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New NYRA chief meets with media
60-year-old Christopher Kay sat down with reporters Wednesday at Saratoga Racecourse to answer questions ranging from the status of opening day to security concerns. The former Chief Operating Officer at Toys 'r' Us and one-time managing director for Universal Paks and Resorts says there's no intention of postpoing opening day on Friday.
"It's warm but look, we've had warm days here in the past," says Kay. "We're prepared for it." Kay said NYRA will consult with horsemen as they usually do regarding racing conditions but expects to have racing Friday.
Kay's arrival follows the firing of Charles Hayward in May 2012. Hayward's departure came after a state audit found some bettors had been short-changed as the result of NYRA not reducing its takeout on certain kinds of bets, as state law required. NYRA's new board of trustees, appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, found Kay after Hayward's successor - Ellen McClain, Chief Operating Officer under Hayward - resigned after nine months. NYRA is to be returned to private operation in October 2015.
Kay told reporters he wants to market horse racing in a way that attracts more women aged 18-34. He said he expects his stay to be long-term.
Changes in NYRA management include those that came before NYRA was awarded a 30-year hold on the franchise during the Spitzer administration. Legal and financial problems had led to an open competition for the management of horse racing and VLTs.
Asked how necessary he thinks it is to root out problems that would create more negative headlines for NYRA, Kay paused.
"Let's see...well, the easy answer is to say it's a strong desire of mine but maybe a longer-winded answer - sorry, you're talking to a former lawyer - is that I started off trying lawsuits and the first thing I wanted to know was what are all the problems. And so, I asked a lot of questions to know what the problems were. So, all I can do is ask you to trust me when I tell you that my way of doing business has been to understand all of the problems as soon as I can."