Coglianese Photos

Saratoga Meet Declared a Success

Despite small declines in attendance and wagering, track bucks national trends.

Despite downturns in attendance and handle, New York Racing Association officials pronounced the 2010 Saratoga race meet a success that surpassed projections and industry trends.

At the expanded 40-day meet that concluded Sept. 6, daily average all-sources handle of $13,791,518 declined 3.4% from last year’s $14,273,257 wagered during the 36-day meet. Daily average on-track handle of $2,867,329 marked a 7.8% drop from $3,111,274 in 2009 while daily average attendance of 21,957 was down 7.4% from last year's 23,734.

NYRA officials noted that business on this year’s four additional days at Saratoga exceeded the three Belmont Park 2009 days they replaced but contributed to the drop in daily averages due to the earlier July start. Attendance for the final weekend of the meet (Sept. 4-6), exceeded 100,000.

“We budgeted all-sources handle – our predominant financial measure – to be down about 5 percent due to the continued economic downturn and the earlier July start, so we are gratified that these final figures beat our expectations,” said NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward. “We’ve seen incredible and competitive racing here day after day, including Blind Luck in the Betfair TVG Alabama (gr. I), Afleet Express’ nose triumph in the Travers (gr. I), and brilliant 2-year-olds, exactly what makes Saratoga great."

NYRA officials noted that the declines at Saratoga were not as severe as national trends for year-to-date wagering and for handle during the month of August. NYRA reported that more than $353 million of $1.12 billion wagered on Thoroughbred races at some 35 tracks operating in August – 32% – was bet at Saratoga.

John Velazquez won the riding title with 57 wins to Javier Castellano's 54. It was the first NYRA meet title for Velazquez since he topped the 2005 Aqueduct fall standings with 23 wins and first at Saratoga since his 65-win season in 2004. In his career Velazquez has won 601 races at the Spa.

Trainer Todd Pletcher won his seventh Saratoga title with 36 victories, bettering his previous personal best of 35. Pletcher saddled eight of Mike Repole’s 13 winners to assure the owner his first Saratoga title.

New York Thoroughbred action moves downstate to Belmont Park for the 37-day Fall Championship Meet beginning Sept. 11.