Saratoga’s traditional four-week thoroughbred racing season will be expanded to five weeks beginning this summer, New York Racing Assn. officials announced today.
The five-week meet will begin July 24, a week earlier than originally scheduled, and run through Aug. 26, said NYRA President Gerard J. McKeon at a news conference. The change is subject to approval by the state Racing and Wagering Board.
“We feel Saratoga has grown to the point where it will be a benefit,” McKeon said of the additional week of racing.
Daily attendance at the nation’s oldest racetrack averaged more than 27,000 last year, nearly three times the number of people the facility was designed to handle, McKeon said. By stretching the meet another week, NYRA officials hope to alleviate some of the overcrowding.
Spreading the racing over five weeks also allows NYRA to reposition its stakes schedule and put more time between prep races and Saratoga’s major stakes.
The Test Stakes, the traditional prep race for the Aug. 10 Alabama Stakes, is scheduled for July 27. That gives fillies two weeks instead of the previous nine days between those races, McKeon said. The Jim Dandy, used as a prep for the $1-million Travers, will be held 20 days before the Aug. 17 Travers instead of the previous 13.
Last season Saratoga crammed 23 stakes races into 24 days of racing. This year 27 stakes worth $4.3 million will be run over 30 days.