I know, only 20 more races were run at Saratoga this year than in 2011. Of course, last year there were 39 days of racing, one less than 2012.
But when compared to a typical downstate race-week, five days per week with 10 on weekends—Saturdays, anyway—it was as if 7-1/2 weeks were condensed into 6-1/2.
Immediately following were the comments/questions from three of the HRI faithful that were posted here on Labor Day weekend, edited for context and length.
From Denny M: “Saratoga has lost that special feel for me. I’d be happy with five days a week [plus Labor Day], nine races a day [maximum] on weekdays, 10 on weekends and 12 on Travers Day…
“…Can anything be done about the turf course rails obstructing the view of the main track on the turn? I’d actually like to see which horse is which when [I’m] watching on TV and, in particular, when there in person.”
Most New York regulars, especially local fans and service businesses, restaurants and bars, would love to see the downstate schedule instituted upstate.
If 10 and 11-race cards are the tradeoff, most probably would settle for that, according to the results of informal crowd canvassing we conducted on closing day.
But when racing concentrates on serving two constituents; the state and the horsemen, fans finish what racetrackers would call “a bad third.”
Build it and they will come no longer is axiomatic, although Saratoga has a way of bucking those trends.
For the most part, despite one additional day this year, attendance was flat.
But we were dead wrong about the projected handle. It’s the sense we had by watching people leave the track in significant numbers two or three races before the finale.
This, in a sense, underscores the beliefs of many wagering theoreticians that there’s a finite amount of betting money to be spent in any one session, whether that time frame is nine of 12 races long.
Trust us that handle increased in direct proportion to winning favorites. Favorite players tend to bet larger amounts in the straight pools and they will “churn” that money all day long.
And it’s no accident that this country’s largest racetracks in New York, Kentucky and California have on average the lowest takeout in the straight wagering pools of about 16%.
Now imagine, all you state regulators, of what would happen if churn and lower takeout were combined? I’ll save you the time; more churn, more handle, higher revenue. But I digress.
All-sources averages (read predominantly simulcast handle) were up significantly at $14.7 million daily, a 9 percent increase, which makes complete sense.
Simulcast wagering is always a “compared-to-what” experience. Saratoga is not only bullet-proof but continues to gain in popularity.
The brand, as it should be, is the strongest in American racing, no matter how much quality is diluted at every level but the highest class levels.
Adds Denny: “Ramon is great but how many would [Angel] Cordero have won with 47 days’ worth of races? [Manuel] Ycaza?”
The presumption would have to be as many, given their extraordinary talents. The other presumption is that, as long as Ramon remains healthy, he is on course to be considered one of the greatest of all-time, if he’s not there already.
The best part is that Ramon is a complete gentleman and both he and his agent, Steve Rushing, give all outfits a chance.
And any family man that wins as many races and big pots as Ramon Dominguez and still drives a Honda is emblematic of how unaffected he is by his success and fame. In a game where megalomania rules, Dominguez is the antithesis.
As far as the outside turf rails are concerned, the view of the horses on the far turn is indeed obscured. Perhaps the problem can be addressed by 2013, and perhaps not. The condition did improve, however, when the hedges were trimmed back.
Now with all this money, it would be great if the association would address the sound system. I watched about a dozen races from the press box roof at the meeting, about 50 feet from the announcer’s booth. Tom Durkin’s calls were inaudible.
Said Nickie: Dennny…we had to rely on Mr. Caposella to tell us where our runners were...I still get chills listening to his call of Buckpasser, referring to him as “the big horse!”
Said Framarco: “Just a note to thank you for another year of your Diary… However, I do not wish to jump on the anti-Saratoga bandwagon. I came up three times this year and it NEVER fails to deliver.
“…When I no longer get “chills” as I enter the Exit 14 ramp for Route 9P (Union Ave. for the uninitiated), I will know that Saratoga has run its course. Oh, I’ve only been coming up here every year since the Travers of ‘78.
“The only caveat is…what will Prince Andrew do? One can merely pray that the Prince is intelligent enough to stand aside and let the professionals do the work…
“I’m afraid that Albany politics will “kill” the golden goose. “We’ve never seen those criminals fail to steal from the public trough even when they know everybody is watching.”
God willing we’re all back to open Saratoga 145.
Bets 'N Pieces: If Kiaran McLaughlin keeps this up and wins a few more Grade 1s in big spots, why can’t he win an Eclipse Award as Trainer of the Year? Last year Bill Mott compiled his Eclipse resume on one huge afternoon. That could happen to McLaughlin…Kudos to Todd Pletcher on his third straight and ninth training title overall. It’s one thing to have the horses; another to know what to do with them…
Of Chad Brown’s 29 Saratoga winners, all but five (or six) have come on turf. We’re saying that that’s an all-time record turf victories at one race meet. I’d call the Elias Sports Bureau to verify but--it just has to be, right...? In its way, maybe the dead heat wasn’t as singular a Travers event as the Jaipur-Ridan head-to-head epic of 50 years ago…
Could someone place the Travers canoes in an area of the pond that everyone could see next year...? Not a bad first complete meet for Rosie, finishing eighth behind Ramon, sandwiching a couple of graded stakes for 2-year-old between winning the first and last race of Saratoga 2012.