COVID-19 Ship In From Out of State

January 28th, 2021

This is the protocol for Horsemen coming in from out of state (exempt are PA, NJ, VT, MA Conn) all other states must follow the guidelines below. You will be required upon entering NYS having taken a COVID test 3 days prior to your departure from whatever state you were in. You will then notify Backstretch Security Manager Charles Astarita at (518) 584-2110 EXT 5650 or Race Secretary Peter (PJ) Iovino (518) 584-2110 EXT 5660. Please provide the date and result of your first test. If you have to leave a voice mail please leave a phone number so we can reach you at to confirm your information. You will be required to quarantine for 3 days. Day 4 of your return you will have to take another COVID test if both tests are negative you may return within 10 days of your arrival in NYS.

Access to the Backstretch as always requires that you be put on our Master list for COVID tracking on the Backstretch. If you are not already or you are not sure please fill out the a sheet, you can email the sheet to [email protected] prior to the conclusion of your quarantine or summit once cleared. Reminder submissions to the Master sheet can take up 48hrs to process and you will not be granted entry until you are on the list. To check if you are on the list you can call the Stablegate at (518) 584-2110 EXT 5667.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced new guidelines allowing travelers to New York to “test out” of the mandatory 10-day quarantine for asymptomatic individuals. Travelers from states that are contiguous with New York are exempt from the travel advisory; however covered travelers must continue to fill out the Traveler Health Form. Essential workers will continue to be exempt as well. The guidance also applies to any person who has traveled to CDC Levels 2 and higher Health Notice country under the COVID risk assessment.

For any traveler to New York State from a noncontiguous state, US territory or CDC level 2 and higher country, the new guidelines for travelers to test-out of the mandatory 10-day quarantine are below:

  • For travelers who were out-of-state for more than 24 hours:
    • Travelers must obtain a test within three days of departure, prior to arrival in New York.
    • The traveler must, upon arrival in New York, quarantine for three days.
    • On day 4 of their quarantine, the traveler must obtain another COVID test. If both tests comes back negative, the traveler may exit quarantine early upon receipt of the second negative diagnostic test.

The local health department must make contact with the state the traveler came from, to ensure contact tracing proceeds there as well. All travelers must continue to fill out our traveler form upon arrival into New York State to contribute to New York State’s robust contact tracing program.

The travel guidelines require all New Yorkers, as well as those visiting from out-of-state, to take personal responsibility for compliance in the best interest of public health and safety.

Charles Astarita

Administrative Security Manager

Saratoga Casino Hotel

342 Jefferson Street, PO Box 356

Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

(518) 584-2110 Ext. 5650

[email protected]

Condolences to the Rybka Family

January 28th, 2021

Darren Paul Rybka, Sr., 54, of Porter Corners, NY was taken to his eternal resting place on January 22, 2021 after losing his fight to Covid-19. He is predeceased by his brother and best friend, John M. Rybka, Jr., who was also granted eternal rest on January 4, 2021. Darren was born in Hudson, NY, to John Sr. and Pamela (Davis) Rybka on February 4, 1966. He graduated from Ichabod Crane in 1984, where he was a four-sport athlete and immediately enlisted in the United States Army where he served until 1987, doing a tour of duty in Korea. He currently worked as a Senior Project Manager with Creative Sports Concepts. Darren, along with his two sons and their love for horses, partnered in owning, training, and racing harness horses. Darren was a loving father to Darren Jr. and Steven. Darren is survived by his sons, his parents, sister, nieces, nephews and his significant other Kelly Clark.

There will be a celebration of life for both Darren and his brother, John in the future. Arrangements are under the direction of the Raymond E. Bond Funeral Home, Valatie, NY. To plant a tree in memory of Darren Rybka, please visit Tribute Store Obituary of Darren Rybka | Raymond E. Bond Funeral Home | Valatie NY (

January 2021

January 23rd, 2021

Significant Items Currently Being Worked:

  • Working with SCRI, Legal (Sarah Burger), our Assemblywoman (Carrie Woerner), and the NYSGC to obtain purse payment from Rivers for CY2020.  This is our highest priority at present.
  • We are currently working with Legal and SCRI to modify our current contract to document changes in our racing schedule for CY2021 due to current purse projections as a result of impacts from the pandemic.  These changes are for 2021 ONLY.
  • The NYSGC recently issued new standards for backstretch housing (dorms).  The Board is currently working with SCRI to evaluate impacts and determine a go forward plan.  

Other Items:

  • The Main Track will now be open Tuesday through Saturday from 6 am until 1 pm and the Jog Track will be open Sunday through Saturday from 6 am until 1 pm.
  • We have begun discussions regarding the potential to initiate a pension plan for our horsemen.  More information will be forthcoming .
  • SCRI plans to issue a Horseperson’s Handbook covering rules and requirements which will be applicable to anyone using the backstretch/racing facilities.  The SHHA is currently working with SCRI to finalize the document which is expected to be issued in February.
  • The Horseracing Safety and Integrity Act (HSIA) recently passed; currently it only affects thoroughbreds – continue to monitor potential impacts to standardbreds
  • Complete tree trimming associated with the Jog Track improvements – Spring
  • Replace/upgrade Main Track fence – Spring/Summer

Racing Schedule for 2021:

  • Pending approval by the NYSGC, we currently anticipate opening on Monday, March 1st.  We are currently expecting to race three (3) days per week, for a minimum of thirty-three (33) races per week through December 15th.  Racing is planned for Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at noon (except for Wednesdays being evenings during the anticipated Saratoga Flat racing meet). 
  • Based on our current purse account balance and on currently available information, we anticipate racing for purses at approximately 75% of 2019 purse structure.
  • Qualifiers are scheduled for noon on Tuesday Feb. 16, Friday Feb. 19 and Tuesday Feb 23.  Once racing resumes qualifiers will be held on Tuesdays at 4:30pm

General Items:

  • We are pleased to welcome Mr. John Hoagland to our Board.  He will serve a three year term.
  • Based on feedback from several of our horsemen, we have decided Thomas McTygue to will be the Horsemen’s Representative (HR) for this year (cell 518-365-7113).  Please see the posting for his responsibilities as we currently have them envisioned.
  • Also based on feedback from the majority of our members, we will be working to improve our communications and transparency to the membership.  We are planning to provide a memo within a few days of each Board meeting which summarizes the significant items covered at each meeting.  These memos will be posted in the Track Kitchen/ Recreation Room, in the Paddock during the race meet, on the SHHA Facebook page, and on the SHHA website.  In addition to that information, we will also include the date, time, and location of the next scheduled Board meeting.

Should you desire to bring an item to the attention of the Board at its next meeting, please contact our Administrative Assistant Karen Kamal (cell = 518-775-0975) at least five (5) days prior to the scheduled meeting.  She will provide you with a time slot near the beginning of the meeting to present your item.  If you have material you would like the Board to review, please also provide that information to Karen so she can provide it to the Board members in advance of the meeting.

  • The Board currently has several committees (see separate posting) which review and address relevant items with the rest of the Board and recommend actions to address these items.  You do not need to be a Board member to be on a committee, so if you would like to help out your fellow horse people please feel free to join a committee.  We would greatly appreciate your involvement and support!

If you have any questions for the Board, please do not hesitate to contact one of the twelve (12) current Board members or the Horsemen’s Representative.  We would like to work together with you to support you in any way we reasonably can and we will work to improve our communications and transparency as we move forward this year.  We all hope 2021 is our best year yet, and certainly, at least much better than 2020!  Thank you, in advance, for your support!

Our next meeting is currently scheduled for Thursday, February 18th at 12:30 in the Recreation Room adjacent to the Track Kitchen.

The SHHA Board of Directors

The Horsemen’s Representative (HR), Thomas McTygue, is the primary interface between the SHHA Board of Directors (Board) and the other members of the SHHA with respect to concerns and issues regarding the raceway grounds and racing, and for communications regarding information pertinent to racing activities.  The HR shall interface with the Board and with Saratoga Casino Racing Incorporated (SCRI) personnel as necessary to fulfill his role.  Additional specific duties of the HR shall include the following:

  • Be available to horsepersons on the Saratoga backstretch a minimum of two (2) hours per day six (6) days per week between the hours of 8:00 and 12:00;
  • periodically visit one (1) local farm every other week on a rotating basis for a minimum of one (1) hour;
  • be available in the Paddock each race day for a minimum of two (2) hours,
  • attend regular Board meetings (approximately one per month) and present to the Board a report of current activities and any new issues that may have occurred since the last meeting and,
  • if so requested by the Board attend periodic meetings with SCRI Management, special meetings of the Board, meetings with SHHA Legal, or others involved with the racing industry.  In addition, the HR may periodically be asked by the Board to undertake special projects in support of the horsemen.

Qualifying Schedule for 2021

January 6th, 2021

Thursday, Feb. 18 Post Time is 10AM

Tuesday, Feb 23. Post Time is at NOON

Once live racing resumes, qualifiers will be on Tuesdays at 4:30pm.

Proposed 2021 Race Dates

January 6th, 2021

Racing begins March 1, 2021, race dates are Mondays-Wednesdays through December 15, 2021. One week in September is Tuesday -Thursday (9/7-9/9/21) Post 12:00PM There are 7 nights of racing; July 21, 28, August 4, 11, 18, 25 and September 1st.

Stall Applications Due February 1, 2021

January 6th, 2021

DATE: January 6, 2021
TO: Trainers Seeking Stalls on the Backstretch at SCH
SUBJECT: 2021 Stall Application
The 2021 Stall Applications will be available at the stable gate. Complete the information for all horses you wish to stable at SCH, review the conditions on page two of the application, sign and return to PJ Iovino via the Stable Gate. Stall applications are due on February 1, 2021.

  1. If your stall application is approved, you will be assigned a specific number of stalls in a specific barn.
    If you acquire additional horses they must be approved by PJ. Do not put horses in stalls that have not been assigned to you.
  2. The number of tack and feed stalls is limited. Trainers with six or fewer horses will be assigned one tack and one feed room.
  3. Stalls assigned for horses may not be used for storage.
  4. If you will no longer be stabling horses on the backstretch all stalls, tack and feed areas must be cleaned out upon departure. Any items left behind will be considered abandoned property if not claimed by the departing trainer within 30 days, and will be discarded.
    If you have any questions, please email [email protected]

2021 SHHA Officers and Board of Director

December 21st, 2020

Beginning January 1, 2021, the following individuals will be the SHHA officers:

President Jeffrey Cantine

Secretary/Treasurer Joseph Battaglia


Mark Beckwith

Brian Cross

Butch Devaux

John Hoagland Jr

Mickey McGivern

George Merton Jr

Scott Mongeon

Henry Westbrook Jr

Mark Whitcroft

Jake Zakrzewki

Condolences to the Family of Bill Current

December 13th, 2020

William Howard Current, age 91, passed away on Wednesday, December 9th, 2020 at the Wesley Health Care Center. He was born on June 20, 1929 in Wilmington, Ohio to Lena Duvall Current and Jesse E. Current, one of their seven children. Bill graduated from Wilmington High School on May 27, 1948. After high school, Bill went on to serve in the Korean war with the Army. After his discharge in January 1953, he garnered his first adult job as a horse trainer with Johnny Canton. He went on to work with Curly Smart in 1954 and finished the season as the leading driver in the United States with 209 starts, 98 1st place, 44 2nd place and 21 3rd place finishes. In 1958 he moved his stable to Saratoga, met and married his wife, Dale. She worked with him at the raceway, helping train their stable of horses until he retired in 1981. At the close of his racing career, he had 978 wins, 782 2nd and 756 3rd place finishes. His cheerful and calm demeanor earned him the nickname of “Gentleman Billy”. Not wanting to leave the sport entirely, he became a patrol judge at the Vernon Downs raceway. In 1996, he was named to the Saratoga Harness Hall of Fame, inducted in 1997. In retirement he enjoyed spending time with his wife, children and grandchildren. He especially enjoyed watching the NY Yankees baseball games on television, as well as keeping up with professional sports overall. Bill is survived by Dale, his wife of 62 years, his daughter Robin Kirkpatrick (Douglas) of Queensbury, his son James Norman Current (Cathy) and 3 grandchildren, Melissa, Ian and Connor.

His private services and burial will be at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery. Arrangements are under the direction of Compassionate Funeral Care, Inc., 402 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. For online condolences, please visit

SHHA Election Results

December 5th, 2020

Beginning January 1, 2021, the following individuals will be serving a three year term on the SHHA Board of Directors :

Brian Cross

John Hoagland Jr

Mark Whitcroft

Notice Regarding Pets on Backstretch

December 4th, 2020

Saratoga Harness Racing has always had a no pets allowed policy on property including the backstretch area with signs posted throughout the property. That policy has not been vigorously enforced over the last several
years and as a result the Security Department has become aware of a number of licensed individuals who have pets and have been bringing them regularly on property in the backstretch. Recently one of our personnel was attacked by a dog on an extended leash in the backstretch. The Security manager was able to avoid injury when the dog attempted to bite him; the heavy gauge of his clothing prevented puncture wounds from this dog bite.
No pets are allowed on all other areas inside or outside where the public gathers, including parking lots and playing fields. Our company is currently considering if we are going to continue to allow pets into the backstretch
area in the future. While we are considering this issue we are requesting that any person who currently uses our backstretch area and has been bringing their pet(s) in this area during their backstretch visits in the past, or who has any kind of pet that is residing on property and wishes to continue to do so in the future, please reply
in writing via letter or email message to us using the below address. In responding, please provide to us the animal information and owner information as follows:

 The type of pet you have been bringing on property, animal’s age, sex, breed, color, name, and a description including approximate weight.
 The owner’s name, address, telephone numbers and email address.

This information must be provided to us no later December 21, 2020 by 10:00 AM. We will prepare a list of those pets registered with us to be posted in Security as reference should any other incidents be reported.
During this time we will continue to examine pets in the backstretch considering the necessity of allowing this practice and the effects it has on safety and operational aspects for all users. We will work closely with the
SHHA in determining a solution that is fair and open to all sides of this issue, but we must ultimately ensure that we have a safe operating environment for all users of our backstretch.
Please forward your response on pets to:
[email protected] or drop off in letter form to the attention of Charles Astarita, Security, at the Stable Gate, or you may mail letters to
Edward Moore, Director of Security
342 Jefferson Street
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866


Edward Moore