The New York Racing Association announced April 9 that Saratoga Race Course will open for training April 17, two days after the barn area at the Oklahoma Training Track opens April 15.
To accommodate the completion of a major renovation of the Oklahoma Training Track facility, training will begin on the main track.
When training resumes at the Oklahoma training track in early May, horses and riders will be met with a completely reconstructed track featuring a limestone base, renovated surface layer, and modernized drainage systems. In addition, the training track has been widened by 10-14 feet in most areas to address the increasing population of horses training over it annually from April-October.
Additionally, to enhance safety for exercise riders and jockeys, the training track’s inner rail has been replaced with a rider protection system designed by Horsemen’s Track and Equipment.
“The Oklahoma Training Track renovation is an investment in the future of Saratoga Race Course that reflects NYRA’s commitment to providing our athletes with the safest possible environment for training and racing,” said Glen Kozak, NYRA senior vice president for operations and capital projects. “The Oklahoma is a special place in our sport, and these improvements will serve horses, riders, and the racing community well for many decades to come.”
The renovation of the Oklahoma Training Track was modeled after the work that was done to the Saratoga main track in 2020. Just like at the Oklahoma, the main track renovation involved general improvements to the base and surface of the track, as well as a complete overhaul of the drainage system and installation of a new rider safety rail.
A few images here of the new rider safety rail at the Oklahoma Training Track at Saratoga Race Course @TheNYRA . This is the rider protection system designed by Horsemen’s Track and Equipment. pic.twitter.com/22Ojsnq90E
— Patrick McKenna (@PCMckenna) April 6, 2021
“Track surfaces at Saratoga need to stand up to a wide variety of weather conditions, including incredibly intense storms that can hit with almost no warning,” Kozak continued. “The main track can now recover from these weather events much more quickly while retaining consistency from day to day. We are confident the result will be just as positive on the Oklahoma as we have seen on the main track.”
Dr. Mick Peterson and the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory served as consultants on the Oklahoma renovation, performing regular testing of the quality and composition of the new surface. The team assembled by NYRA to contribute expertise to the renovation included GRW, the architectural and engineering firm based in Lexington with deep experience in racetrack design. Michael Depew, a soil scientist and agronomist, provided additional consulting services.
Beginning on April 17, personnel working in support of training activities must provide a negative COVID-19 test or proof of full vaccination (14 days or more after final vaccine shot) in order to access the Saratoga property. Facial coverings and social distancing are required.
The 40-day summer at Saratoga, which will feature 76 stakes worth $21.5 million in total purses, runs from July 15-Sept. 6.
New York State COVID-19 protocols do not currently allow for spectators at racetracks. As such, NYRA is working closely with New York State to secure the requisite approvals to welcome fans back to Belmont Park this spring and to Saratoga Race Course this summer, the track said in a release.