NYRA celebrates new Backstretch Healthcare Clinic at Saratoga

July 13, 2022

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today joined philanthropist John Hendrickson and representatives from the Backstretch Employee Service Team (BEST), Saratoga Hospital and the New York Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association (NYTHA) to celebrate a new backstretch healthcare clinic to be constructed at historic Saratoga Race Course.

As a tribute to his late wife, Marylou Whitney, Hendrickson is funding construction of the new clinic, which is expected to open in the spring of 2023 and will replace a doublewide trailer that has housed on-site healthcare services at Saratoga Race Course. The new clinic, which will be operated by Saratoga Hospital in partnership with BEST, will provide a dramatically improved experience for those receiving primary and emergency healthcare services at Saratoga Race Course, which will be provided by doctors and medical professionals from Saratoga Hospital.

“Marylou always thought that Saratoga should be ‘the summer place to be’ for everyone, especially the backstretch workers,” said Hendrickson. “To that end, the new dorms built by NYRA along with the critical services provided by BEST and the Racetrack Chaplaincy have all helped Saratoga Race Course achieve the reputation of taking care of the backstretch community better than any other track in America. Today is the beginning of healthcare services on the Saratoga backstretch being elevated to the best in the country.”

Hendrickson has pledged $1.2 million for construction of the clinic, which will include a large waiting area, four examination rooms, a lab for blood work and office space. Roughly $400,000 of the total donation was raised in a 2020 auction of possessions belonging to Mrs. Whitney to support the effort. 

“New York sets the standard when it comes to providing comprehensive social services and access to healthcare for the men and women working every day to make racing possible,” said NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke. “Due to the hard work of BEST, and the generous support of John Hendrickson, this new facility will carry on the legacy of Marylou Whitney by ensuring the health and well-being of the backstretch community.”

Click for video of ceremony.

The construction of the new clinic continues Mrs. Whitney and Mr. Hendrickson’s long-running commitment to the backstretch community. Since Mrs. Whitney’s death in 2019, Mr. Hendrickson has continued to lend his support to a variety of initiatives including backstretch appreciation dinners, E.S.L. classes and bingo nights.

For more than 30 years, BEST has worked to meet the health and social welfare needs of backstretch workers at Saratoga Race Course, Belmont Park and Aqueduct Racetrack. The new clinic will further those efforts by providing on-site counseling and primary healthcare services, access to health insurance, and case management assistance.​

“This facility is truly an example of how dreams can become a reality,” said BEST Executive Director Paul Ruchames. “The dream for this facility began in the mind of the late, great Marylou Whitney and was nurtured by many and brought to fruition caringly by John Hendrickson. It will be an amazing example of the power of private and public partnerships and will ensure backstretch-worker care for years and decades to come, as well as further the reputation of Saratoga Race Course as a model for backstretch-worker care in the United States.” 

Dr. Alexander Cardiel, the Medical Director of the Backstretch Clinic for 14 years and a family practice physician at Saratoga Hospital, said the new facility will provide space to incorporate more services for the backstretch community, such as specialty clinics in dermatology, endocrinology and perhaps cardiology and orthopedics. 

Dr. Cardiel added that the new clinic could also include services in behavioral health services and addiction medicine, as well as novel technologies that would allow retinal scans for diabetic patients.

“For many of our patients who seek care in the clinic, this is their only opportunity to receive primary care, and for some, it’s the first time they’ve seen a physician in this country,” said Dr. Cardiel. “Running a clinic is not an easy venture. It has many moving parts, and we’re fortunate to have access to a collective of organizations that have helped make this a reality.”

Highlighted by the 153rd renewal of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 27 and the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on August 6, the 2022 summer meet at historic Saratoga Race Course will open on Thursday, July 14, and continue through Monday, September 5.

Following the four-day opening weekend, racing will be conducted five days a week, Wednesdays through Sundays, apart from the final week, when the meet will conclude on Labor Day.

Saratoga Live will present daily coverage and analysis of the summer meet at on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit NYRA.com/SaratogaLive

For additional information, visit NYRA.com

NYRA Press Office
Photo screen shot of Channel 13 news story.

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