With Solid Gains, Saratoga Meet Called 'Smashing'

With Solid Gains, Saratoga Meet Called 'Smashing'
Photo: Barbara D. Livingston
Saratoga enjoys record meet in '07.

Saratoga wrapped up a strong 36-day meet Sept. 3 with solid gains in total handle, on-track handle, and attendance, and even set a record along the way. Average daily purses, meanwhile, jumped 16.7% to $773,738 from $663,156 for the 2006 meet.

The results are nothing but positive for the New York Racing Association, which operates Saratoga and is attempting to retain a three-track franchise that expires Dec. 31.

On-track handle at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., racetrack was $123,018,041, up 8.5% from the on-track handle record of $117,368,204 set during the 2003 meet, NYRA reported in a meet-ending release. All-sources handle this year was $582,656,106, up 6% from $548,709,887 in 2006.

Total attendance of 958,574 this year was up 5.7% from $908,569 last year. (Attendance figures for giveaway days included patrons who paid multiple admissions to obtain more than one giveaway item, either at the track entrance or at the multiple admissions area inside the track.)

“The 2007 Saratoga meet has been a smashing success,” NYRA president and chief executive officer Charles Hayward said in a statement. “On track, we saw sparkling performances from Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Street Sense in winning the Jim Dandy (gr. II) and Travers (gr. I) Stakes, as well as brilliant efforts by Lawyer Ron in following up his track-record performance in the Whitney with his dominating win in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I).”

In all, 347 races were held at the Spa meet, up from 336 last year when one racing program was scrapped because of extreme heat in the Capital region. The number of wagering interests was 2,974, up from 2,698 in 2006, NYRA reported; according to The Jockey Club Information Services, average field size was 8.79 this year, up from 8.51 last year.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott won his ninth Saratoga title with 27 wins, including the Sept. 3 Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) with Majestic Warrior. Cornelio Velasquez won his first Saratoga jockey title with 44 victories, one more than Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux.

NYRA is among four bidders for the franchise to operate Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga. The others are Capital Play, Empire Racing Associates, and Excelsior Racing Associates.

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer could make his recommendation on the next franchise-holder Sept. 4, though that remains to be seen. No matter which entity Spitzer selects, the choice must be approved by the state legislature.

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