There are many things that happen that simply defy belief. There are the tragedies that seemingly occur everyday in our world. Then there are the more prosaic matters that make wonder how anyone could be this stupid. That brings us to the New York Racing Association and The Saratoga Special.
For those not familiar with the Special, it is a daily newspaper published during the Saratoga meet, distributed for free, and all about racing at the Spa. That’s it, nothing but photos, articles, handicapping and thoughts about racing at Saratoga. It doesn’t engage in gossip or negativity. It is published by racing journalists who come to Saratoga from their Maryland base, rent a house, and then literally work as close to 24/7 as one possibly could. I have never heard a negative comment about the paper or its chief honchos, brothers Sean and Joe Clancy. That alone makes it a unique institution.
So why would NYRA want to restrict the distribution of a high-quality – and let me say it again, free – paper that promotes the Saratoga racing experience as no one else does? If that level of obtuseness is not maddening enough, they dropped this proposal on the Special‘s crew the day before the meet began on Friday. That’s right, a group in love with Saratoga moved into their rental house, passing up any other opportunities they may have had while devoting themselves to this project, and are told the day before that NYRA had a different idea.
NYRA’s leadership claims to have the goal of enhancing the customer experience and attracting new fans to the sport. The Special furthers each of those supposed priorities. I am starting to think, however, that the real priority of CEO Chris Kay and his bevy of recently hired managers is the perpetuation of their own existence. There is a clear party line emitting from all those working for NYRA in a public capacity that things have never been better and will only get even more so. So perhaps a straightforward and professional journalistic enterprise that does not spew the party line has no place in the “new” NYRA.
The Saratoga Special has been an important part of the Spa experience ever since they began publishing 13 years ago. There are many things that are unique and special about Saratoga and the Special is one of those. The current NYRA leadership should aspire to enter that fabric rather than trying to suppress an important voice.