-retention danger packages which have vastly diminished legal responsibility insurance coverage and workman’s comp insurance coverage for the horsemen. I feel that’s the first step. Step two for us, (proprietor and board of trustees member) Mike Dubb spearheads bodily belongings on the board degree for NYRA and dealing with (NYRA senior vice chairman of operations and capital tasks) Glen Kozak, who is among the premier trackmen within the nation, they’ve created brand-new dormitories and services that we don’t cost for. That makes New York so distinctive on the earth of racing that we offer housing for transient staff, and it’s not simply housing, however new and improved housing, to assist defray housing prices. The final piece of it’s actually working with the state on making the visas as accessible as potential so we are able to get to that inhabitants of staff which are expert and adept at working with horses and wish to work with these horses early within the morning until late within the night with out having a crippling value of compensation related to it whereas paying a good residing wage to all people that works right here.

BH: How will your corporation expertise assist NYRA?

MH: I’m a developer and we now have a whole lot of good enterprise individuals on the board and we now have a whole lot of good enterprise individuals working NYRA. Renee Postel is our CFO and she or he does an incredible job on price range forecasting and producing the books. NYRA has returned to well being and monetary accountability underneath this administration staff and underneath this board within the eight or so years for the reason that reorganization. We’re very happy with that monetary observe report, and I’m pleased to lend my experience in that space to NYRA. However the space I can in all probability take advantage of influence could be within the long-term redevelopment of Belmont racetrack. Belmont Park is a good observe and a fantastic facility, however it’s positively in want of considerable capital enhancements and in some circumstances wholesale new improvement. I’ve made it my major purpose to remodel Belmont from what it’s immediately, not simply into a contemporary facility, however right into a world-class facility that may be pretty much as good as any domestically or internationally as a result of that’s what New York racing deserves. We shouldn’t settle for something much less. It’s vastly vital for the way forward for Thoroughbred racing in New York State that we handle this, and I feel it is going to be transformational when it comes to the sorts and quantities of individuals we are able to appeal to, accessing a youthful base of followers. To try this, we now have to actually reimagine the property, unlock the infield and activate it, like so many different tracks do. Not only for large race days but in addition as a group asset that can be utilized once we’re not racing for sports activities fields and concert events and issues of that ilk, which is a win-win for NYRA, the state, and native communities. The same useful resource doesn’t exist in Floral Park, Elmont, the encompassing group, and we are able to and can work in order that it has a twin goal. What might be dangerous about that? 

BH: I’m certain your previous work as chairman of the equine security committee may even determine prominently in your position as chairman.

MH: We now have performed an unbelievable quantity of excellent for the equine athletes and for jockey security with all the varied observe modifications we’ve made through the years. There was a considerable funding to make the tracks safer and extra forgiving and higher for the horses. One other of our targets proper up there with redeveloping Belmont Park is to develop a state-of-the-art new equine laboratory that may lead the nation when it comes to its capability to course of successfully, effectively, and competently all the blood testing of horses to make it possible for all the remedy compliance is being met and that outcomes might be returned rapidly and precisely. With know-how being what it’s, we’re taking a tough have a look at that with the Gaming Fee and the State vet to see how we are able to deliver one thing new to the desk that’s not only a good facility however a world-class facility.

Scene - Belmont Park - 053120
Picture: Coglianese Pictures

A horse trains at Belmont Park

BH: What’s the influence of the state legislature’s failure to place a $450 million bond for the Belmont Park redevelopment within the lately enacted state price range?

MH: I wouldn’t say it was a failure. On this case, the request was for a $450 million bond allocation and authorization to assist us finance the overall enhancements of the observe and the ability, and I feel we are able to additionally work the equine blood lab into that equation. Sadly, a lot of the main focus in Albany bought distracted throughout and after the price range course of with so lots of the different points dealing with the state proper now, whether or not or not it’s reasonably priced housing or gun violence. There was additionally a late concentrate on the abortion rights challenge that detracted all people from actually digging in as a lot as we might have hoped into the advantages, information, and circumstances round this glorious improvement. Now we benefit from having an extra six months or so to make that case much more emphatically, although, to be trustworthy, I feel we did a extremely good job within the first place. We had assist from all of the native communities, all of the native elected officers, and that’s what you usually need and what usually succeeds in Albany. However I feel we now have to go one step additional and actually emphasize what these advantages are going to be for the security of the horses, security for the jockeys, the fan expertise, and the flexibility to drag within the Breeders’ Cup upon the completion of this nice redevelopment, and, equally vital, that we unlock of Aqueduct Racetrack in a approach that may unlock large worth for the state by not having the duplicity of racing operations encumbering two state-owned tracks.

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BH: What do you want most about New York racing?

MH: I’ve grown up right here and have been coming to the observe and having fun with racing in New York since about 1978, once I bought the racing bug. Then my father turned a reasonably vital proprietor racing on the New York circuit within the Standardbred sport and I bear in mind going to The Meadowlands once they had 25,000 individuals and Yonkers Raceway and Roosevelt Raceway. It was very thrilling for me again then. So once I had a chance as a lifelong New Yorker to get into the game myself about 15-16 years in the past, I needed to do it within the sport of Thoroughbred racing as a result of the animals are majestic. The game is exhilarating to observe and take part in. Additionally as an proprietor, for me popping out to a spot like Belmont or Saratoga on a fantastic day, whether or not it’s a spring day or a sizzling summer season day, it’s about far more than the racing. It’s a whole expertise of difficult your self to try to handicap winners and looking out on the competitors on a world stage as a result of we’re the host of a number of the biggest racing on the earth. These are nice athletes, and I really feel like nobody has the variety of the expertise that New York has. 

BH: What are your ideas on NYRA’s America’s Day on the Races telecasts on FOX Sports activities?

MH: We usher in probably the most cash, which permits us to run the perfect races, and due to this fact we now have the perfect broadcast product with America’s Day on the Races. Together with FOX Sports activities, (NYRA chief income officer and president of NYRA Bets) Tony Allevato is admittedly producing a beautiful product that may be loved by diehard followers within the sport and a extra general-interest participant as effectively. I actually don’t assume anybody does it so holistically as the way in which New York racing does it.

BH: Are you trying ahead to your first Saratoga Race Course meet as chairman?

MH: In fact. It’s going to be extraordinarily thrilling. We’re working 5 days per week up there, and I feel it’s clear {that a} five-day race week throughout a 40-day season is one thing that’s labored out phenomenally effectively. I do know there have been doubters initially, however we set all-time wagering information each in 2019 and 2021 whereas eclipsing one million in paid attendance yearly. For a 40-day season, it’s a major accomplishment. It demonstrates the excellence and significance of that summer season meet, what it means to New York racing, and what it means to town of Saratoga and upstate. 

The first race leaves the starting gate on Opening Day of the 153rd meeting at the Saratoga Race Course  Thursday July 15, 2021 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The race was won by Charlie’sarchangel ridden by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
Picture: Skip Dickstein

Horses go away the gate at Saratoga Race Course

BH: Other than NYRA’s disciplinary hearings, what might be performed to handle those that incessantly break the principles within the sport? 

MH: I feel the reply is twofold. First, NYRA has at all times, significantly of late, proven a willpower in wanting to verify this sport is a completely degree taking part in subject for the betting followers. We actually owe them each effort we are able to to make it possible for all the trainers and vets are complying with these rigorous guidelines which have been put in place, and when the principles are damaged we both can take up enforcement ourselves or work with the Gaming Fee which can implement these guidelines. I feel we do a great job with that, and because of this, we now have a really dependable, clear product that we produce, and a whole lot of the issues that get the headlines usually are in different jurisdictions. But even once they’re in different jurisdictions, we take it critically as a result of it’s not nearly infractions which will occur at our services, however it’s additionally in regards to the status of this sport, and whether or not you’re right here otherwise you’re racing some other place, you at all times must uphold that dedication and self-discipline. So I feel we’ve performed a great job with the way by which we go about surveillance and detection and dealing with the state on enforcement and in some circumstances having our personal hearings course of once we really feel sure issues must be taken very critically and instantly. Going ahead we’ll be working underneath the umbrella of the (Horseracing Integrity and Security Authority) so there will likely be a federal commonplace and a federal group to attempt to take all of the disparate guidelines and rules and degree of enforcement from these numerous tracks and produce it to a degree of symmetry which we assist utterly.

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BH: How do you are feeling HISA goes to influence New York racing and the game basically?

MH: NYRA advocated for the Horseracing Integrity and Security Act since Consultant Paul Tonko first launched laws in 2015. So we’ve been there for the previous seven years. HISA will obtain a nationwide strategy to remedy management and it’ll set up the strongest anti-doping authority within the sport’s historical past and create uniform security and integrity requirements throughout the nation. NYRA is assured HISA will modernize the game in vital methods within the close to and long-term future. For somebody like NYRA that already is adhering to a number of the greatest guidelines and protocols, it needs to be comparatively straightforward for us to adjust to and present management. It is going to actually turn out to be a operate of value. What are the incremental prices to attaining these targets? These targets don’t come free of charge, proper? There’s going to be a price and the business goes to must bear a good quantity of that value together with the jurisdictions which host these racing venues. However so long as it may be performed cost-effectively, I feel it’ll be effectively price no matter it takes to do it. It is going to in all probability be extra of a tradition change for a number of the different tracks and venues which will have additional to come back with a view to comply.

BH: With Kathy Hochul changing Andrew Cuomo as governor of New York, have you ever seen any modifications within the relationship between Albany and NYRA, and what do you search for going ahead?

MH: I commend Governor Hochul and her outspoken assist for the business. Shortly after turning into governor final yr, she got here to Saratoga and loved a day of racing and finally offered the trophy on the (2021 Runhappy Travers Stakes, G1). She was right here with me and all of us on the Belmont Stakes and gave the decision for riders up and offered the trophy to the successful connections of Mo Donegal . We haven’t had a governor in a very long time that has proven that degree of caring and understanding for the multi-billion greenback financial influence that equine racing brings to downstate and upstate and the important position it performs in maintaining farms and farm staff up and working and employed via these tough occasions.

2022 Belmont Stakes Day Kathy Hochul, Bobby Flay
Picture: Coglianese Pictures/Susie Raisher

(L-R): Bobby Flay, Kathy Hochul, and Marc Holliday at Belmont Park

BH: What influence has the emergence of sports activities betting had on NYRA and what can it do to embrace the brand new wave of gamblers that’s being created? 

MH: David O’Rourke has actually performed a number one position right here in envisioning early on the rise of sports activities betting and what the constructive impacts could be as we codified and institutionalized this new type of leisure, which is sort of fashionable. Clearly, there’s an enormous want and want on the market for this type of leisure. I feel it’s being executed very responsibly, and whereas NYRA just isn’t at present permitted to supply our product on these betting cellular platforms, the NYRA staff led by David has aggressively pursued partnerships with BetMGM and Caesars that may enable us to enter that market and develop new income streams. That’s actually vital for the way forward for NYRA and for the way forward for racing to turn out to be extra built-in into this and never simply checked out as a sport and type of betting leisure that’s off to the facet. It needs to be considered as one that may quickly have federal oversight via HISA, and hopefully it is going to be appeared upon no in a different way than the NBA and MLB and NFL as a well-regulated sport on which individuals can wager for extra leisure {dollars} in venues which are purposefully constructed and are greatest of sophistication for a complete leisure expertise. None of this might be potential with out NYRA Bets, which continues to develop when it comes to each membership and wagering deal with, and the credit score there definitely goes to Dave and Tony for the job they’re doing. (NYRA Bets wagering has grown from $303 million in 2016 to $694.4 million in 2021, with lively customers rising by 255% over the identical interval.)

Mo Donegal wins the 2022 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park
Picture: Coglianese Pictures

Marc Holliday (far proper) joins within the trophy presentation to the connections of Mo Donegal for the Belmont Stakes