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Saratoga Attendance Spikes; Handle Declines

Pletcher and Castellano repeated as leading trainer and jockey, respectively.

The New York Racing Association reports attendance spiked during the 40-day summer meet at Saratoga Race Course, which also experienced a decline in wagering.

According to NYRA, paid attendance totaled 972,018, for a daily average of 24,300, despite a policy change that no longer included figures for patrons going through the turnstiles multiple times in order to get giveaways, as had been the previous practice. This year, NYRA instituted a voucher system for giveaways. Also included in the 2014 daily figures are 6,000 season passes, whether they are used are not.

During the 40-day 2013 meet, when multiple admissions for giveaways were included, attendance totaled 867,182 for a daily average 21,679.

NYRA reported all-sources handle of $571,163,484, averaging $14,279,087 and representing a 2.6% decline from the $586,685,154 total and $14,667,128 average a year ago.

On-track handle rose from $147,456,901 in 2013 to $150,387,442 this year, up 2%.

"With our guests treated to top quality Thoroughbred racing, 40 days of special events and new capital improvements to enhance the on-track experience, the 2014 Saratoga meet was a success," said NYRA president Chris Kay.

According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, Saratoga purses averaged $1,035,590, up from the $998,732 average in 2013, although the average number of runners per race fell from 8.14 to 7.97 this year.

As part of a designed strategy to improve the quality of racing, Saratoga ran fewer races in 2014 compared with 2013. Additionally, as a result of inclement weather, 16 more races were taken off the turf compared to last season for a total of 193 turf races run at Saratoga in 2014 compared with 209 last year.

Todd Pletcher and Javier Castellano repeated as leading trainer and jockey, respectively, with Michael Dubb emerging as the top owner for 2014 when all of his partnerships are considered. Pletcher, 47, won 28 races, with Chad Brown tallying 23 victories. Hall of Famer Bill Mott was third with 13 wins.

It was the fifth straight training title for Pletcher, who has been the Spa's leading trainer a total of 11 times.

"I thought we had a really good start to the meet. I thought we had some really big disappointments at the meet; way too many seconds," said Pletcher. "At the same time, you cannot not be grateful anytime you come to Saratoga and win 26, 27 races, win the Hopeful, Coaching Club, Alabama and Schuylerville. No matter how good you do, it could always be better, no matter how bad you're doing, it could always be worse."

Castellano edged Irad Ortiz, Jr., 58-53 to claim his second consecutive riding crown, and Hall of Famer John Velazquez was third with 38 wins.

"It worked out great. I'm very blessed," said Castellano. "I'm thankful to win a lot of races here in Saratoga where I compete against the best jockeys in the country. It's a big accomplishment. All the trainers gave me the support, all the owners."

Dubb and his various partnerships won 14 races for his first Saratoga title. Repole Stable was second with 12 wins and Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey and Chester and Mary Broman tied for third with 11.