Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association, Inc.



Racing Shows Its Soul

Racing across the country has been the punching bag for its opposition and people who donít understand our sport. The compassion overflowed this week when The Saratoga Backstretch Clinic was officially opened to the public. The clinic is a state-of-the-art medical operation run in conjunction with the Backstretch Employee Service Team (B.E.S.T.) and Saratoga Hospital. The brick-and-mortar clinic easily scores a technical knock-out of critics who think racing lacks a soul.

Anyone with a modicum of healthcare experience would recognize the new Saratoga Backstretch Clinic as worthy of being where they get needed urgent health care. Rooms comfortably hold patients and clinicians. Without description the focus on privacy during stressful encounters is obvious. Signage suits the bilingual appetite of the would-be patients. A hospital it is not but it has all the equipment for a hospital-based urgent center. For the past 14 years patients and providers of the NYRA backstretch community tolerated with wonder as the mobile trailer that masked as a clinic. Grateful to have it as they work to keep the equine athletes under their care healthy and sound. The gap between the care that the horses received and that which the workers received is as large as the distance between their work and the solar system above. How sad but how exciting that clinic betters this.

The event held last Tuesday, the opening of the Clinic, is a benchmark that other racing jurisdictions should replicate, a point made by Dave OíRouke, President and CEO of NYRA. There should not be a racetrack in the country without such a clinic. Someday that may be the case thanks to the philanthropy of John Hendrickson and the estate of Mary Lou Whitney. ďThis clinic was important to her (Mary Lou)Ē said Hendrickson ďand Iím thrilled to be here to celebrate its completion in her memory.Ē

The strong bond between the Clinic and the Saratoga Hospital showed brightly as the President and CEO of the Hospital, Jill Van Kuren, strolled to the podium on the beautiful, sun-drenched day to lead the event. She talked of the healthcare history and of the partnership between B.E.S.T. and the hospital that resulted in a clinical synergy for caring for backstretch workers and their families. The five examination rooms, the on-site lab and consulting space offer these workers and families needed services so important to racing and the thousands of fans in the grandstands enjoying the results of their labors. Healthcare on the Saratoga NYRA campus has come full circle.

Paul Ruchames, the Director of B.E.S.T., the other half of the Clinic team, which provides for the social wellbeing of the workers, spoke with passion about the clinic. He remarked how this Clinic is a national model brought about by the racing industry. Paulís dedication to the backstretch workers and their wellbeing is exemplary. When the backstretch workers spoke compassionately Paulís pride shown bright. He is the driving force of the B.E.S.T.

As the program approached the Ribbon Cutting Dave OíRourke, President and CEO of NYRA, and John Hendrickson, primary benefactor for the clinic, tied the program together with the vision of what the clinic can do. The commitment by both offered confidence to all who care deeply about the lives of the folks who make our sport possible.

Jill VanKuren returned to the dais and invited the roster of speakers to join her for the official Ribbon Cutting. The air exploded with hope like clouds floating above for the future of racing and a clear challenge to racetracks across the country to replicate NYRAís dedication to the backstretch. The clinicís doors swung open, and we saw the wonder of the clinic which provides primary and urgent care to the over 800 workers who migrate to Saratoga to take care of the equine athletes that make our sport possible.†