Opening weekend at the Spa to feature new attractions and returning favorites for 2015 season

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Racing fans will be greeted by a series of exciting new attractions, perennial favorite events and world-class thoroughbred racing when they return to Saratoga Race Course for the 147th racing season at the Spa.

The 2015 season will get underway with gates opening at 11 a.m. on Friday, July 24. First race post time is 1 p.m. Grandstand admission is $5 and clubhouse admission is $8.

Opening Day will be highlighted by the official unveiling of several new attractions for the 2015 season, including the all-new Saratoga Walk of Fame. The covered structure, which features the traditional Saratoga turrets and is located adjacent to the Carousel, will house a number of commemorative plaques honoring industry leaders, including owners, trainers and jockeys, who have made an indelible mark on thoroughbred racing at historic Saratoga Race Course.

The Saratoga Walk of Fame is the culmination of a new tradition which began in 2013 to recognize the greats of the game with an emblematic Saratoga red jacket and a commemorative plaque on the eve of the Travers, Saratoga’s signature race and the nation’s oldest major stakes race for three-year-olds. The new attraction will provide a permanent home for the plaques – and their narratives – where guests can learn about the honorees’ contributions to racing at Saratoga. The Saratoga Walk of Fame will be open to the public daily throughout the 2015 meet.

Fans will also for the first time be invited to enjoy Saratoga’s newest hospitality area at the sports bar in the lower Carousel. Located within close proximity to the trackside apron, the lower Carousel includes five dozen tables available for daily reservation and a new sports bar which features an extensive craft beer selection, popular food vendors, and 40 flat-screen televisions showing both racing and other sporting events.

Table reservations for the sports bar in the lower Carousel and for approximately 100 picnic tables that have been added for daily reservation in the backyard can be made online at Ticketmaster.com or by calling the NYRA Box Office at 844-NYRA-TIX. Reserved seating inventory is limited and subject to availability. The number of tables in the backyard available on a first-come, first-served basis has not changed: 850 free tables are available — a 70 percent increase since 2011.

The newly revitalized lower Carousel will also be the home to the third new attraction for the 2015 season – the Tom Durkin Replay Center, which honors one of the most renowned announcers in the history of the racing industry. Guests will have the opportunity to view and hear 24 classic calls by former announcer Tom Durkin, who retired in 2014 at the conclusion of the Saratoga meet after serving as the indelible voice of the New York Racing Association for 24 years. The Tom Durkin Replay Center will be open to the public daily throughout the 2015 meet.

Additionally, Opening Day will welcome the return of the popular Taste NY: Craft Beer tasting at Saratoga, which allows track patrons the opportunity to sample numerous craft beers produced exclusively by New York State breweries. Featured breweries on Opening Day include Spa staples Olde Saratoga Brewing Company and Druthers Brewing Company. The tasting will be held each Friday from noon to 5 p.m. in the Saratoga Pavilion. Sampling fee applies.

On Friday evening, racing fans will be invited downtown to celebrate the return of the thoroughbreds during the annual Hats Off to Saratoga Festival in Saratoga Springs from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. The night of free music and entertainment along Broadway will include the Legato Blues Bans, Kings English, Erin Harkes, George Fletcher’s Foldin’ Money, Racing City Chorus and TapSnap. The festival is presented by the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and the New York Racing Association.

Opening weekend will continue with Fashion Saturdays on July 25 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Saratoga Pavilion. Designed to highlight the tradition of style and glamour in thoroughbred racing, the weekly event will feature various local fashion retailers and spas throughout the season. Prizes for the best dressed man and woman will be awarded each Saturday afternoon, including participation in a trophy presentation for the Fashion Saturday race. Participating shops on opening weekend include Hat Sational by DEI, Lifestyles of Saratoga, Rumors Salon and Spa and menswear from The National.

The second night of opening weekend and the Hats Off to Saratoga Festival will again feature nearly a dozen bands in downtown Saratoga Springs from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday’s lineup will include Fenimore Blues, Hot Club of Saratoga, Lost Wages, and magician Steve Brundage, in addition to a number of returning acts from Friday evening’s festivities.

Sunday of opening weekend at Saratoga Race Course will feature a millinery theme with the return of the 24th annual Hat Contest. The Spa tradition, which has become a staple of opening weekend, will welcome guests to don their most fashionable and creative hats and parade in front of judges for the chance to win a variety of Saratoga Race Course prizes. Participants are invited to compete in three distinct categories: Uniquely Saratoga; Fashionably Saratoga; and Kreative Kids. Registration for the Hat Contest will begin at noon under the Saratoga grandstand. The competition will take place after the second, third and fourth races on the track apron.

Guests will be invited to the Saratoga Pavilion on Sunday to browse and shop a lively on-track market featuring products made exclusively in New York State during Taste NY: Food & Artisans. The weekly market, held from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., will feature nearly 20 vendors offering food and artisan products such as jams, honey, baked goods and hand-crafted soap, amongst other items.

Sunday will feature the return of the Low Rollers Handicapping Contest, which allows aspiring handicappers the opportunity to experience the thrill of tournament play for $40, with $30 going towards live money and $10 to the prize pool. Participants must select five races on which to place live $2 win, place and show wagers on five different horses in five different races. Only Saratoga races are accepted for contest play. Guests are invited to register on the first floor of the grandstand by the lower Carousel before post time for the day’s fifth race. The tournament will be held each Sunday and Monday of the meet.

Fans will also have the opportunity to take home the first premium giveaway of the 2015 season: a free Saratoga baseball cap, with paid admission, while supplies last.

The extended opening weekend will conclude with the return of the newly expanded and enhanced Berkshire Bank Family Mondays, presented by Mister Softee, on July 27 in the Saratoga Pavilion from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The weekly family festival will enable families and children to experience and enjoy a wide array of fun activities against the backdrop of historic Saratoga Race Course, including the opportunity to pet a retired thoroughbred.

The seven family days held each Monday during the season will feature a wide variety of family-friendly games, attractions and educational activities. Schools and PTAs will have an opportunity to fundraise for their operations during Berkshire Bank Family Mondays and both The New York Racing Association and Berkshire Bank will supplement the money that they raise each week with matching grants. The featured organization for the first Monday of the season is the Skano Elementary School, part of the Shenendehowa Central Schools District in Clifton Park.

Opening weekend will also feature its traditional lineup of world-class thoroughbred racing, highlighted by the first Grade 1 of the meet – the $500,000 Diana for fillies and mares on the turf on Saturday. The day’s card will also include the $150,000 Sanford for 2-year-olds. The action will continue on Sunday with the Grade 1, $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-old fillies.

The 2015 summer meet at Saratoga Race Course begins on Friday, July 24 and concludes on Labor Day, Monday, September 7. For more information about Saratoga Race Course, call (518) 584-6200 or log onto www.nyra.com/Saratoga.

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