Updated on 07/23/2012 10:50AM

Saratoga: Opening day handle and attendance up from 2011

Barbara D. Livingston
Rosie Napravnik is interviewed after winning the first race of the Saratoga meet.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - When trainer Nick Zito drove to work Friday morning, it didn’t take him long to realize that this day was different from most.

As he drove to the Saratoga backstretch, Zito saw long lines of people waiting outside the gates on Union Avenue, gates that wouldn’t open yet for hours.

“You come in, it’s 6 o’clock and people are standing on line outside trying to get a good seat,” Zito said. “You know it’s different. Like they say, the show starts.”

Though there were several technical difficulties, the show that is the Saratoga meeting opened Friday in a big way, with significant increases in handle over 2011.

Attendance for opening day was 25,676, a 2.1 percent increase over the 25,155 that showed up in 2011. Ontrack handle for the 10-race card was $4,075,817, a 14.8-percent increase from the $3,551,745 wagered ontrack in 2011.

All-sources handle, which includes wagering on Saratoga from simulcast outlets, was $16,690,234, a 5.2 percent increase from the $15,871,449 wagered in 2011.

[Complete coverage of racing at Saratoga: News, PPs, and video]

While the weather was superb - partly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s and no rain - there were several glitches.

Audio problems prevented the popular Talkin’ Horses handicapping segment from being conducted prior to the card. The highly-touted free wireless Internet - introduced for the first time at Saratoga -worked intermittently at best. Later in the day, there was no running water in the bathrooms and jockey quarters, problems reminiscent of the nightmare conditions fans had to endure in the 2008 Belmont Stakes.

“Our fans on track and across the country responded to a great day of racing,” New York Racing Association president and COO Ellen McClain said. “We appreciate their patience with opening day complications such as sporadic shutdowns of the new wireless Internet service, television and public address system issues, and a drop in water pressure at approximately 3 p.m. We will be working through the night to resolve all of these matters.”

The crowd was treated to a show dominated late by the brothers Dutrow. Embattled Richard Dutrow Jr., who is facing a 10-year revocation of his license from the New York State Racing and Wagering Board for past rules violations, won the Grade 3 James Marvin with Pacific Ocean. Thirty minutes later, Tony Dutrow, Rick’s older brother, won the Grade 3 Schuylerville with So Many Ways. Tony then took the finale with To Dubai.

In the winner’s circle after the Schuylerville, Tony Dutrow talked about how sad it will be if his brother is eventually forced out of the game.

“With the real reality of this being taken away from him, I can’t help but be heartfelt for him,” Tony Dutrow said. “He is such an incredible talent, such an incredible horseman … The game will miss the talent that Ricky showed them.”

There was other talent on display as well Friday. Most notably, Kauai Katie, a 2-year-old filly by Malibu Moon, who won her debut by 12 lengths for Stonestreet Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher. Kauai Katie covered 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.66 or 1.36 seconds faster than Lignite ran winning the other division of this race over the Pletcher-trained Kimono.

“When [Kimono] ran well we felt this filly was just a little quicker away from the gate and so it worked out well,” Pletcher said.

Rosie Napravnik rode Kauai Katie. She also won the first race with Nine O Wonderful, giving Napravnik her first-ever win at Saratoga. Napravnik, along with Joel Rosario, Javier Castellano, and Ramon Dominguez, each won two races on the card.

“I was like, Yes! Just happy to get the monkey off my back,” Napravnik said. “First win at Saratoga, and hopefully that’s the way the whole meet will go, in a positive direction from here.”

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch

W.G. More than 1 year ago
Not a bad opening day crowd considering you have the Open Championships on ESPN and the fact that some who otherwise might have been at opening day at the Spa were at Midnight screenings while others in the morning were glued to news accounts of what happened at one of those midnight screenings that was just senseless to say the least. NYRA may want to seriously consider moving first post on opening day to 3:00 PM if they want a bigger crowd (30-40,000) for the opener at Saratoga.
Jack More than 1 year ago
If you had Del Mar management running Saratoga they would have charged "To Flush"
Jim Pitura More than 1 year ago
New Yorkers wine about everything
Mike D More than 1 year ago
Bradley S. Ezra More than 1 year ago
Jack Ryan More than 1 year ago
In the grandstands you could not hear any of the race calls or any other announcements. Late scratches were noted by horse odds not on tote board. The wifi didn't work period. The water pressure was zero upstairs but on ground floor it did flow but not enough to flush toilets. About half the SAM machines were not even installed. A number of the televisions upstairs were not installed. Yeah a great place to go for the races. What a joke.
Paul_Tuon More than 1 year ago
Do you think that Ms Ellen Mclain should keep her job? After all, she's in charge.
Mike D More than 1 year ago
Give her a break. They only had 10 months to prepare.
Paul_Tuon More than 1 year ago
Mike D--Good comment. I couldn't have said any better--they need more than 10 months, maybe 5 years?
Aniello Napolitano More than 1 year ago
Really?? By that logic then, she should get a raise before being fired, after all, on-track wagering was up nearly 15% from last year, and isn't a CEO first and foremost responsbile for the bottom line? What an idiotic comment. If everyone that is "in charge" loses their job for other people performing less than 100%, then there'd be no CEO's in America. Maybe for the past 10 months she's been preoccupied with straigthening out the mess that still could cripple NYRA. Instead, she guided the company through a successful Belmont meet and now is off to a strong start here at Saratoga. And maybe she should also get credit for offering free wi-fi in the first place. I'd say that's a pretty progressive move, no? Give it a rest. If you've got better ideas on how to right this ship, let's hear them. Until then, let her do her job and let's let the results speak for themselves. Ellen McClain realizes that the sport needs to attract a younger fan base, needs to be progressive and be competitive with other sports....otherwise you and the other geniuses won't have a track to complain about.
Kurt K More than 1 year ago
Aniello- As I pointed out to you yesterday- there is nothing for her to say she has done right yet. As a matter of fact this was the worst opening day as far as issues EVER (or at least the 27 years I have been there). Sound Systems problems- as I promised, Large screen TV's not working, toilets overflowing, wi-fi inoperable, ATM's not functioning, etc. Don't give us the crap that SHE increased the handle- no one has even heard a word from her since she has been in charge. I'm still waiting for an explanation as to my refund from the overcharge issue. Here I did the math and expected about $300 and I got 68 bucks without any documentation although I gave them 30 pages of printouts from my account. So come clean and tell us why the support for her- friend? relative? I was at the Belmont and the same issues existed with the ATM's- THEY WERE'NT WORKING! How the hell do you operate a wagering facility without ATM's? GET RID OF THE CONTRACTS WITH THOSE VENDORS! Throw those machines in the street and get new people to do business with.
Kurt K More than 1 year ago
and another thing- the majority of the TV's they have there are 15-20 years old. People have to PAY to get rid of those things from their homes. How about replacing the damn things? At least the ones on the corner of the Paddock Pavillion. I'd be willing to bet that a local business would donate them if they got some advertising in exchange, so don't give me any crap that they don't have any money.
Aniello Napolitano More than 1 year ago
Kurt - I am neither a friend nor relative of Ms. McClain's, nor do I know her personally, but I know for a fact she has an excellent reputation and successful track record in the industry from which she came, and I do know people that have worked with her. She has had an extraordinarily steep learning curve at NYRA and the fact is, this is a woman with broad expertise in business and specifically finance, and in her time at NYRA has likely done things to help get the financial ship in order. The average fan is certainly not aware of such details. This is a woman of integrity, and with a fresh perspective on how to run this business, and I sure as heck hope she gets the chance to prove it. It's so easy to criticize from an outsider's perspective without knowing her day to day activities, and keep in mind she was voted to this post by her own peers. So my support is based on knowing this is a person that can get the job done. And she's also stated that she'd like to learn more about racing as a sport, and seeing it from a fan's perspective. This is what's needed from an executive in charge of NYRA. And these are not overnight fixes. I can understand your frustration at the things that didn't work perfectly yesterday, but I assure you that she cares about those things as much as any NYRA exec that preceded her. In the meantime, look at the quality of today's card, look at the new purse structure and the number of new stables in town for this meet. This is still the best six weeks of racing anywhere! And OF COURSE she wasn't responsible for increasing handle! That's my point; it is just as illogical to blame her for wi-fi or ATM's being out and saying she should lose her job over it. Realize also that she hasn't been in charge for all that long. I am sure she is dealing with vendors and contractors as best she can. Unfortunately NYRA has bigger problems at the moment, and they need someone who can restore some integrity at the top. She can be that person. And believe me, my experience at the track isn't all that I hope it to be either, but I am at least hopeful that having someone on top that actually cares about the fan experience and is a smart business person, that we will all see the improvements we are hoping for. And I am very much hoping that Gov Cuomo will allow us that chance with Ellen McClain
Dale Tillotson More than 1 year ago
It was rather enjoyable without Andy Serling's screeching in the background
Rob Pfander More than 1 year ago
Good drinking game...everytime Serling says the word "Listen"
ML-NJ More than 1 year ago
"“You come in, it’s 6 o’clock and people are standing on line outside trying to get a good seat,” Zito said." Someone should let Zito know that all of the seats have been sold as reserved seats for atleast 20 years now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
maybe its to get a good picnic table seat, yah think!
DrSmoke120 More than 1 year ago
Did they run out of hot dogs or beer, that would be a tragedy......