President & CEO
David O’Rourke is the Chief Executive Officer & President of the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA), the operator of Belmont Park, home of the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of racing’s Triple Crown; Saratoga Race Course, home of the most prestigious racing meet in the U.S.; and Aqueduct Racetrack.
As one of North America’s premier thoroughbred horse racing organizations, NYRA in 2018 generated $2.1 billion in annual all-sources wagering handle with paid attendance exceeding 1.7 million. It is the cornerstone of New York State’s thoroughbred industry, which is responsible for 19,000 jobs and more than $3 billion in annual economic impact to New York State.
O’Rourke joined NYRA as Director of Financial Planning in 2008 and was named Vice President for Corporate Development in 2010. In 2013, he was appointed Chief Revenue Officer and Senior Vice President. In that position, O’Rourke was responsible for NYRA’s business development strategies across a range of disciplines including industry relations, simulcast markets and contracts, television strategy, advance deposit wagering (ADW) operations and capital projects.
During his tenure at NYRA, O’Rourke served as the lead on all content-related negotiations, achieving an increase of more than $20 million in annual revenue. He played a signature role in spearheading the development and growth of NYRA Bets, NYRA’s national Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) platform, now available in 30 states.
O’Rourke also developed and led the strategy and investment in cloud-based video streaming technologies and Apps (NYRA Now), which have enabled NYRA to broadcast directly to various devices from TV to mobile and desktop; and transmit video to traditional TV networks such as FOX Sports and MSG. In doing so, he helped shepherd the dramatic expansion of NYRA’s flagship television broadcasts, the critically-acclaimed Belmont Park Live and Saratoga Live, which feature live coverage nearly every race day from Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.
Prior to joining NYRA, O’Rourke was a member of the Zolfo Cooper and Capstone Advisory Group Corporate Restructuring Practices, specializing in multiple operational and financial reorganization efforts in the real estate development, gaming, auto manufacturing, retailing and shipping industries. He also served as Vice President of Operations at Datek Online and was instrumental in helping the company develop into the world’s fourth largest online brokerage.
O’Rourke is a member of the NYRA Board of Directors. He is also a board member of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations of America; and a member of the Saratoga Race Course Local Advisory Board, and the Management Committee of Equibase Company.
O’Rourke is a graduate of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and earned an MBA from Tulane University.
Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer, General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer
Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer, General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer Joe Lambert provides leadership and counsel on all legal matters relating to NYRA’s operations, strategies and activities. As part of his duties, he manages business relationships with legislators, the New York State Gaming Commission and other regulators, as well as representatives of the executive branch of the New York State government in addressing issues of interest to NYRA. Also, Lambert plans and manages the activities of the Legal Department in giving legal advice, preparing and reviewing legal documents and representing NYRA in legal proceedings.
Lambert spent 15 years at Deloitte as Global General Counsel, and joined NYRA from Unitedlex Corporation, where he served as Executive Managing Director and General Counsel. With a career spanning more than 25 years, Lambert has extensive multinational experience in complex cross-border transactions, intellectual property, technology, Board and governance matters, regulatory affairs and litigation.
Lambert is the author of the 1990 book, Terrorism and Hostages in International Law, published by Cambridge University Press. He earned a PhD and a LLM (legal masters) from Cambridge University and a law degree from Suffolk University. He is a graduate of Boston College.
Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer
As Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Gordon Lavalette is responsible for the NYRA’s overall financial plans, policies, programs and practices to ensure it is financially positioned for growth. As a key member of the organization’s Leadership Committee, he provides strategic financial guidance to the CEO and other members of the management team.
Lavalette joined NYRA in July 2016 from ION Media Networks, Inc. where he served as Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer. Prior to ION, he built a significant career in professional sports—serving in a number of senior executive and financial positions with both the New Jersey Devils and the New Jersey Nets.
Lavalette provides the NYRA management team with extensive experience with two major professional teams in perhaps the most competitive sports market in the country. As Executive Vice President, Finance and Administration for the Devils, he provided significant leadership in every aspect of the planning, construction and operation of the $400 million Prudential Center in Newark. As Chief Financial Officer of the Nets, Lavalette oversaw significant improvements to the financial position of the team, and in 2004, coordinated the due diligence process for the sale of the team.
President, NYRA Bets - Executive Producer Television
President of NYRA Bets and Executive Producer - NYRA TV Tony Allevato is responsible for overseeing NYRA Bets, NYRA’s national Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) platform; and for the format, content, talent and all production elements of NYRA’s television programs.
Allevato joined NYRA in 2016 from High Hand Media, based in Los Angeles, where he served as Owner and President of the Sports Television, Racetrack Marketing and Digital Media Production company. His clients included NYRA for which Allevato oversaw the launch and rebranding of NYRA Rewards to NYRA Bets, which debuted at Saratoga’s 2016 racing meet.
For NYRA, Allevato was responsible for obtaining regulatory gaming licenses in various states and for transitioning the regional MSG Network television programs from taped shows to the critically acclaimed multiple “live” shows, Belmont Park Live & Saratoga Live. Also, he negotiated a national television rights deal with Fox Sports to air more than 80 hours during the 2016 and 2017 Saratoga race meets, which represents the most extensive national TV rights deal in racing history. Allevato also negotiated a 50-hour regional network TV rights deal with Altitude Sports network that aired Saratoga Live during the 2016 season; and launched Saratoga Live on the NYRA HD App that is available on IOS and Android and ROKU, and soon on Xbox, Playstation 4, Amazon Fire and Apple TV.
Allevato has spent much of his career building state-of-the-art wagering and television production platforms for a variety of sports organizations. While at High Hand Media, he oversaw ADW marketing, inter-track TV production and out-of-state wagering revenue at Los Alamitos Race Course in Cypress, CA. Also, he introduced and implemented new strategy for video content for DRF.com; and served as Coordinating Producer for the launch of The Jockey Club Tour series for FOX Sports 1.
Previously, Allevato served as Coordinating Producer at the NFL Network, where he oversaw day-to-day operations of the network’s flagship show, NFL Total Access. Prior to that, Allevato was the first production hire for TVG, rising to its Executive Vice President Television/Executive Producer. In other roles, he was Feature Producer at KCBS News of Hollywood, CA as well as Executive Producer/Broadcast Media Liaison at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, CA.
Allevato began his broadcasting career as Assistant to the Producer at ABC Sports in New York, where he served as Production Assistant, Researcher and Assistant Producer of two landmark shows, Wide World of Sports and Monday Night Football.
Senior Vice President, Chief Information & Technology Officer
As Senior Vice President, Chief Information & Technology Officer, Robert Hughes is responsible for developing and implementing NYRA’s Information Technology strategy, as well as working with the Executive Team to prioritize and oversee the implementation of technology in meeting the organization’s immediate needs and long-term strategic vision.
Hughes joined NYRA in 2016 from The Synchrony Group, an Atlanta-based management consulting firm focused on Mergers & Acquisitions, which he founded and served as its Managing Director. Hughes’ extensive experience there and as the technology executive in charge of IT at leading and nationally recognized companies that include McLarens, RSM McGladrey and Ceridian Corporation positions him as one of the industry’s foremost experts in leading and transforming large-scale IT enterprises.
As the Global CIO at McLarens, Hughes spearheaded the insurance claims service provider’s transition from a franchise-based model into a unified global organization—and completely revamped the technology utilized in more than 40 countries.
As CIO of RSM McGladrey Employer Services, a subsidiary of the fifth largest accounting, tax and business consulting firm in the U.S., he partnered with a new Executive Team to help lead a business turnaround based primarily on technology innovation. During his time at Ceridian, Hughes conceived a technology strategy turned around their entire operations and redesigned their technology strategy completely returning a significant annual cost savings each year since 2002.
Hughes earned an M.A. in Music Composition & Arrangement and a B.A. in Music Theory & Composition, both from Montclair State University. He also studied at Wagner College. A feature on Hughes in Toggle Magazine can be read here.
Senior Vice President, Operations & Capital Projects
As Senior Vice President, Operations & Capital Projects, Glen Kozak oversees NYRA’s $50 million operating budget that includes the maintenance of Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct Racetrack (front side & backside), including all 14 racing surfaces and fleet equipment. Also, he is responsible for directing NYRA’s capital investment projects geared to developing long-term investment strategies that improve its operational efficiency and safety measures.
Kozak joined NYRA in 2008 as the Director of Racing Surfaces and assumed his current role in 2011. During his tenure, NYRA has enhanced and upgraded nearly every aspect of its facility and racing surface operations such that today, its racing surfaces are considered among the best in the industry. In 2012, New York Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety determined maintenance of the NYRA racing surfaces to be “state-of-the-art.”
Kozak joined NYRA from the Maryland Jockey Club, where as Vice President of Facilities & Racing Surfaces, he was responsible for the maintenance and planning of facility operations and fleet and racing surfaces at Laurel Park, Pimlico Racecourse and Bowie Training Center. At Laurel Park, Kozak was part of a group that took part in a $30 million project that rebuilt the turf and dirt tracks. At Pimlico, home of the Preakness States, he was involved in construction of the track’s turf-side dining pavilion, Corporate Village, Top of the Stretch and Clubhouse Turn Suites. Previously, Kozak served as the Track Superintendent at Suffolk Downs in Boston.
Kozak is a member of the Jockey Club’s Grayson Welfare and Safety Committee for Racing Surfaces and serves on the Board of Directors of the Racing Surfaces Laboratory. The son of a veterinarian, he grew up on a 200-acre family-owned hunter and breeding farm in Milford, NJ.
Senior Vice President & Chief Experience Officer
As Senior Vice President and Chief Experience Officer (CXO), Lynn LaRocca ensures that NYRA delivers the appropriate experience at every point of contact with its diverse customer base, from present and future on-premise and off-track patrons to online patrons, sponsors, corporate and governmental partners, service providers, employees, media and those involved in the racing product. As part of her duties, LaRocca oversees marketing, event planning and execution, social media, owner relations, media relations and communications, hospitality and group sales, and community relations at NYRA.
LaRocca joined NYRA in 2014 from Modell’s Sporting Goods, the largest privately held sporting goods retailer in the U.S., where she served as Senior Vice President, Marketing. At Modell’s, LaRocca led its successful sponsorships of the 2014 Super Bowl and the 2013 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Previously, she served in management positions at a number of prominent organizations including Bob’s Stores, as Vice President, Marketing; TJX, Co., Inc. as Event Marketing Supervisor; and Paramount Pictures as Executive Director of Publicity/Marketing.
LaRocca, a graduate of Syracuse University, has a long interest in thoroughbred racing. She is a member of the Board of Directors of Special Olympics Connecticut and a member of the Saratoga Race Course Advisory Board.
Senior Vice President, Racing Operations
As Senior Vice President, Racing Operations, Martin Panza provides strategic leadership and management oversight of all racing functions at NYRA, including program planning and the international development of racing operations. Under Panza’s leadership, NYRA has developed its “big-event” concept, the bundling of major stakes races into major days like the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, Travers Day, Whitney Day and the Stars & Stripes Festival.
Panza joined NYRA in 2014 from Betfair Hollywood Park in Inglewood, CA, where he served as Vice President of Racing and Racing Secretary and was responsible for all aspects of the daily racing operations. Previously, he was Hollywood Park’s Director of Racing and Racing Secretary.
Panza served two terms on the American Graded Stakes Committee, and is currently a member of the Breeders' Cup Selection Committee, the Dubai World Cup Selection Committee, and the Jockey Club’s North American Ratings Committee. Panza has also served in a variety of racing positions at tracks and organizations including Nad Al Sheba Race Course in Dubai, Santa Anita Park, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, and Woodland Race Course in Kansas City, KS.
Panza created the American Oaks, a prestigious turf race for 3-year-old fillies that earned a Grade-I ranking in its initial year of eligibility. In doing so, he produced a sponsor, American Airlines, and built the reputation of the race by recruiting horses from Europe, Asia and Australia. Panza also created the first guaranteed wager in the United States, a guaranteed Pick 6 for $1 million, in 1998.
Panza is a graduate of the Race Track Industry Program at the University of Arizona.
Senior Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer
Senior Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer, Jim Ranton is responsible for providing the overall leadership, management and strategic direction for NYRA’s Human Capital Function. In doing so, he leads NYRA’s efforts in recruiting and talent management; compensation; employee relations and union relations with 24 unions; as well as the overall development, retention and succession management of its human assets.
Ranton joined NYRA in 2015, building on a successful career improving sales and profit performance for both emerging and established companies in diverse industries. At Surescripts, where he served as Senior Vice President & Chief People Officer, Ranton helped integrate two merged early stage companies to drive rapid growth of the largest electronic prescription network in healthcare information technology.
Previously, Ranton served in senior positions at Guardian Life Insurance Company as Senior Vice President Human Resources, and at Citigroup, Citizens Utilities, Carrier Corporation and Pepsico, Inc. He earned an M.S. degree from the Krannert Graduate School of Management at Purdue University; an MBA from the International Management Center at ESC Rouen (France); and a B.S. from Cornell University.
Vice President & Controller
As Vice President & Controller, Jelena Alonso is responsible for the effective and efficient monthly, quarterly and annual accounting closings, financial reporting and successful completion of annual audits for NYRA’s three racetracks, Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct Racetrack.
As part of her duties, Alonso advises NYRA’s senior management to ensure NYRA’s compliance with local, state, and federal regulatory reporting requirements. And she directs a budgeting process that engages managers in analyzing operating results and supporting business strategies; and designs financial reporting and analytics around 23 different unions involved at NYRA.
Alonso joined NYRA in 2009 as Assistant Controller; and in her position, organized a monthly close process by creating a clearly defined time frame and assigning deliverables to accounting team members. Also, she designed and implemented a new Chart of Accounts to improve NYRA’s financial reporting process.
Prior to joining NYRA, Alonso served in a number of senior-level financial positions that included Vice President of Finance/Controller of Snap-on-Smile, a privately held, start-up entrepreneurial dental device manufacturer. Also, she was Senior Manager, Corporate Accounting at Arrow Electronics, a publicly traded, International Fortune 200 Company, where she introduced CPI techniques that substantially improved the corporate close process and workflow. Alonso began her career at Coopers & Lybrand, where she planned and administered audit engagements for public and private industries with a multi-industry client bases.
Alonso earned a B.S. from C.W. Post College, graduating Magna Cum Laude. In 2016, she was honored as “Executive of the Year” by the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Alonso serves as Co-Treasurer of the Board of Directors for the Backstretch Employee Service Team (B.E.S.T.) and as Treasurer of the Board of Directors of Opera New York. An acclaimed singer, Alonso has frequently performed The Star-Spangled Banner and Oh Canada at home games of the New York Islanders.
Vice President, Capital Projects
Vice President, Capital Projects Mark Gheduzzi is responsible for leading and overseeing capital improvement projects at all three NYRA properties, Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga Race Course; with a particular emphasis on the upcoming redevelopment of Belmont Park.
NYRA’s plan is to redevelop Belmont Park concurrently with the New York Islanders’ development of a new 19,000-seat multi-purpose arena, retail and entertainment spaces next to Belmont Park’s Race Course that will serve as their new home. NYRA’s plans include a full transformation of the clubhouse, with enhanced premium seating & hospitality offerings, park and paddock upgrades as well as track updates.
Gheduzzi joined NYRA in 2018 from the Newark, N.J.-based Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, where he served as Executive Vice President, Facility Management & Strategic Projects. At Harris Blitzer, he managed a range of strategic projects and initiatives related to the construction, development and operation of facilities in the HBSE portfolio including Prudential Center, a multi-purpose sports and entertainment arena that is home to the NHL New Jersey Devils as well as the Sixers Training Complex, the headquarters and practice facility campus of NBA Philadelphia 76ers.
Earlier in his career, Gheduzzi served as Vice President of Operations and Director of Basketball Business Operations for the NBA New Jersey Nets. With the Nets, he oversaw strategic initiatives including large-scaled construction projects and facility upgrades to the team’s arena and practice facility as well as projects related to operations and community relations.
Gheduzzi holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from St. Bonaventure University.
Vice President & Chief Security Officer
Vice President & Chief Security Officer Robert J. “Bobby” Sica is responsible for commanding, directing and coordinating NYRA’s uniformed and investigative security force in all activities related to the protection, conservation, and security of company assets, employees, guests and others. Also, he oversees cybercrime prevention as well as security planning, coordination and execution for special events at NYRA facilities and properties.
Sica joined NYRA in March 2016 from the U.S. Secret Service, where he served for 31 years, most recently as Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office. Previously, he served as a Deputy Assistant Director in the Office of Strategic Intelligence and Information in Washington, D.C. and held a number of senior and executive positions in the Secret Service, including Acting Special Agent in Charge and Deputy Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office.
Sica also held a senior interagency position at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security where he helped to create, develop and integrate national preparedness and response policies and practices related to critical infrastructure protection, counter terrorism and crisis management. And he served on the Presidential detail of two U.S. Presidents, President George H.W. Bush and President William J. Clinton.
As a noted expert in security operational planning, Sica served in the Fall of 2014 as the chief law enforcement officer for two of the largest National Special Security Events in the history of the U.S. Secret Service—the visit of Pope Francis of The Holy See to New York City and the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly.
Sica has a lifelong love and deep knowledge of thoroughbred racing. A native of Floral Park, N.Y., he worked during high school and college as a groom and hotwalker for several trainers at Belmont Park. He is a graduate of St. John’s University.
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