Having a summer without fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, thoroughbred racing returns Thursday afternoon to Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York, to open its 40-day summer meet with first post set for 1:05 p.m. ET.
The New York Racing Association will offer 76 stakes races in Saratoga’s return worth $21.5 million dollars. For N.Y. gambling there will be 19 Grade I stakes races on the schedule — which concludes Sept. 6, highlighted by two of its most revered centerpieces: the Whitney Stakes on Aug. 7 and the Travers on Aug. 28.
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Even with no fans in 2020, NY sports betting made its presence felt. Saratoga’s all-sources handle posted at $702.53 million, just three million shy of the all-time record of $705.34 million.
In April, FOX Sports and the NYRA expanded their partnership agreement that establishes FOX Sports as the official wagering partner of NYRA Bets and the leading media provider for top thoroughbred racing through the next 10 years.
Big Crowds Expected
Two years ago, Saratoga’s on-site attendance was 1,056,053 (39 days) marking the fifth straight year more than one million people went through the gates in upstate New York. In 2018, the track’s all-time record for meet attendance was 1,124,149.
Look for both numbers to be eclipsed this summer.
Saratoga will run on a Wednesday through Sunday schedule for the third straight year with first post at 1:05 p.m. daily with gates opening at 11 a.m. each day, excluding Travers Day (11:35 a.m. first post) and the final week of the meet (12:30 p.m. first post).
Tickets (at 2019 prices) will be grandstand admission $7 and clubhouse admission $10.
For today’s opening day, the 10-race card is highlighted by two Grade III races, the traditional Schuylerville for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs on the main track and the Quick Call for 3-year-olds at 5½ furlongs on the turf.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won 14 titles here at Saratoga Springs including 2020, and leading jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. with 59 wins, one better than brother Jose Ortiz last year look to defend their titles.