SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Metaphor is becoming reality for children of backstretch workers at Saratoga Race Course.
Michael Dubb stood on the big L-shaped concrete slab inside what will be the Saratoga Child Care Center on Friday and described what will take place there next summer.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed construction for three months to prevent the center from opening in 2020, but next season the children of backstretch workers will enjoy the benefits of the nurturing and educational experience that has been in place at Belmont Park's Anna House since it opened in 2003.
Anna House is the centerpiece of efforts by the Belmont Child Care Association (BCCA) to provide licensed care for the children of those who care for the horses from 5 a.m. through the afternoon every day.
The Saratoga Child Care Center, located just off Union Avenue on Saratoga's Oklahoma training track, will duplicate those resources for children ranging from toddlers to early childhood.
"If you don't have a good foundation, you have nothing," said Dubb, the BCCA chairman of the board. "Right now, we're standing on the foundation of this building, and that means everything.
"This will be a good foundation to start their lives. They will learn things here that they may not have learned. They will learn English, they will learn computer skills. They will learn to interact with each other, they will learn art, chess ... and when they go out to the real world, when they go to school, they will be a little bit ahead of the curve with the foundation we've given them. And for those of us involved in racing, it's the very least we could do."
Dubb, a prominent builder and developer of residential housing on Long Island, is a familiar face at Saratoga, as a member of the New York Racing Association board of directors and racehorse owner.
He was instrumental in the conception and building of Anna House, and the Saratoga Child Care Center will follow the same floorplan, with separate rooms for children based on age. There are also after-school programs for older kids.
It's an extension of efforts by NYRA to upgrade living conditions for backstretch workers in recent years.
"The people that work on the backstretch are the foundation of racing," Dubb said. "Nothing goes on without the people that work on the backside. They're very important people, they work hard, they very rarely complain and they deserve a good quality of life.
"Another passion of mine, if you look around the track in the last 10 years, a large percentage of the dormitories have been rebuilt. That's something that I worked with [vice president of facilities] Glen Kozak and NYRA on. People deserve a decent place to sleep at night."
The BCCA won't be able to host its annual fund-raising dinner because of the pandemic, but has created a virtual "Racing for the Children" event online beginning at noon on Monday and running through Sunday, Aug. 9.
The virtual format will be hosted at BelmontChildCare.org. Supporters are invited to visit the website to enjoy video messages from well-known racing personalities, a premium auction and recipes from Saratoga Springs restaurants, among other interactive elements.
All proceeds from the "Racing for the Children" virtual party will support Anna House and the Saratoga Child Care Center.
Auction items include a clubhouse box for the 2021 Travers at Saratoga, a clubhouse box for the 2021 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park; a customized jockey statue and quarter mile post; equine care from Rood and Riddle; and services from Brook Ledge Horse Transportation.
Sponsorships and matching grants for the "Racing for the Children" virtual party are currently available. For more information, contact BCCA Executive Director Joanne K. Adams at [email protected].