10/06/2009 11:00PM

Saratoga to add four days in 2010


The Saratoga meet will expand by four days in 2010, going from 36 to 40 days, the New York Racing Association announced Wednesday following a meeting of its Board of Trustees. The 2010 meet will run from Friday, July 23, through Labor Day, Sept. 6.

"From a business perspective, eliminating five days at Belmont and increasing four days at Saratoga - two weekends and two weekdays - the net to NYRA's about $2 million,'' NYRA president Charles Hayward said Wednesday. "So financially, it's obviously a good thing at a time when we could use the money.''

NYRA enjoyed a solid Saratoga meet in 2009, with an all-sources handle of $513,837,237, down 1.2 percent from the previous year. Nationwide, handle declined 12.5 percent in August.

In expanding the meet, NYRA will have to adjust its stakes schedule. The Coaching Club American Oaks, traditionally run the final weekend of Belmont, will be moved to the opening Saturday of Saratoga. The Schuylerville will remain the traditional opening day feature at the Spa. The Sanford, usually run the second day of the meet, will be run the opening Sunday.

NYRA plans to bring back the Evan Shipman, a New York-bred stakes previously held the final day of Belmont, and run it the first Monday of the meet.

Hayward acknowledged there is some concern about the expansion of Saratoga as too much of a good thing.

"I think every day you worry about that,'' Hayward said. "But I think we'll maintain the stakes program, we'll have the purses there. We're not on our way to someplace - this is it in terms of expansion of the meet for the foreseeable future.''

"There are some logistical plusses to it, but at some point you do ask, 'Are we going to do too much up there?''' said Rick Violette, the president of the New York Horseman's Association. "I don't know that anybody knows the answer.''

Hayward said the opening of Belmont's fall meet will be pushed back one day and open on a Saturday as opposed to a Friday.

Hayward also said NYRA is considering adding a one-week break in January at Aqueduct in 2010.