Track betting, attendance gets a boost
SARATOGA SPRINGS Blessed with excellent summer weather, betting and attendance at the Saratoga Race Course over the past two weeks are up compared with the same period during the 2011 horse racing meet.
At the midpoint of the season on Aug. 13, all-sources betting — on track and across the country — was up 6.5 percent from the 2011 racing season. Attendance, however, was lagging behind 2011 by 1.9 percent, according to New York Racing Association figures.
But attendance from Aug. 15 through Monday was up 14,525 people compared with 2011, not counting Sunday when there was no racing on the same Sunday in 2011 because of Tropical Storm Irene.
A total of 19,181 people attended Sunday’s races, making the total increase in attendance since Aug. 15 more than 33,500 compared with 2011.The all-sources betting appears to be up double digits for the season so far.
NYRA officials said Monday they will not release total numbers on the meet until next Monday, the final day of the 40-day racing meet.
The mid-meet numbers released by NYRA on Aug. 13 showed that all-sources handle was $310,065,500 as compared with $291,181,532 during the same period in 2011. Attendance at that time was 465,293 compared with 474,254 in 2011.
Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said the success at the historic race course on Union Avenue is echoed at hotels and motels throughout the county.
“We think this past weekend had to have been a top weekend for the summer,” Shimkus said.
He said it was difficult to find a room in the city Friday and Saturday nights during Travers Stakes weekend.
Shimkus said the healthy growth in the betting both on track in Saratoga Springs and on Saratoga races across the county is what impresses him.
“It’s up overall,” Shimkus said about the betting.
“New York is headed in the right direction with the reorganization of NYRA. Hopefully this [growth in handle and attendance] is a trend,” Shimkus said.
In talking to restaurant owners in Saratoga Springs, Shimkus said many of them say they are having their best year ever.
Retailers in the city are not reporting their best year, but they are reporting a better summer than the summer of 2011, Shimkus said.
The Travers Stakes attendance on Saturday totaled 46,528, an increase of 8.1 percent from 43,050 in 2011. The 2011 Travers attendance was somewhat lower than usual because Tropical Storm Irene was preparing to sweep into upstate New York.
On the Sunday after the Travers in 2011 there was no racing and portions of downtown Saratoga Springs were without power because of the high winds and rain from the storm.
On-track handle for this year’s Travers was $8,741,773, up 7.0 percent from last year’s total of $8,172,452, according to NYRA. An additional $1,193,435 was wagered downstate at the Belmont and the Aqueduct simulcast center for a combined on-track handle of $9,935,208, an increase of 12.4 percent from $8,839,281 last year.
All-sources handle for Travers Saturday was $36,597,173, up 10.8 percent from last year’s total of $33,017,384.
There is no racing today. The final week of the Saratoga meet starts on Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the race course on Union Avenue.