Updated on 09/15/2011 12:40PM

Record-breaking opener at the Spa

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Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Touch Love, ridden by Jorge Chavez, draws clear in the Schuylerville to score her third straight victory.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - There was tremendous electricity at Saratoga on Wednesday, and it wasn't just from the bevy of additional electronic tote boards on the grounds.

From brilliant sunshine and hot temperatures to a lightning-fast main track on which a 54-year-old record was broken, Saratoga's 133rd meeting got off to a roaring start before a record crowd of 31,524 that included New York Giants head coach Jim Fassel. The previous mark was 30,658 set on Aug. 2, 1989. Last year, the opener drew a crowd of 27,810, which set a record for a July opening.

The meet's opening-day feature, the $109,100 Grade 2 Schuylerville Stakes, went to Touch Love, who slipped through a narrow opening on the rail in mid-stretch and rolled to a 4 3/4-length victory over Lakeside Cup. Lost Expectations finished third. Perhaps the only downer was the return of 2-year-old champion Macho Uno, who was beaten a nose in his first race since last November [page 6].

The opening of Saratoga brought the debut of reduced takeout, the percentage of a wager held out for taxes, expenses, and purses. That, and the addition of more races to bet on from out of state helped account for a record handle.

Ontrack handle - which included wagering on 10 races at Saratoga, nine from Monmouth Park, and five from Del Mar - was $3,578,690. Last year, it was $3,097,460 when there were no races from Monmouth offered. According to officials, Saratoga patrons bet only $64,000 on Monmouth.

Total handle on Saratoga was $14,550,350, eclipsing the record of $13,134,037 set in 1999. Last year's opening-day handle was $12,615,555.

"It's very encouraging,' said Barry Schwartz, who is overseeing his first Saratoga meet as New York Racing Association chairman. "I'd rather be ahead than behind.'

In the Schuylerville, Touch Love found herself behind a speed duel down the backside and then a wall of horses in upper stretch. But Chavez bided his time and found a narrow opening along the rail for Touch Love to go through.

It was the third victory in as many starts for Touch Love, who won the Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park on July 1. Owned by Skeedattle Stable and trained by Maryland-based Anthony Dutrow, Touch Love ($9.80) covered six furlongs in 1:11.12.

"She continues to surprise me,' said Dutrow, who may try her back in the Adirondack Stakes here on Aug. 13. "I've always worried how much ability she's got. She's always had a lot of class, a lot of heart and tries real hard. She seems to handle everything she's faced with, including the one hole today."

There were a lot of fast horses on Wednesday's card, perhaps helped by a fast racetrack.

Mayakovsky, a 2-year-old son of Matty G, won his maiden at first asking, covering 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.32. It broke the record of 1:03.40 set by Tea Olive in 1946.

"``I've trained for 26 years, I have not trained one like this as a 2-year-old,' said Patrick Biancone. "He's a natural, classy racehorse.'

Three races later, Truman's Raider won the other division of the maiden race in 1:03.68. It helped trainer D. Wayne Lukas get off to a good start at the meet. Last year, he started 1 for 42.

In some aspects, Saratoga was a reminder of Belmont. John Velazquez and Edgar Prado combined to win four of the first five races of the meet. Richard Migliore and Pat Day also won two races.

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