The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) concluded its 2016 season at Saratoga Race Course with all-sources handle of $647.3 million, matching last year’s record wagering that had shattered the previous high water mark by more than 10 percent, officials said on Sept. 6.
“The 2015 season, which saw uncommonly good weather and the presence of a Triple Crown champion, was historical and one for the ages,” said NYRA CEO and President Chris Kay.
The meet also saw Mechanicville native Chad Brown set the Saratoga record for wins by a trainer with 40, capturing his first H. Allen Jerkens training title while jockey Jose Ortiz collected 65 victories in securing his first Angel Cordero Jr. riding crown.
Total paid attendance for the 2016 Saratoga meet was 1,123,544, an increase of 5.4 percent over the 2015 season, officials said.
“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,” he said. “Even with these challenges, the New York Racing Association generated total handle in line with last year’s record-shattering numbers.
“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 10 in 2015.
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."
On Aug. 26, Marylou Whitney and Kay to welcomed 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.
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."