07/22/2016 10:55PM

Saratoga opening-day handle increases slightly


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – All-sources handle on Friday’s opening-day card at Saratoga was $17,763,037, a less than 1 percent increase compared to last year’s figure of $17,706,202.

Ontrack handle Friday was $4,703,479, a 6.6 percent decline from last year’s figure of $5,040,927.

The New York Racing Association announced attendance as 32,980, a 5.1 percent decrease from last year’s figure of 34,783. NYRA, as it did last year, counts season passes sold in its daily attendance count whether those ticketholders were here or not.

Temperatures reached 90 degrees Friday, though it was sunny and dry all day long as the 50 percent chance of thunderstorms that were forecast after 4 p.m. never materialized.

The total all-sources handle being flat with last year is a good sign for the New York Racing Association when you consider the fact there were only 80 betting interests on Friday’s card, 22 fewer than last year. In 2014, with 80 betting interests, all-sources handle was $14,916,986.

NYRA took a hit in the pick six. They guaranteed the pool at $150,000, but had to make up the difference when only $96,715 was wagered.

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Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. was as hot as the temperatures at Saratoga on Friday, winning four races on the opening-day card as he hopes to successfully defend the riding title he won in 2015.

Ortiz swept the late double, riding Ancient Secret to victory in the featured Grade 2 Lake George and Market Strength to victory in the finale, a maiden-claiming event. Those two horses were trained by Chad Brown, one of three trainers to win two races on the card. Jason Servis and Kiaran McLaughlin also won two.

Ortiz was aboard Servis’s two winners – Roll Tide Roll ($6.90) and Annie Rocks ($7.30).

Ortiz won his first Saratoga riding title last year. At the recently concluded Belmont Park meet, he finished second with 57 wins 21 behind his brother Jose. But, Irad Ortiz did win the Belmont Stakes on Creator.

Ortiz said he is “a little more focused on the title but no pressure. We win, we get it, that’s what we’re going to work for, if not we just want to be healthy, we want to do the right thing, and ride good horses.”

Ortiz said he was a little surprised by how well Ancient Secret won the Lake George, improving the New York-bred filly’s record to 4 for 4.

“She really impressed me today, I didn’t expect her to win like that. She won with something left,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz’s mount in the Grade 2 Schuylerville, Made Me Shiver, bobbled at the break and finished fourth behind Sweet Loretta, who won by 4 1/4 lengths under John Velazquez.

Made Me Shiver, a daughter of Tapit owned by St. Elias Stable, gave trainer Todd Pletcher his sixth victory in the Schuylerville. It was the fifth Schuylerville win for Velazquez.