SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (AP) – Like just about everyone here, Jack Knowlton is thrilled with opening day at Saratoga Racecourse.
“It’s been a long time without being able to be in Saratoga with tens of thousands of people there, so we’re really excited,” Knowlton, COO of the Sackatoga team said Wednesday. “The city has been buzzing for a month. It’s amazing the kind of pent-up demand there is.”
A year after the race took place in Saratoga with no fans due to the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Racing Association’s summer meet at the country’s oldest racetrack begins Thursday, and full admission is at again authorized for the 40-day meeting. This means that the venerable track, which opened during the Civil War in 1863, has a chance to once again attract over a million paying spectators after its five-year streak broke.
“We are absolutely delighted to be able to welcome the fans again… after a year in which we had no spectators and these races were held in front of empty stands,” said Patrick McKenna, NYRA communications director. . “There’s a different kind of energy and enthusiasm around opening this meeting. I think you can feel it in the air. It really signaled that we’ve turned the page on COVID here in New York due to the fact that over 70% of adults are now vaccinated. “
After the four-day opening weekend, races will run Wednesday through Sunday, with Mondays and Tuesdays being dark until the Labor Day Finals.
The stakes calendar includes 76 races with a total value of $ 21.5 million. Highlights of the competition include the 152nd edition of the $ 1.25 million Travers Stakes on August 28 and three weeks before that, the $ 1 million Whitney Stakes, which offer an automatic seat to the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November at Del Mar. Competition will also include the $ 1 million Gold Cup Jockey Club and the $ 600,000 Flower Bowl, both previously held at the fall meet at Belmont Park.
The mere thought of it left Kika Barbariantz all smiles as she tidied Bob and Adam Coglianese’s photo booth behind the stands on Wednesday. It has been a long year.
“It feels good to be back. The past year has been depressing, “said Barbariantz, a Bronx native who has been coming to Saratoga since the age of 11 and who was once a hot walker for late Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens.” is nice to see familiar faces. Just being on the track is incredible. I just missed being here. I knew this year was going to be special. It’s nice to see cars. It’s full of people. There’s a lot of traffic.”
Two years ago, the Saratoga meet set a record for all-source betting handles at over $ 705 million, even as the weather canceled out a full day of racing and half of another. Last year reflected the lure of the track – the total grip was $ 702.5 million with an average daily grip of $ 17.5 million.
“What we think 2020 has shown is that punters are responding to excellent, interesting and dynamic races,” McKenna said. “Overshadowing $ 700 million in grips for the second year in a row without fans was important because that money supports the Cavaliers, the small businesses they generally run. That’s why it was important to come to Saratoga.
That’s important for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who in May was banned by NYRA from racing at Saratoga, Belmont Park and Aqueduct after his Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed a test. drug testing after the race. A New York federal judge on Wednesday overturned Baffert’s suspension, ruling that the NYRA had acted unconstitutionally by not letting him respond adequately to the claims against him.
NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said in a statement that the organization is reviewing the court ruling to determine its legal options.
“Mr. Baffert’s actions and behavior can uplift or harm the sport,” said O’Rourke. “We expect Mr. Baffert to exercise appropriate controls over his operation.”
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