Republican state Assembly candidate David Catalfamo wants to redefine the common Saratoga Springs nickname “the August place to be” so it becomes the year-round place to be for horse racing enthusiasts.
Catalfamo has proposed developing a “Saratoga Horse Park,” a year-round facility for education, equine events, trail riding and showcasing of retired legendary race horses, paid for with public and private funding.
The working horse farm would have facilities for family camping, and, as Catalfamo envisions it, have affiliations with Cornell University and SUNY Adirondack for specialized college courses and workforce development training.
“The idea would really be to extend the horse racing tourism industry season throughout the year,” Catalfamo said in a telephone interview on Thursday, elaborating on a news release he issued earlier in the week.
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Catalfamo, an economic development official and writer from Wilton, is running in the 113th Assembly District against Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, who has strong support from the racing industry.
The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen Association, Saratoga Horse Persons Association and the Harness Horse Association are among her campaign contributors this election cycle.
Woerner, without specifically addressing the concept of a local horse park, said she has been supportive of the horse racing industry.
“Horse racing, whether it is thoroughbred or harness, and the equine industry broadly are cornerstones of our region’s economy. … This is a region that thrives when racing thrives,” she said in a statement.
Catalfamo said his proposal for a Saratoga Horse Park is modeled after similar facilities in Kentucky and Japan.
“It’s not a new idea. It’s not one that I came up with,” he said.
The Kentucky Horse Park at Lexington, established in 1978, has hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, he said.
Catalfamo said he hopes to advance the concept, whether or not he is elected.
“I haven’t had anybody I suggested it to say, ‘I don’t like the idea,'” he said.
The concept is the centerpiece of a five-point plan to expand the economic impact of the horse racing and agriculture industries.
- Establish an I Love New York Horse Country marketing campaign
- Abolish the state Farm Laborers Wage Board
- Shift enforcement of equine health and safety to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets
- Crack down on doping of horses
Woerner released a list of horse racing industry initiatives that she has advocated for during her eight years in office:
- Led the fight to return New York racing to private control, including securing a voting seat on the board for NY Thoroughbred Breeders and NY Thoroughbred Horsemen
- Successfully protected the video lottery terminal money that ensures the competitiveness of New York purses and provide necessary funding for public safety in Saratoga Springs
- Supported legislation that created the New York Jockey Injury Compensation Fund to make it less expensive for horsemen to operate in New York
- Supported legislation that will help increase the demand for New York-based standard-bred stallions
- Passed legislation to eliminate outdated regulations that limited opportunities for women jockeys in New York
- Supported legislation to outlaw the slaughter of racehorses and provide for their care after their racing careers have ended
“Saratoga Race Track hosts the best racing in the world every summer. Our breeding farms are world-class and produce quality horses that are in high demand — as evidenced by the record setting NY Bred sales at Fasig-Tipton over the last two years,” Woerner said in a statement. “I have always made it a priority to protect and expand New York racing and I will continue to do that in the coming years.”
Maury Thompson covered local government and politics for The Post-Star for 21 years before he retired in 2017. He continues to follow regional politics as a freelance writer.