SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) concluded its 2016 season at Saratoga Race Course with all-sources handle of $647,322,503, virtually flat with last year’s record wagering that had shattered the previous high water mark by more than 10 percent. *
“The 2015 season, which saw uncommonly good weather and the presence of a Triple Crown champion, was historical and one for the ages. This year’s meet was outstanding in its own right despite severe storms which forced the cancellation of part of a Saturday race card for the first time in modern history, as well as inclement weather on three Sundays. Even with these challenges, the New York Racing Association generated total handle in line with last year’s record-shattering numbers,” said NYRA CEO and President Chris Kay. “Our success is a reflection of the confidence that our fans and horseplayers have in our ability to deliver a reliable and consistent product of world-class thoroughbred racing and great entertainment. We thank the owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys, fans and the entire community who joined us this summer at Saratoga.”
The 40-day meet included 69 stakes worth $18.725 million in purses. A total of 30 races were taken off the turf during the 2016 season, in comparison to only ten in 2015.
The 2016 season was highlighted by a number of new initiatives, most notably the nationwide launch of NYRA Bets, the online advanced deposit wagering platform which was previously restricted to New York residents. The national expansion makes it possible for horseplayers across the country to watch and wager on races streamed in high-definition from their phone, tablet, laptop or desktop, while NYRA’s new digital platform also offers a number of technological enhancements. NYRA Bets is currently available in 24 states. Fans can sign up by visiting NYRABets.com.
The launch of the new wagering platform was supplemented by the new NYRA Bets Lounge, which featured weekly handicapping seminars and analysis from racing professionals each Saturday in the Saratoga Pavilion, presented by Time Warner Cable News.
For less experienced horseplayers, NYRA introduced the Bets Squad to educate fans about basic wagering techniques and terminology. The program included the opportunity to schedule private sessions with Bets Squad professionals.
The meet also featured the debut of Saratoga LIVE, the critically acclaimed racing program produced and broadcast by NYRA TV to an available audience of more than 65 million viewers on Fox Sports 2, MSG+ and Altitude Sports. Saratoga LIVE’s two-and-a-half-hour daily broadcasts included a combination of racing coverage, analysis and features, and was highly touted by television and media critics throughout the industry. NYRA’s carriage agreement with Fox Sports 2 represented the most extensive horse racing television deal in history and resulted in more programming hours of horse racing than all other television networks in the United States combined.
“The launch of Saratoga Live and NYRA Bets demonstrates NYRA’s commitment to providing a state of the art ADW and high quality national television show for race fans and horseplayers across the country,” said President of NYRA Bets and Executive Producer Television Tony Allevato. “The positive response we have received is a direct result of NYRA’s use of the latest technology and the world class racing at Saratoga.”
Michal Dubb repeated as the meet’s leading owner with 13 trips to the winner’s circle. Mechanicville native Chad Brown set the Saratoga record for wins by a trainer with 40 in capturing his first H. Allen Jerkens training title while jockey Jose Ortiz collected 65 victories in securing his first Angel Cordero, Jr. riding crown.
One of the meet’s signature moments was also perhaps one of its most surprising when the lightly raced Arrogate dominated a field of 13, the largest Travers contingent since 1990, to set a stakes record and a track record to win the 147th running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers in 1:59:36 seconds before a near capacity crowd of 48,630. Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert saddled the Travers winner and second-place finisher, American Freedom, in his triumphant return to the Spa.
Jockey Mike Smith had a banner summer at Saratoga, capturing both the Travers and Alabama double. Smith was in the irons aboard undefeated champion filly Songbird, who ran her record to 10 consecutive wins with stirring performances in the Alabama and Coaching Club American Oaks.
Off of a dominating performance in the Metropolitan Handicap during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, fan-favorite Frosted cruised to victory in the 89th running of the Whitney during the first week in August.
Whitney Day also featured a special 90th birthday celebration in the Winner’s Circle in honor of prominent owner, breeder and lifelong philanthropist Marylou Whitney.
On the eve of the Travers, Mrs. Whitney, a 2015 Red Jacket honoree, joined NYRA CEO and President Chris Kay to welcome the newest inductees to the Walk of Fame: prominent owner W. Cothran “Cot” Campbell of Dogwood Stables and three-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer William “Bill” Mott. Campbell and Mott were officially inducted into the Walk of Fame during the Red Jacket Ceremony on New York Showcase Day, when both honorees received emblematic Saratoga red jackets and unveiled their commemorative plaques. Built and introduced at the start of the 2015 meet, the Walk of Fame honors racing industry leaders who have made an indelible mark on thoroughbred racing at Saratoga Race Course.
This year the Walk of Fame was enhanced with a pair of new interactive digital display tables which provides guests with the ability to watch video replays from each running of the Travers Stakes and Whitney Handicap dating back to 1973.
Visitors to Saratoga Race Course in 2016 enjoyed a series of capital improvements and upgrades, including three new high-definition video boards; as well as the addition of two dozen high-definition televisions in the Fourstardave Sports Bar.
NYRA also unveiled two new hospitality areas: The Easy Goer, which sits above the Fourstardave Sports Bar and welcomes guests for a sit-down dining experience underneath a new copper roof; and the new Travers Bar, featuring Moet & Chandon champagne, located on the Clubhouse porch near the maître d stand.
The season was anchored by 40 days of special events at the Saratoga Pavilion, none more inspirational than Military Appreciation Day which honored dozens of service members from World War II through the present era. The afternoon included entertainment from both the USO Show Troupe and Saratoga’s own Racing City Chorus.
Another notable event was the introduction of the New York Heritage and Tourism Series, which was designed to utilize the popularity of Saratoga Race Course to promote other destinations in New York State. The final two Wednesdays of the meet featured events within the Saratoga Pavilion to promote the Adirondacks, in partnership with the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, and the tradition of craft beverages in Central New York under the banner of Brew Central NY.
“As one of the Northeast’s leading tourism destinations, Saratoga Race Course is an ideal venue by which to promote neighboring regions in New York,” said NYRA Senior Vice President and Chief Experience Officer Lynn LaRocca. “According to a study commissioned by the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency, as many as four in 10 guests who visit Saratoga reside outside of New York. Our New York Heritage and Tourism series provides a terrific platform for other regions of the state to reach potential new visitors.”
The 2016 event calendar also included the third consecutive season of Taste NY at Saratoga. Held in partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the highly popular Taste NY events provided track guests with the opportunity to sample a wide variety of products made exclusively in New York State. Revenue from the sampling of New York wines on Thursdays surged by nearly 27 percent while craft beer sampling on Fridays within the Saratoga Pavilion saw a modest gain despite the presence of the nearby Fourstardave Sports Bar, the track’s most popular bar which featured craft beer on tap throughout the 40-day meet.
NYRA hosted nearly 50 local non-profit organizations, schools and PTAs at Saratoga Race Course during the 2016 season. The majority of the non-profits enjoyed an exclusive day at the Community Outreach Booth to help further their marketing, outreach and fundraising efforts, while local schools and PTAs took part in the Berkshire Bank Family Mondays series to raise funds and reconnect with fellow students and parents.
NYRA also forged a new community partnership in 2016 with the Saratoga Downtown Business Association as part of its expanded Saratoga Season Perks program. The program includes discounts for Saratoga season pass and season ticket holders at dozens of retail, restaurant and professional services locations in downtown Saratoga Springs, as well as with the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. A full list of the year-round program participants is available at SaratogaSeasonPerks.com. The discount offer is valid through March 1, 2017.
Total paid attendance for the 2016 Saratoga meet was 1,123,544, an increase of 5.4 percent over the 2015 season.
Figures for total handle (exclusive of international settlements) at Saratoga dating back to 2010, the start of the 40-day meet, are as follows:
*Handle figures are exclusive of international settlements which will be recorded at a later date for 2016 and which resulted in final handle of $656,121,664 in 2015.
**39 race days, due to weather cancellation
For additional historical statistics, visit the NYRA media guide which can be accessed at https://www.nyra.com/belmont/mediaguide.
Live racing resumes on Friday, September 9 at Belmont Park. A total of 42 stakes worth $10.625 million, two “super” Saturdays and fan-friendly activities are among the highlights as thoroughbred racing returns to Belmont Park for its 38-day fall meet, which runs through Sunday, October 30. On opening day, a field of 10 3-year-old fillies will gather on the turf for the $100,000 Christiecat, the first of three stakes scheduled for opening weekend.
For more information, visit NYRA.com.