We're a little less than a month away from the start of racing at the Saratoga Race Course and Monday, we learned more about what's in store for the 150th year of racing. Matt Hunter has more.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- With July 19th’s opening day fast approaching, New York Racing Association executives have high hopes for attendance at this summer’s meet, which marks the 150th anniversary of horse racing in the Spa City.
“Weather permitting, if we did 900,000 last year, it’d be really nice to hit a million,” said David O'Rourke, NYRA's Vice President of Corporate Development.
With a crush of racing fans expected from near and far, NYRA executives announced several new initiatives at a press conference Monday morning.
In addition to offering a free shuttle from the Saratoga Casino and Raceway parking lot to better accommodate the crowds, fans will now be able to take guided walking tours of the historic grounds.
“Without horses we don’t have any racing and without the public it doesn’t matter what racing you have," NYRA VP and Director of Hospitality Stephen Travers said. "It’s just, in general to enhance the track and enhance the experience for the customer.”
The tours will take approximately 45 minutes and will cost $3 per person or $10 for a group of four. They will be held every racing day of the meet, with the exception of Travers Day on August 24.
Also geared at enhancing the fan experience are the annual giveaways, which this year include a t-shirt (7/28), a Fourstardave bobblehead (8/11), a replica model of the track (8/18) and beer stein featuring some of the all-time great horses to run at Saratoga (9/1).
The one even that could be the summer’s crown jewel is the million dollar Travers Stakes, which, for the first time in 31 years, is expected to include the winners of all three Triple Crown races.
While several variables could come into plan, the trainers of Kentucky Derby winner Orb, Preakness winner Oxbow and Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice have all publicly stated they're point their horses toward the midsummer derby.
“I think all three trainers are pretty game and not worried about one another in the competition," NYRA VP and Director of Racing PJ Campo said. "That’s why we’re here. It’s called the 'Midsummer Derby.' It’s a $1 million purse. They come to compete, hopefully they can stay healthy and all three show up.”
“Saratoga is a fantastic town, fantastic meet, 40 days of racing, great crowds, it makes going to work worthwhile,” Travers said.
Joining the Travers on the calendar are 17 other Grade 1 stakes, starting with the $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks for three-year-old fillies opening weekend.
View full press conference here:
Albany/HV: NYRA announces plans for this year's Saratoga meet
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