02/11/2016 4:31PM

Two more executives leaving NYRA


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - George Venizelos and John Durso Jr., both of whom have worked for the New York Racing Association for less than two years, are leaving NYRA to take jobs in the private sector, both confirmed on Thursday.

Venizelos, who started as vice-president and chief security officer at NYRA on Jan. 26, 2015, will be leaving next week to take a position at Quality Protection Services, a security company based in Manhattan.

Venizelos, who said that he would be basically running that company, called it “an opportunity of a lifetime,” but said it was not an easy decision to leave NYRA.

“I only worked there for a year, but it was a great year,” Venizelos, 56, said Thursday. “There are a lot of great, dedicated people in that company. It wasn’t an easy decision, but on paper, with a family - I have three kids - it’s the right decision.”

Venizelos was credited by NYRA’s upper management team with helping to improve the experience at the 2015 Belmont Stakes, when American Pharoah went for the Triple Crown, compared to the logistical nightmares in 2014 when California Chrome attempted to win the Triple Crown.

“That’s probably one of the most satisfying accomplishments of my career,” Venizelos said. “It was a complete team effort. People within the company came through, outside law enforcement, Nassau County law enforcement, the MTA all came through.”

Venizelos worked as an assistant director for the New York division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation before joining NYRA.

Meanwhile, Durso is leaving his position as director of communications and public affairs for NYRA, a position he has held since July 2014. His last day at NYRA will be Feb. 26.

“In the coming weeks, I will be transitioning into the private sector and commencing a new, exciting chapter within my professional career,” Durso, 40, said. “A formal announcement on these plans will be made in the future, and I look forward to sharing them at that time.”

Of his time at NYRA, Durso said, “It has been both an honor and a truly unforgettable experience to serve the New York Racing Association and its fans over the past two years.”

Jenny Kellner will serve as interim communications director.

The departures of Venizelos and Durso bring to four the number of officers or operating officials who have left the NYRA in 2016. In January, Susanne Stover left her position as chief financial officer to take a similar position with the restaurant chain Johnny Rockets, and Pat Mahony retired as director of mutuels.

Daughtry headlines Belmont Day entertainment

NYRA announced Thursday that the American Music Award-winning band Daughtry will serve as the headline entertainment on the Belmont Stakes Day card on June 11. Daughtry will perform a couple of songs before the Belmont Stakes and then follow with a concert after the races.

There will also be a performance from the Broadway musical “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” and from the U.S Military Academy.

It had previously been announced that the country duo Maddie & Tae would be performing on June 10.

Tickets for the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival can be purchased at Tickemaster.com.