Saturday's Belmont Stakes signifies the end of this year's Triple Crown season and the biggest day of the year in New York thoroughbred racing. As YNN's Matt Hunter reports, it also marks 13 months since the New York Racing Association last had a president and CEO.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Five months after it was discovered the New York Racing Association had overcharged bettors by eight million dollars, the organization's president and CEO, Charles Hayward, was given his walking papers last May. 13 months later, his permanent replacement has yet to be named.
"It has been frustrating not having a leader for about a year," said John Hendrickson, who serves as a special Saratoga liaison to the NYRA reorganization board. "We really need to have a head to this organization and make sure the public has confidence in their tracks.”
While former COO Ellen McClain was quickly named president, she announced her resignation in January. In October, Governor Andrew Cuomo finalized a state takeover of NYRA and installed a new 17-member board of trustees.
When the new NYRA board was assembled last year, members circled this Saturday's Belmont Stakes as a target to have a new CEO in place. This week, board chairman David Skorton confirmed New York's biggest day of racing will pass without a new NYRA boss at the helm.
"We're doing interviews and really intensively working on it and I hope we have some good news to announce in fairly short order, but it won't be by Saturday,” said David Skorton, who
attended an event in Albany Monday morning.
"It's always a concern when you don't have a CEO," said Adirondack CEO Charles Wait, the longest serving member of the NYRA Board of Trustees. "But it's better to take the time and get the right person in place, than to rush it and make a mistake.”
None of the board members interviewed would provide names, but all confirmed the search committee has interviewed candidates both with and without racing backgrounds.
"That's just something the committee is going to have to come back with several recommendations to the board," Wait said. "They're not going to pick just one person and ask us to "rubber stamp" it.”
"My personal preference is someone that has operational experience of running a racetrack and understands betting,” Hendrickson said.
Once the Belmont trophy is awarded, the focus shifts to Saratoga. While no one's using the word "deadline," most would like to see a new CEO in place by July 19th's opening day.
"I hope so, I hope so,” Skorton said.
"We need to have closure on this,” said Hendrickson, who expects a new CEO to be named within a month.
"I hope we can focus this summer on what's right about racing and that's Saratoga,” Wait said.