06/23/2014 1:12PM

Fewer races planned for Saratoga meet

Barbara D. Livingston
A record 420 races, including 411 flat races, were run at Saratoga in 2013.

Saying he wants to emphasize quality over quantity, Martin Panza, the senior vice-president of racing operations for the New York Racing Association, said he plans to run fewer flat races at the upcoming Saratoga meet compared to last year.

By sticking to a program that calls for nine flat races on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, as well as 10 races on most Sundays, Panza expects to run about 15 to 20 fewer flat races than the 411 run in 2013. When the steeplechase races were factored in, Saratoga ran a record 420 races during its 40-day meet in 2013. There will be 12 steeplechase races run this year – three more than last year – one each Wednesday and Thursday.

Steeplechase races will be run at 12:25 p.m. with post time for the first flat race on those days – and virtually all days – set for 1 p.m.

While wagering will continue to be offered on the steeplechase races, they will not be part of the pick five, a wager that will make its Saratoga debut when the meet begins on July 18.

“We’re trying to emphasize quality over quantity,” said Panza, who will be overseeing his first Saratoga meet. “Let’s try and bring back sort of what Saratoga used to be, and that’s not being critical of anybody. We’re trying to run a little different program with a little bit more quality in it, and in doing so you’re going to run less races. On top of that, Saratoga is a wonderful town. You got to be able to go out after the races and go to dinner and enjoy the town and the community.”

Toward the latter point, there will not be any twilight racing cards offered at this meet. Local restaurants have expressed concern about losing business on those Fridays when Saratoga began at 2:30 p.m. and didn’t end until after 7.

Fewer races could mean less handle. Last year, Saratoga handled $586.6 million.

“Well, I know this: When Del Mar went from six days a week to five they actually did better,” Panza said “I’m not saying that that’s going to happen. We’re running a different program, and I’m not writing all these cheap claimers nonwinners of two on the turf and maiden [$20,000 claiming] on the turf. If they want more races then that’s what you have to run, and that’s not the ticket.”

Panza said there could be exceptions on some days to running fewer races. First, there are three Sundays that he will likely have to card 11 or 12 races, owing to the “Jockey Club Tour on Fox” television broadcasts that will emanate from Saratoga on July 20 (5:30-7:30 p.m.), Aug. 10 (5-6:30 p.m.) and Aug. 17 (5-6:30 p.m.)

Second, Panza said if he is filling good races with large fields he will use them.

“If I have four extras that have 12-horse fields I’m not going to sit there and be stubborn and not use those races,” Panza said. “We’ll try to use them on Fridays and Saturdays when we know more people are playing them.”

Panza said improving the quality of racing at Saratoga isn’t something that’s going to happen in one meet.

“It’s going to take a couple of meets to reshape this thing,” he said. “We’re changing, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

On Monday, the NYRA held its annual pre-Saratoga press conference for the local media. It announced its four give-away items, which will be Saratoga baseball caps (July 20), Pilsner glasses (July 27), totebags (Aug. 10), and short-sleeve T-shirts (Aug. 31).

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How about 50 cent Pick 3s?
tim More than 1 year ago
Bob Nastanovich More than 1 year ago
Great decision! 8-9 race cards are beneficial.
--- More than 1 year ago
Not a problem. Those 12-13 race Saturdays dragged on forever... I for one am excited to see some structure here with set number of races each racing day.
tim More than 1 year ago
9 races every day, even on Travers Day. You know what would be cool. Running a turf race and dirt race simultaneously. If they could make that work, then they could get us in and out in less than 2 hours.
Rodney More than 1 year ago
a test....
Robert Clayton More than 1 year ago
Is this clown for real? He is taking the best race meet in the Country and acting like he is going to resurrect Thistledown "Rome wasn't built in a day".....I have news for you, Saratoga is built and already very successful, I am glad to see you didn't include the steeplechase in the Pick 5 though, whoever gave you that idea was sharp
Corky Pretzels More than 1 year ago
Clown? The real clown is down in Florida working for Gulfstream Park.
Cover2 More than 1 year ago
Both the Spa and Del Mar after a week to ten days weather big or shorts fields have a lot of chalk win. I'm guessing, $587 million handle at Saratoga 2013. Dmr laughs in their face. At seashore a win is a win is a win. Typical free bingo square: $50 solid clmr in for $25K wins by 4 pays $3.20;;;;;;Pick races are reduced by one. Just because owner wants to say at party that nite, " Did you bet my horse ? ".
Corky Pretzels More than 1 year ago
Please fix the mess that chump Campo left behind.
tim More than 1 year ago
Can't wait for Ziptronic to face the Awakino Cat. Planning our family trip up to Saratoga around this.
tim More than 1 year ago
Over under on the starts Hillswick will make at Saratoga for Jacobson? I will start it at 6.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
michael More than 1 year ago
Disagree on steeplechase. A great trafition and a nice classic touch the meet.
GQ More than 1 year ago
Hey Tim, how about using the time to look at your racing form. Look at the will pays. And make some informed decisions. Go play blackjack. That way you can lose all your chips in a short period of time so you can have the rest of the day to go bet the dogs
Big Rob stud More than 1 year ago
Seriously, it can't be a male because anyone man with a heartbeat could spend 30 minutes just looking @ the scenery.
tim More than 1 year ago
I do bet dogs. The turf sprints.
Robert Clayton More than 1 year ago
Any serious player has all the races handicapped 48 hours ahead (with off the turf and maybe a slop modification).....if you are spending time between races handicapping I appreciate your donations
tim More than 1 year ago
Well said Robert. Some of the idiots who comment on here with their real names should really think about going Anonymous.
Kurt More than 1 year ago
Here's something for you Brilliant handicappers (Tim and Robert)- YOU are not a public handicapper- you do not need to make your selections 48 hrs. before the races. Most of us will handicap the day/night before. The weather changes often here ( Saratoga), many times during the card. The extra time for handicapping can be put to use looking at the horses in the paddock before the races (which horses look sharp, which are sweating profusely, which are wasting energy fighting against being saddled, which have bodies/ feet built for turf, distance, etc. They leave the paddock usually with 9-11 minutes to go. That leaves you enough time to stand in line and get your bets in. You might also think about looking at the tote and double prices -which horses are taking money (Lots of 2 yr. old Maidens here and the money shows quite often who has a good horse). And Tim -with your comment " Its too hot and the place is too old and outdated to provide anything to do for that 30 minutes" really shows you don't appreciate Saratoga and should stay home. The best racing in the world, beautiful women, lot's of food, drinks, people...Hey I have an idea, maybe if you had a friend, you could go with them. Then again, they probably wouldn't want to be with someone who whines because there are 30 minutes between races.
tim More than 1 year ago
Oh you mean the form they just raised to $9 on Saturdays? LOL! By the time Saratoga starts it will be up to $11. You mean that form?
tim More than 1 year ago
They should lessen the time between races too. 15 minutes tops. Its too hot and the place is too old and outdated to provide anything to do for that 30 minutes they currently have between races. And start the races earlier in the day. Like 11am. Get everybody out of the track by 2 or 3.
Big Rob stud More than 1 year ago
Those are by far the two worst ideas I've heard. If u want dog racing go to a dog track. Anybody who is @ Saratoga is not complaining about the time between races. This is the way to go. More isn't always the answer, most average tracks shouldn't be open more than 2 or 3 days a week.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ya, NYRA has much better ideas. That's why they are constantly in need of money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Put a pool and health club in the infield. Give us something to do while we wait in between the gopher turf sprints.
Patricia Doyle More than 1 year ago
Between races you look at the next race horses and look over the racing form to see if you missed something in your picks, 30 minutes is fine, In that 30 minutes you have time to talk to race goers you might have met other years. Oh and grab a hot dog and soda, beer does not go together with gambling.,
tim More than 1 year ago
Hot dogs and soda...both gross.
Kurt More than 1 year ago
Brilliant. Let's not waste any time handicapping, checking out the girls, looking at the horses in the paddock, getting a beer, enjoying time with friends. Why don't we just cut the time between races to one minute- then you can grab your free T-Shirt and be home early to watch Wapner.
tim More than 1 year ago
Hysterical! Someone who bets horses with a witty sense of humor! Brilliant.
Kurt More than 1 year ago
Tim, I have a tip for you in the 1st Race- Go Home!
Patricia Doyle More than 1 year ago
Why not just collect admission from everyone, take a quick look around at the aging facilities and then we all go home.....or go soak up local scenery at Lake George. I hate to say it but I go to Saratoga to see the races, go to the track and then have dinner and go to the hotel to look over tomorrow's race card. I don't go there to fish or swim. I go to bet on the races. If it is too hot, then bet from home and save gas money.
tim More than 1 year ago
You guys are so right. Lets increase the time between races to 1 hour because nobody who goes to the track has anything better to do then eat bad food in between races and keep on packing the pounds and sweating and burning money in addition to the $8 tolls these fools now wanna collect at the door.
gary Potter More than 1 year ago
why don't you just stay home and phone it in? Obviously no understanding of class or tradition.
tim More than 1 year ago
You mean stay home in AC drinking clean cold spring water eating food that is good for you, while working out in between the races? Hmmm, what a novel idea!
Liz Collard More than 1 year ago
I do not mean to sound pompous, but have you ever been to Saratoga ? I certainly would not want to see it reduced to a get it over quick show, I enjoy the atmosphere, the old time feel and the respect for tradition. For me, it has what is lacking at pretty much everyone other race track in the USA.