As difficult as it might be to do right now, everybody take a deep breath and repeat after me: The Saratoga Race Course summer meet is still on schedule to kick off on July 16.
That’s at least according to a rep from the New York Racing Association (NYRA). NYRA’s Director of Communications Patrick McKenna confirmed to Saratoga Living, in a prepared statement, that: “We look forward to welcoming fans to Saratoga Race Course on Opening Day, Thursday, July 16. While we are monitoring the current conditions and consulting with the New York State Department of Health, we are planning for Saratoga to open as scheduled and run in its entirety across the 40-day meet. We are working in earnest each and every day to prepare for the 2020 Saratoga season.”
This comes in the wake of NYRA announcing that it had extended the suspension of operations at currently in-season racetrack, Aqueduct Racecourse, until April 5, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The horse racing world has been turned upside down because of the nationwide pandemic; the first leg of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby, has already been pushed back to September, which will likely throw off (or call for the reordering of) Saratoga’s stakes schedule. Normally, the Travers Stakes, which runs in August, includes entrants from all of the major legs of the Triple Crown—a major reason why it’s been such a prominent, historic race. This year, that will obviously need to change.
The true elephant in the room is what a pushed-back, temporarily suspended or postponed Saratoga Race Course meet would do to the local/regional economy, which injects more than $230 million in the local economy and creates thousands of jobs. (This would also be the second summer in a row that the racetrack would be on a Monday-Tuesday dark day schedule, a change from previous years.) As Discover Saratoga’s (i.e. the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau’s) president Darryl Leggieri told Saratoga Living earlier this year, there was set to be a number of marketing initiatives this year, in the form of group incentive offers, digital marketing videos and an online advertising push, to keep tourists in Downtown Saratoga even on dark days.