"NYRA has been a very important cornerstone in the national racing market for a long time," said Eric Mitchell, editorial director and editor-in-chief of the Lexington, Ky.-based magazine The Blood-Horse. The three NYRA tracks last year staged 39 of the 112 Grade 1, or top level, races in the country.
"A lot of the most talented and well-bred juvenile horses make their starts in New York," he said, noting that the Saratoga race card every summer holds two of the sport's marquee races outside the Triple Crown, the Travers and Whitney Stakes.
"It has been shown that people are more likely to wager on the quality races, so the more stakes races you have, the better horses and more competitive fields will find more people wagering on those races," Mitchell said. "If NYRA were to go away, that would create an awfully big vacuum."
Justin Nicholson, a 26-year-old who left Georgetown law school to join a family business that develops race horses in Elkton, Md., is encouraged by the moves to overhaul NYRA and the Jockey Club initiatives toward attracting younger fans.
"The greatest thing is the stories that we have to tell," he said. "We need to get serious about an aggressive marketing strategy. When people see all great stories that surround horse racing, they will begin to feel invested in the sport. What happens is we spend a lot of time responding to criticism rather than showing the positive stories."