07/31/2008 11:00PM

NYRA getting new race surface chief


John Passero, the New York Racing Association's director of racing surfaces since 2005, will leave that position at the end of the Saratoga meet, it was announced Friday.

Passero, 66, will be replaced by Glen Kozak, who has worked as the vice president of facilities and racing surfaces for the Maryland Jockey Club since 2004.

Passero, who came to New York from Maryland in January 2005, had a sometimes contentious relationship with horsemen, who often expressed concerns with the conditions of NYRA tracks. During the past Belmont spring/summer meet, many horsemen expressed their dissatisfaction with Belmont's main track by training all their horses on the training track.

"I felt that I never had a problem with the job," said Passero, who declined to address his relationship with horsemen. "I think it's time to pursue other interests."

Passero has his own company, and he is in the process of rebuilding two training tracks on farms in Maryland.

Kozak began his racing career in 1991 as property manager at Suffolk Downs, where he participated in the racetrack's reopening. He joined the Maryland Jockey Club in 2004 and was involved in the multimillion-dollar track rebuilding project at Laurel Park, which entailed widening the main track and installing a newly designed turf course.