04/19/2006 11:00PM

NYRA boosts number of security stalls at Saratoga


The New York Racing Association plans to use 82 permanent stalls at Saratoga Race Course this year in its race-day security program, up from 30 permanent stalls last year.

Charles Hayward, the chief executive of NYRA, said on Thursday that most of the new permanent stalls will be located in Barn 29, which has a total of 52 spaces. Fifteen stalls each in Barns 27 and 28 that were used for the program last year will be utilized again this year, Hayward said, along with 23 stalls in a temporary structure on the backstretch.

Last year, NYRA began requiring that all horses be isolated on race day, six hours prior to post, in stalls that limit access to state personnel. The purpose of the program was to limit the opportunities for someone to administer illegal drugs to horses on race day.

The stall situation at Saratoga was harshly criticized by some horsemen for being inadequate to protect horses' welfare. Initially, many of the temporary stalls used last year were 81 square feet and lacked fans for ventilation.

Hayward said the temporary stalls this year will be 120 square feet. He also said that NYRA hopes to invite horsemen to Saratoga in early July to review the permanent and temporary structures that will be used this year.

"We'll walk the area with them, so if there's any complaints, we can work with them to get those ironed out by the time the meets starts" on July 26, Hayward said.

Taking over Barn 29 for the security program means there will be 52 fewer stalls on the Saratoga backstretch for horsemen. However, Hayward said NYRA is in discussions with Saratoga Gaming and Raceway, a harness track and casino located near Saratoga Race Course, about the use of 50 stalls there during the Thoroughbred track's meet.

Hayward said those discussions involve the selling of Saratoga's signal to the harness track during the live meet. Saratoga's Thoroughbred signal has never been provided to the harness track before.

"I don't think it will cannibalize us at all," Hayward said. "The guy who gets off work at three o'clock might find it a lot easier to go to the harness track to bet the late double than fight the parking and crowds in the late afternoon" at the Thoroughbred track.