A longer summer racing meet might be the new normal at Saratoga Race Course. Recently, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced that it’s looking to keep the extended racing schedule that it used in 2019 for next year’s summer meet—and maybe even beyond that. The 2020 schedule is tentatively slated to run from Thursday, July 16 through Labor Day, September 7, with five days of stakes races each week at the track. For Thoroughbred fans, that will mean the same number of racing days in the Spa City, 40 in all, but spread out over eight weeks instead of the traditional seven, plus the two dark days falling on Mondays and Tuesdays again.
“Since the conclusion of the 2019 meet, NYRA has conducted a thorough analysis of the season and engaged in conversations with local and industry stakeholders,” said NYRA’s Director of Communications Patrick McKenna in a statement released on October 29. “Based on the findings, NYRA anticipates maintaining a schedule that is consistent with the 2019 season.”
According to NYRA’s analysis, Saratoga Race Course had a record-breaking year this summer in terms of all-sources handle and paid attendance. The 2019 season, which saw the historic 150th running of its signature race, the Travers Stakes, also marked the fifth consecutive year that overall attendance exceeded one million at the track.
Saratoga Race Course’s 2019 racing schedule was originally lengthened by one week because of interference from the construction of a hockey arena on Belmont Park’s property. To avoid an interruption in New York State’s racing circuit, a week was shaved off of Belmont’s lineup and added to the Spa City’s summer meet. The change, however, seems to have been a boon not only for the track, but also for local businesses, a number of whom were consulted by NYRA for its analysis about the shorter racing week.
The five-day schedule is likely to become the new normal going forward. At a board meeting on October 29, NYRA President and CEO David O’Rourke said that “The reality of the industry is nobody races six days [a week] anymore. I think everyone is comfortable with the realization that a five-day week works in Saratoga.”
NYRA will officially announce the 2020 summer schedule soon, following approval from the New York State Gaming Commission. Check saratogaliving.com for updates.