09/05/2016 7:45PM

Saratoga meet ends with second-highest handle in track history

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Chad Brown finished the 2016 Saratoga meeting with a record 40 victories.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.  – It was another sensational Saratoga summer for the New York Racing Association as all-sources handle was the second-highest in track history.

All-sources handle for the 40-day meet was $647,322,503, a less than 1 percent decline from last year’s figure of $648,272,805. (These figures do not include international handle, which for 2016 has not yet been calculated).

When one factors in that the final six races of the Saturday, Aug. 13, card were scrapped due to unsafe track conditions caused by a mid-day rain storm, this year’s numbers stack up extremely well to 2015.

“It’s been a great meet for us in that we have been able to overcome some unusual weather,” said Chris Kay, NYRA’s president and CEO. “We had a washout on a Saturday, we had three Sundays when there was rain, and yet we are within an eyelash of equaling or bettering last year’s all-source NYRA handle.”

Ontrack handle was $151,841,828, down 3.6 percent compared to last year’s total of $157,647,599.

This, despite the fact paid admissions, which includes a daily count of season passes whether those pass holders attended the races or not, was 1,123,544, up 5.4 percent over last year’s total of 1,065,625.

There were 408 races run at this year’s Saratoga meet, five less than a year ago. There were 190 turf races run and 25 scheduled turf races transferred to the main track. In 2015, there were 211 turf races run, and only eight transferred to the dirt.

Average field size at this meet was 8.09 horses per race, down from 8.36 in 2015.

Kay credited the racing office, the marketing team led by Lynn LaRocca, and the launch of NYRA Bets, spearheaded by David O’Rourke and Tony Allevato, as reasons for the meet’s success.

NYRA Bets, NYRA’s accout-wagering platform, went national in early August. From the start of the meet, there was a daily 2 1/2-hour live broadcast of Saratoga’s races that was available in as many as 65 million homes via various cable outlets. Kay said wagering on those televised races was up over last year, though he didn’t have exact percentages.

“It’s meaningful,” he said.

NYRA’s live daily broadcasts will continue at Belmont – which opens Friday – through Oct. 2. There also will be a show on Oct. 22, New York Showcase Day.

Saratoga’s handle was aided by the debut of a late pick five for the final four days of the meet. The wager handled $2,870,016, an average of $717,504. Kay said NYRA will evaluate the impact the pick five had on other wagers before deciding whether to offer it at some point during the Belmont fall meet.

On track, trainer Chad Brown set a record for wins by a trainer with 40, eclipsing the previous mark of 38 set by Todd Pletcher in 2011, one year after the meet expanded to 40 days. Brown finished with 40 wins, 35 seconds, and 23 thirds from 164 starters.  Pletcher was second in the standings with 31 winners from 149 starters.

Brown, who had finished second to Pletcher in five consecutive years, said wining the Saratoga title, “is the highlight of my career, highlight of my life.”

Brown, who won 12 stakes at the meet, credited his staff that numbers 150.

“I’m just like the lead singer of a band, the people behind me make the music,” Brown said.

Jose Ortiz won his first Saratoga riding title with 65 wins, just the third rider to win at least 60 races at one Saratoga meet. Ramon Dominguez (68 in 2012) and Javier Castellano (66 in 2013) were the other two.

“It’s a great feeling, I had a great meet, Saratoga is the best meeting in America,” Ortiz said. “Last year, I won 38, my goal was to win 40. It was way better than that.”

Michael Dubb won the owner’s title with 13 wins, two more than Seth Klaravich and Bill Lawrence, who did close out the meet with a victory in the Grade 1 Hopeful.

The one negative to the meet was the fact there were 11 deaths related to racing or training between the main track, turf course, and the Oklahoma training track. There also were a plethora of injuries, including three horses that had to be vanned off over the final five races of Monday’s card.

Coach877 More than 1 year ago
My only Huge complaint during the past two meets has been the integration of those horrible video screens rather than the old school tote boards.
I have good vision but honestly everyone in the grandstand can't possibly read the pay-offs.
NYRA shouldn't have cheaped out on that investment and should figure out a way to make it right for the spectator.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
now if they could work on the integrity issues . jockeys bad rides ,and miracle trainers . and have a detention barn and horses on the track early for major stakes races like the travers. the handle would probably be up 30%.
bobmcgeehan1 More than 1 year ago
the time between races HAS to improve next year.  they went way overboard trying to get the timing right for the TV show and it really bothered many of the folks who are in attendance.  starting at 1230 closing weekend and finishing at 7 pm is a crazy long day to run 11 or 12 races..  needs to tighten up.  other than that a great meet ...  was there for 22 days...
Bill Keating More than 1 year ago
Seventeen down at Del Mar and eleven at Saratoga. The two meets you would expect to have the highest quality horses and the best facilities to care for them. (Props to Keeneland. Why is their autumn meet only 17 days?) You don't see many 9 yr old geldings running for $5000 purses at Saratoga. Is this a typical death rate?
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
Bill come on ! If you have to ask why no 9 yr old geldings race at SPA, you don't understand or know the game.
Bill Keating More than 1 year ago
Please, Bruce, I've been following the races since 1977 when I read Andy Beyer's book "My $50,000 Year at the Races." The point was supposed to be that cheap, older geldings racing out in the sticks are the horses you expect to break down the most. Since Del Mar and Saratoga lack these horses, does this mean that all the cheaper, smaller tracks around the country have even higher death rates?
Roy Wilkinson More than 1 year ago
I agree with Bruce. If you have watched horse racing that long and don't understand the physics and the inherent risk of horse racing, you don't know the game. If Del Mar and Saratoga bothers you, don't follow the real small tracks on a regular basis.
Bill Keating More than 1 year ago
OK, Roy. You're right. I don't understand the game if the number of fatalities surprises or disturbs me. (is that part of "the game" or the whole gate that I don't understand.

I took three semesters of physics at a hard engineering school. 

With your greater knowledge please describe the physics of racing that result in so many fatalities more than I would have expected. I admit that I have never worked in the backstretch and could have something to learn from you, who apparently has.
Roy Wilkinson More than 1 year ago
Wrong again....as usual from your posts.
Kyri Freeman More than 1 year ago
I just want to comment on how much I enjoyed the TV show Saratoga Live, aired on Fox Sports 2. The level of knowledge was amazing, as well as beautiful HD footage. It was the best horse racing show I've seen for years and years. Definitely blew the increasingly amateurish TVG out of the water. I really hope they bring it back next year.
Roy Wilkinson More than 1 year ago
Sometimes they are annoying though. I don't need Wolfendale telling me that every horse looks fabulous in a Grade I race. Just give me a couple need to know points that you see, good or bad, and move on. I think Wolf is superior to Blewitt in most every task. I like the contrast between Gaudet and Serling. I wish Mig would focus more exclusively on jockey strategy than the horses. Overall though, the telecast is better than TVG, but I would expect it to be.
Dan Cronin More than 1 year ago
Weird cause the numbers I saw showed off track wagering was down significantly and NYRA was looking into why as bettors around the country were screaming at the 40 minutes in between races. 
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
Which numbers did you apparently see?
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
Everyone knows that if tracks could lower the time between races to say 25 min. the sport would grow.
Steve Viuker More than 1 year ago
The NYRA press office couldn't have written this better. 
Nice to include that one 'negative' at the bottom 
Bob Blake More than 1 year ago
there's no place like home...