10/21/2013 1:45PM

Panza brings experience, ideas to New York Racing Association


While saying he will continue the New York Racing Association’s commitment to the state’s breeding program, Martin Panza, newly hired senior vice president of racing operations, hopes to reach outside U.S. borders to make NYRA more appealing to international interests.

On Sunday, Panza, 50, was officially named as NYRA’s senior vice president for racing operations, a newly created position. Among his jobs will be to oversee the racing office, which is currently led by racing secretary P.J. Campo.

Panza, who will start at NYRA the final week of November, comes from Betfair Hollywood Park where he has spent the last two decades as its vice president of racing and racing secretary.

Betfair Hollywood Park will hold its final meet this fall before closing for good. Panza chose to come to NYRA despite being courted by several other tracks, including Santa Anita.

“I think I can come there and help and bring some new ideas to the table,” Panza said by phone. “With the purse money available, there are some ways to make things go a little bit smoother and improve.”

Panza said he will try to retain a commitment to the condition book. Currently, a NYRA card consists of races from the condition book as well as races listed on an overnight sheet, known as extras, most of which are book races that didn’t fill for its scheduled day.

“If you make your book it brings a lot of integrity to the whole process,” Panza said. “Here’s your condition book, here are your races, pick your races and enter in it.”

Panza said he understands the need for a strong statebred program and hopes to help encourage the continued growth of the New York breeding program, which has begun to grow following the opening two years ago this week of the Resorts World casino at Aqueduct.

“I’m a firm believer in the breeding program,” Panza said. “I think it does multiple things. First of all, it creates jobs in the state of New York; that’s very important. It also creates horse inventory for the state of New York. Certainly, I know New York-breds race in other states. You’d like to present a strong program for them to stay in the state.”

One of Panza’s top accomplishments in California was the creation of the American Oaks, which began as a rich turf race for 3-year-old fillies that drew horses from around the world. Panza sees the opportunity to create similar events at NYRA.

“Should we run 10 overnight stakes at $100,000 each and an average field size of six horses or a $1 million race and make it an international event with 12 or 13 horses, five or six horses from around the world?” Panza said. “It becomes newsworthy, it becomes interesting. I like watching races. I want to go work and say ‘Hey, we got a Japanese horse, two horses from England, two horses from France.’ That’s a race I want to see today.”

Panza said that NYRA’s three tracks – Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga – need to be treated differently.

“It almost needs to be three different business plans,” Panza said. “What works at Saratoga doesn’t work at Belmont and Aqueduct, and what works at Aqueduct may not work for Belmont. You got to work each facility – what are we trying to accomplish at each facility? – and treat them a little bit different. That’s a challenge.”

It’s a challenge those that hired Panza are confident he can meet.

“Martin is a proven leader with more than 25 years’ experience,” David Skorton, chair of the NYRA Reorganization Board, said in a press release. “He will work very effectively with the other skilled executives currently in place at NYRA. The organization is moving in the right direction.”