Champion Songbird won a pair of grade I stakes at Saratoga meet.

Champion Songbird won a pair of grade I stakes at Saratoga meet.

Skip Dickstein

NYRA Reports Steady Saratoga Meet Numbers

Total handle down less than 1% from record 2015 meeting.

The New York Racing Association concluded its 2016 season at Saratoga Race Course with all-sources handle of $647,322,503, virtually even with last year's record wagering that had shattered the previous high water mark by more than 10%.

Total handle for the 2016 Saratoga meet registered at $647,322,503, down less than 1% from record handle in 2015 of $648,272,805. 

NYRA president Chris Kay said it was an accomplishment to nearly match last year's wagering total as the 2015 meet features a Triple Crown winner in American Pharoah , very good weather, and eight more races. A total of 30 races were taken off the turf during the 2016 season, in comparison to only ten in 2015.

"The 2015 season, which saw uncommonly good weather and the presence of a Triple Crown champion, was historical and one for the ages. This year's meet was outstanding in its own right despite severe storms which forced the cancellation of part of a Saturday race card for the first time in modern history, as well as inclement weather on three Sundays. Even with these challenges, the New York Racing Association generated total handle in line with last year's record-shattering numbers," Kay said. "Our success is a reflection of the confidence that our fans and horseplayers have in our ability to deliver a reliable and consistent product of world-class thoroughbred racing and great entertainment. We thank the owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys, fans and the entire community who joined us this summer at Saratoga."

The 40-day meet included 69 stakes worth $18.725 million in purses. Total purses for the meet reached $40,990,640 for average purses per race of $100,467. Total purses were down 2.8% and average purse per race was down 1.2% when compared with 2015.

NYRA said the 2016 season was highlighted by a number of new initiatives, most notably the nationwide launch of NYRA Bets, the online advanced deposit wagering platform that was previously restricted to New York residents. NYRA Bets is currently available in 24 states. 

The launch of the new wagering platform was supplemented by the new NYRA Bets Lounge, which featured weekly handicapping seminars and analysis from racing professionals each Saturday in the Saratoga Pavilion, presented by Time Warner Cable News.

For less experienced horseplayers, NYRA introduced the Bets Squad to educate fans about basic wagering techniques and terminology. The program included the opportunity to schedule private sessions with Bets Squad professionals.

The meet also featured the debut of Saratoga LIVE, the critically acclaimed racing program produced and broadcast by NYRA TV to an available audience of more than 65 million viewers on Fox Sports 2, MSG+ and Altitude Sports. Saratoga LIVE's 2 1/2-hour daily broadcasts included a combination of racing coverage, analysis and features. NYRA's carriage agreement with Fox Sports 2 represented the most extensive horse racing television deal in history and resulted in more programming hours of horse racing than all other television networks in the United States combined. 

"The launch of Saratoga Live and NYRA Bets demonstrates NYRA's commitment to providing a state of the art ADW and high quality national television show for race fans and horseplayers across the country," said NYRA Bets president and executive producer for television Tony Allevato. "The positive response we have received is a direct result of NYRA's use of the latest technology and the world class racing at Saratoga."  

Michal Dubb repeated as the meet's leading owner with 13 trips to the winner's circle. Mechanicville native Chad Brown set the Saratoga record for wins by a trainer with 40 in capturing his first H. Allen Jerkens training title while jockey Jose Ortiz collected 65 victories in securing his first Angel Cordero, Jr. riding crown.

One of the meet's signature moments was also perhaps one of its most surprising when the lightly raced Arrogate  dominated a field of 13, the largest Travers Stakes (gr. I) contingent since 1990, to set a stakes and track record to win the 147th running of the grade I, $1.25 million race in 1:59:36 before a near capacity crowd of 48,630. Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert saddled the Travers winner and second-place finisher, American Freedom , in his triumphant return to the Spa.

Jockey Mike Smith had a banner summer at Saratoga, capturing both the Travers and Alabama Stakes (gr. I). Smith was in the irons aboard undefeated champion filly Songbird, who ran her record to 10 consecutive wins with stirring performances in the Alabama and Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I).  

Off of a dominating performance in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, fan-favorite Frosted  cruised to victory in the 89th running of the Whitney Stakes (gr. I) during the first week in August.

Whitney Day also featured a special 90th birthday celebration in the Winner's Circle in honor of prominent owner, breeder and lifelong philanthropist Marylou Whitney. 
Total paid attendance for the 2016 Saratoga meet was 1,123,544, an increase of 5.4 percent over the 2015 season.

Figures for total handle (exclusive of international settlements) at Saratoga dating back to 2010, the start of the 40-day meet, are as follows:

Year               Total Handle                        

2010               $551,660,724 

2011**             $526,251,819 

2012               $588,351,964 

2013               $586,617,240 

2014               $571,163,485 

2015               $648,272,805 

2016               $647,322,503

*Handle figures are exclusive of international settlements which will be recorded at a later date for 2016 and which resulted in final handle of $656,121,664 in 2015.

**39 race days, due to weather cancellation