Updated on 09/02/2013 6:25PM

Saratoga: Meet sees small declines in ontrack handle, attendance


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Despite running a record number of races and getting mostly stellar weather for seven weeks, overall business at the sesquicentennial Saratoga meet was flat, while ontrack business was down, according to figures compiled by Daily Racing Form.

All-sources handle for the 40-day meet was $586,685,153, down 0.2 percent from last year’s figure of $588,351,964. A drop of $4.7 million in all-sources handle on Monday’s card, compared with last year on closing day, made the difference between a negligible uptick in business and a negligible dip. There were 54 scratches Monday due to six turf races being forced to the main track.

Ontrack handle for the meet was $146,279,604, down 1.9 percent from last year’s figure of $149,127,289.

Attendance was 867,182, down 3.75 percent from last year’s total of 901,033. Monday’s attendance was 13,760, compared with 21,272 on closing day in 2012.

The New York Racing Association was not scheduled to release official figures until Tuesday.

Saratoga conducted 420 races, three more than last year. There were 209 races run on the turf (including nine steeplechase events), with 24 taken off, including all six Monday.

NYRA President and Chief Executive Chris Kay, presiding over his first Saratoga meet, was hesitant to analyze what the numbers mean.

“I’m not going to be able to interpret it until after the meet is over and I looked at all the data,” Kay said in a brief midafternoon visit to the press box. “You have to look at in a number of different ways in terms of ontrack handle, national handle, but also look at the kind of people that have come and the kind of impact it has on the region and its tourism. I’ll look at it from those different criteria. I won’t do it today. I’ll look at it in the future.”

Kay said his emphasis at this meet was to provide better customer service, uttering his pet phrase “enhance the guest experience” several times throughout the summer. He said he believes NYRA has made strides in that area but will look to do more next year, including attempting to engage fans and handicappers more.

“There are a lot of things I’ve seen this year where I say, ‘This is good, but we can grow beyond that for the future,’ ” Kay said. “There will be a few changes for next year.”

It remains to be seen whether the length of the meet will change. Kay said he has heard from people who want to extend it from its current 40 days, shorten it, or keep it the same. It’s another decision he said will require him to consult data.

On the track, owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, trainer Todd Pletcher, and jockey Javier Castellano dominated the proceedings.

Castellano put the finishing touches on a wildly successful meet by winning five races Monday, giving him 66 for the meet. John Velazquez was second with 46, followed by Joel Rosario, who had 41 but missed the final nine days of the meet due to injury.

For Castellano, it was his first Saratoga riding title after three consecutive runner-up finishes.

“The leading jockey title at Saratoga is special for anyone; any jockey would want to win this title,” Castellano said. “I’m very proud to participate with the best jockeys in the country.”

Castellano won 17 races for Chad Brown at this meet and six for Pletcher, including the Alabama Stakes and the Coaching Club American Oaks on Princess of Sylmar.

The Alabama and Coaching Club were two of four Grade 1 wins and 14 stakes victories overall for Pletcher, who finished the meet with 36 wins. Chad Brown was second with 24 wins, while Kiaran McLaughlin and David Jacobson tied for third with 16.

Pletcher set a personal-best for earnings at a Saratoga meet with $4.389 million.

“Top to bottom, it was maybe our most well-rounded meet,” Pletcher said. “All the horses ran well; would have loved to have topped it off with the Travers, but that one slipped away from us.”

Pletcher said winning his first Saratoga trainers’ title in 1998 was “one of those fist-pump moments, and then when you get to 10, it’s more time to reflect a little bit and kind of appreciate the entire body of work.”

The Ramseys won a Saratoga single-meet record 22 races from 95 starters, double the number of wins recorded by both Darley Stable and Drawing Away Stable and David Jacobson. The Ramseys, who won the 2008 and 2009 titles, ended the three-year reign of owner Mike Repole.

“Very happy, couldn’t be more pleased,” Ken Ramsey said. “Twenty-two – that’s a great number to hang up anyplace, especially a place like Saratoga.”

tony pies More than 1 year ago
lots of angry losers ... nuting like the spa..... chad brown on the turf ... johnny shep on the hurdles... Javier turns it to Cavier..... see you next year losers....
Kenny More than 1 year ago
For 15 years I complained to myself how stupid NYRA was because the post parade they never had the camera where you could see the horse only the pony walking next to him......it was ludicrous...then one day someone woke up and it was changed.......eventually someone at NYRA will say the #'s on the screen are always wrong during the race, and it will change but when will they wake up.
Kenny More than 1 year ago
I've been doing this for 30 years since I was 15 my first 3 suggestions................start with sound system it has to be 100% better you need to be able to hear what the heck is going on......the Tvs......all have to be huge......and the running #s during race have to be correct and show the whole field!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! amateurs dont understand the races but need to see and hear what the heck is going on during the race!!!!!!NYRA tracks show the 1st 4 runners, are wrong half the time and it disappears at the 1/8 pole and you cant hear Durkin in half the facility...............smarten up!
mikey More than 1 year ago
The only thing you hear is Andy S and his AH AH AH and never ending junk.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I live about an hour and 1/2 from Saratoga and would love to afford to spend the night and go out downtown. However, the hotel prices are through the roof. I wanted to book a hotel on a Thursday night and it was $259 plus tax. Friday and Saturday jumped up to $379 per night. For $100 more I could fly to Las Vegas and get 3 nights accomodations, flight included. I don't want to stay in Glens Falls, South Glens Falls, or Clifton Park, or Albany. Downtown Saratoga is a blast, but I'm not going to be in for $500 before I even go to the track.
HRoberish More than 1 year ago
I live 20 minutes from Saratoga yet I only went up twice! What is the big deal? Been to Saratoga over 50 times over 20 years and it's the same old, same old except the price gouging on everything gets worse. Saratoga is a sucker track THAT's why it's the "graveyard of favorites". Unproven 2yo races, too many turf races and too many races switched off of surfaces due to weather. Take a look at all the handicapper's win percentages. Not even close to the norm of 33%. PT Barnum was right. Suckers are born every minute. Hey I got a bridge in Brooklyn that's for sale, cheap!.
Kenny More than 1 year ago
Accept that you can basically picnic in a great setting for 3$ a person by bringing your own stuff and its the best place in the world for finding overlays if you do the work
Kenny More than 1 year ago
Christopher Lally More than 1 year ago
Two times a year is about your average. Good. I don't know if Saratoga is the graveyard of favorites. I heard it is the Graveyard of Champions, Favorites win at about a 30% rate, give or take a few tenths of a percentage point year in and year out which is three percent below the "norm" you point out. Calling it the graveyard of favorites is a little silly given the evidence. There are many turf races? Okay, but you should know that this year, very few were taken off the grass. The weather was the very best this summer, doncha agree? You should have come up and brought a picnic and a bunch of friends, Splitting the cost of a hotel with another couple could have given you the wildest vacation of your life. Good luck and give everybody a break. Try not to be too crabby.
TOM More than 1 year ago
Mr. Kay sounds like a typical corporate CEO..."Enhance guest experience, grow the business blah blah....stop the talking, Kay, do the walking.
Kenny More than 1 year ago
Another thing, some days need to be speeded up.....Thurs monday are not Travers or Alabama day........1 to 520pm get the 10 races in by clipping 3-4 mins off each MTP....I push thousands through the windows and can spend hrs handicapping, i love the sport, but some days are just too long,
Kenny More than 1 year ago
Chris Kay......Please spend a day at Belmont cafe Sir. You need to have the VOLUME on for at minimum your home track, CMON
Kenny More than 1 year ago
Huge problem at NYRA in general whether its simulcast at Belmont and Aqu or at Saratoga is this.......the aututote self service machines are AWFUL......dont accept my NYRA card, break down etc etc....and people are not ready to bet when they get up to them.....a full service menu of pik 4 pik3 supers etc are great but the patrons have to be ready to bet on machines that are ready to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Too amny people handicapping at the machine....its nauseating
mikey More than 1 year ago
Better than the rude tellers who try to rip you off.
Christopher Lally More than 1 year ago
O. Another nasty comment from "mikey". What rude tellers who try to rip you off?
mikey More than 1 year ago
Most of the local 3 idots.Rather use the machine.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Spend a day at monmouth park and see how nice it can be at the track.Best day for a family day out.Went there every weekend for 30 years.
Dave111711 More than 1 year ago
Too many races- Especially those 5.5 F Turf affairs & NYB claiming races- NYRA should go back to the days of only 9 races during the week and 10 on weekends. 30% of the crowd is gone by the time the stakes races go off.