Four more days! NYRA extends Saratoga Race Course meet
Thursday, October 8, 2009
By PAUL POST, The Saratogian
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Local hotel, restaurant and retail store owners are hailing an extension of the Saratoga Race Course meet as a welcome economic boost.
New York Racing Association announced Wednesday that the 2010 meet will open on Friday, July 23, adding four days to a season that will have seven weekends instead of six.
Equally important, the 40-day meet will see the Grade 1 Coaching Club America Oaks, normally run at Belmont Park, moved to the first weekend at Saratoga.
"It’s like manna from heaven," said Kathleen Smith, owner of the 31-room Saratoga Arms on Broadway. "It can only add to the fun."
The extra Grade 1 race will bring more high-profile owners and horsemen to town even earlier, she said.
Related: Saratoga Race Course will feature 40 cards in 2010
"Wow!" said Holiday Inn General Manager Cindy Hollowood, upon hearing the news. "That’s wonderful. I’m very happy about it. It gives people additional opportunities to come to Saratoga. Overall, it will be very good for our community and business."
The 168-room hotel typically sells out on weekends anyway, but having more people in town should boost the economy, she said.
"It’s four more days of great business and increased demand," Hollowood said. "There can’t be anything wrong with that. It’s good for everybody concerned."
John Baker, owner of Gaffney’s Restaurant, said, "I’m very pleased. I know there are concerns about extending the season, but Saratoga is a jewel and NYRA makes their money here so it makes sense to me. I don’t think it will dilute it. I think it’s a great thing, four more days. Saratoga could definitely use it."
The track’s economic impact is felt throughout the region, especially Broadway shops such as Impressions of Saratoga. "
Related: Extending Saratoga a no-brainer
Labor Day is going to be late again next year (Sept. 6), so it will definitely give us an extra shot in the arm," owner Marianne Barker said. "Any little thing helps."
Horsemen, too, see the longer season as a good move.
"The Belmont meet has been such a slow business situation the last couple weeks of July, I can understand their thinking," Hall of Fame trainer LeRoy Jolley said. "Business will certainly be better than business would have been over that same time period at Belmont."
Trainer Gary Contessa said, "Adding four days to the greatest meet in America is a great thing. I love the meet, I love being up there."
Nationwide, wagering on racing was down 12.5 percent this August. Saratoga fared much better, however, even in difficult economic times as all-sources handle was off just 1.7 percent.
"Going into this year’s Saratoga meet, we predicted that wagering would decline approximately 5 percent from last year. We greatly exceeded those expectations," NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward said. "The expansion to four racing days was a measured decision that reflects the overwhelming demand for racing that we have from horsemen in Saratoga. At a time when many tracks in the country had to cut back on racing days, we not only continued to run six days a week at Saratoga, but did so with more horses entered per race as compared to last year."
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