Updated on 09/15/2011 1:40PM

It's all good as 133rd Saratoga meet begins

Email

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Saratoga opens the gates on its 133rd meeting Wednesday and its arrival couldn't come at a better time for the New York Racing Association.

With the recent indictments of four mutuel clerks for alleged money laundering at its tracks and with the persistent rumors that it will lose out in the bidding to buy the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp., the NYRA is in need of a positive shot that only six weeks at Saratoga can provide.

Beginning Wednesday, racing will be conducted six days a week (dark Tuesdays) through Labor Day, Sept. 3. Post time is 1 p.m. Eastern, except Travers Day (Aug. 25) when first post is 12:30 p.m.

Wednesday's 10-race opening-day card features the 3-year-old debut of 2000 champion juvenile colt Macho Uno in an allowance race, as well as the $100,000, Grade 2 Schuylerville Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

Last year, despite a three-week period of rain that caused the cancellation of 32 turf races, Saratoga set records for on-track handle ($116.3 million), total handle ($118.7 million), and on-track attendance (978,321). There is reason to believe this year's figures could be even better. New NYRA chairman Barry Schwartz is hopeful that attendance will top the one-million mark for the first time.

The forecast opening day is for partly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-80's.

Racegoers will notice several cosmetic changes to the plant, highlighted by a new toteboard and additional big-screen televisions and odds-boards. However, the most significant change will be at the mutuel windows, where bettors will get a bigger return on investment.

Beginning Wednesday, the takeout, that is the percentage of each dollar held out for purses, taxes, and expenses, will be lower. Takeout on straight bets drops from 15 to 14 percent, on multiple bets (exactas, doubles, quinellas) from 20 to 17.5 percent, and on non-carryover days, the pick-six takeout drops from 25 to 20 percent.

As part of the new legislation, NYRA - as well as the state's OTBs - will be able to offer wagering on additional out-of-state signals. Depending on the day, fans at Saratoga will be able to wager on Monmouth, Arlington, Delaware, or Del Mar.

Of course, the live product promises to be exceptional. The trainers' colony is as strong as ever. In addition to the usual cast from New York and Kentucky, Saratoga will be home to the two winningest trainers in the country - Scott Lake (251 wins) and Steve Asmussen (173). While Lake serves a suspension through Aug. 2, his horses will run in assistant trainer Gerald Brooks's name.

Among other new faces on the backside are Dale Capuano, Patrick Biancone, Phil England, Ronny Werner, and Lynn Whiting. Trainers Bobby Frankel and Allen Iwinski return with stronger barns than they had last year.

The jockey colony has newcomers as well. Mark Guidry and Donnie Meche join the group, filling a void created by the loss of Shane Sellers, Mike Luzzi, and Jose Santos to injury - and Mike Smith to California.

As always, the stakes schedule at Saratoga is terrific. A total of 35 stakes - 14 Grade 1 events - worth $8.95 million will be run. While the $1 million Travers Stakes for 3-year-olds is the showcase race, it may be topped for excitement this year by the Grade 1 Alabama, which can help decide divisional honors between Flute and Fleet Renee.

Stakes action starts Wednesday, with the Schuylerville for juvenile fillies at six furlongs. A field of eight was entered, led by Touch Love, who is 2 for 2, including a win in the Fashion Stakes at Belmont.

Having drawn the outside post positions in her first two starts, Touch Love will start from the rail on Wednesday.

"I do have concerns about the one hole, you betcha," trainer Anthony Dutrow said. "I think the last two post positions were a disadvantage to her. This is an unknown. I'm assuming some of those maiden-breakers are decent kinds of horses. I'm taking nothing for granted as far as the competition goes, but my filly's doing well and I don't think I can get hurt by running her."

Joe Greeley's Sabine Stable purchased the Lost Code mare Code Blum in foal to 1995 Hopeful winner Hennessy for $160,000. The resulting foal was Baby Nance, who won her maiden at first asking by 3 3/4 lengths on June 21 at Belmont.

"It was the way you'd like to see a 2-year-old win first time out," said trainer Bob Barbara, whose filly breaks from post 3 under Edgar Prado. "The kid never moved. She broke sharp, went three jumps, and he took a hold and he never seemed to let her run."

Lakeside Cup, a daughter of 1991 Hopeful winner Salt Lake, is coming off a second-place finish to the undefeated Cashier's Dream in the Grade 3 Debutante at Churchill Downs. Savannah Bayou, a maiden winner at first asking, goes out for D. Wayne Lukas, who has won the Schuylerville five times.