12/02/2013 2:02PM

Aqueduct shifts calendar to race Mondays in winter


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Monday will be the new Wednesday at Aqueduct.

Beginning Jan. 13 and lasting 11 weeks through the end of March, Aqueduct will conduct live racing on Mondays and be dark Wednesdays. In January and March, Aqueduct will maintain a five-day race week – Thursdays through Mondays – while in February it will race four days a week – Fridays through Mondays. It is expected that in April Aqueduct will resume its normal Wednesday through Sunday racing schedule – save for April 13 (Palm Sunday) and April 20 (Easter Sunday), when the track must be closed by law.

The 2014 racing schedule – as well as the stakes schedule for only the Aqueduct meet – is expected to be approved on Wednesday at the New York Racing Association Board of Trustees meeting, to be held in Manhattan.

“As we prepare for re-privatization we want to test certain things in 2014 so that in 2015 we can include those tests that worked and not include those that didn’t work,” Chris Kay, NYRA president and CEO, said. “Rather than say, ‘We think this will work,’ it’s better for us to test it and see if it works.”

With the exception of Saratoga, NYRA has not raced regularly on Mondays since the early 1990s, when it was still conducting racing six days week. NYRA frequently opens on holiday Mondays such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January and Presidents Day in February.

Kay said the idea to race Mondays was initiated by P.J. Campo – who recently resigned his post as NYRA director of racing/racing secretary to take a job at Gulfstream Park – in consultation with horsemen.

“Some of our horseman and P.J. both were saying, ‘Let’s give this a shot,’ ” Kay said. “There’s very little competition on Monday, it might work. Maybe it’ll work, or maybe there’s a reason why there is very little competition on Monday.”

Aqueduct’s primary competitor in the winter is Gulfstream Park which races Wednesday through Sunday, but, like most tracks, is open seven days a week for simulcasting. Tracks that race on Mondays in the winter include Parx, Beulah Park, and Turf Paradise.

Last year, NYRA cut six days of racing – four in February and two in March – due to a reduction in field size attributed in part to new medication rules that differed sharply from nearby states such as Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Many of those states are close to implementing rules that align with New York, giving Kay hope field size will rebound.

Kay said that in presenting 2014 racing dates the same 40-day meet will be sought for Saratoga.

“There is no suggested change in the number of days we run at Saratoga,” Kay said.

Kay’s bonuses

Monday marked five months since Kay took over as NYRA CEO and president. When hired, it was announced that his base salary would be $300,000 and that he would be eligible for up to $250,000 in bonuses based on certain performance metrics.

David Skorton, the NYRA chairman, in response to repeated requests from Daily Racing Form , broadly identified some of those metrics.

“The incentive component was developed using a ‘balanced scorecard’ that is based on key financial and non-financial objectives of NYRA,” Skorton wrote in an email. “The CEO’s performance will be reviewed annually against the goals set by the NYRA Board.”

Skorton wrote that financial items to be considered include revenue, operating results versus prior year, management of capital expenditures, and new revenue initiatives.

Under what he termed “quality,” Skorton indicated issues to be reviewed include return on marketing initiatives, ontrack customer experience, development and implementation of new technologies, leadership (i.e. develop strong management team and relationships with external constituencies), and improvements in equine and jockey safety.