The first four days of the revamped Saratoga Race Course meet have come and gone, and the new president and CEO of the New York Racing Association David O’Rourke seems happy with it.
This years meet opened one weekend earlier than in past years. In regard to that O’Rourke said; “We’re not hiding from the fact that this is ‘The August Place to Be,’ but it’s not so bad in July, and the first four days went really well.”
The all-sources wagering handle from July 11-14 rose by 2.5% from the first four days a year ago. The overall handle checked in at $73,441,101 compared to the all-sources total of $71,671,188 for the first four days of last year’s meet Friday, July 20, through Monday, July 23.
The four day paid attendance was 105,690 (helped by a Sunday giveaway) was down 3.3% from 109,395 from the first four days of 2018.
This year’s starting date was the earliest in the track’s modern era, and the numbers for the opener slumped in comparison to the first day last year.
On a rainy opening day that included a three-horse field in the finale, attendance was off nearly 33% while all-sources handle dipped 22% and on-track handle dropped 42%. Though it is unfair to compare a Thursday opening day to one held on Friday.
How fans react to the other part of the new schedule will be known in the weeks to come as Saratoga will race Wednesday through Sunday until its closing Labor Day card. Previously, there was racing six days a week on a Wednesday-through-Monday basis.
Field size for the initial four days was roughly 8 horses per race with 325 starters in 41 races. In the six Stakes races, there have been 42 runners for an average of 7.0 per race.
NYRA senior vice president of racing operations Martin Panza; “Field size has been OK. It’s tricky for the whole industry. There’s still a lot of Value in Winning a race at Saratoga.” Panza went on to say; “It’s a very special place. I’m not overall concerned. It was a good opening week, and it will get stronger as the meet goes on. If the weather cooperates, it will only help.”
The Daily Racing Blog suspects that The Spa will meet and exceed last years numbers in both attendance and wagering handle. On Wednesday DRB will take a look at some of this weeks upcoming racing at Saratoga.