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Saratoga Race Course to Reopen at 100 Percent Capacity (Updated)

The news comes on the heels of New York State reaching 70 percent vaccination threshold.

Travers
Saratoga Race Course will reopen at 100 percent capacity this summer. (Billy Francis LeRoux)

Make that full capacity, sans COVID protocols. With 70 percent of New Yorkers now vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced the immediate removal of protocols and restrictions for nearly all activities and industries, including outdoor sports and entertainment venues. Accordingly, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) will open all sections at Saratoga Race Course at 100 percent capacity.

This should spell welcome news for Saratoga racing fans, as NYRA previously announced that it would be reopening Saratoga Race Course at near full capacity with a number of COVID protocols still in place, favoring those track-goers that had been fully vaccinated and relegating non-vaccinated fans to pre-designated, not-so-wonderful areas within the track’s grounds.

But that is all moot now, following the State’s lifting COVID protocols. Track-goers are no longer required to provide vaccination status or a negative COVID test, and fans can utilize all hospitality areas and venues within the facility, including the popular Saratoga backyard, 1863 Club and The Stretch. Season admission passes, which provide access to the backyard, will be available for purchase and use without the prior requirement that fans provide proof of vaccination status.

“As New Yorkers collectively reach this major milestone in the fight against COVID-19, NYRA thanks Governor Cuomo for his leadership in achieving this goal and for the opportunity to welcome fans back to Saratoga this summer,” says David O’Rourke, NYRA’s president and CEO. “This season will be a celebration like no other in Saratoga’s long and storied history, and we are thrilled to open the gates to the best fans in racing in just a few short weeks.”

As announced previously by Governor Cuomo, all fans who show proof of vaccination via the New York State Excelsior Pass on Opening Day, Thursday, July 15, will still receive free Grandstand general admission. Fans from outside New York State may redeem free admission by showing their Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card.

That said, non-vaccinated individuals will be required to wear a mask during their day at the races, per CDC guidance. NYRA also said that it reserves the right to amend admission protocols based on updates and adjustments by New York State.

Besides the news that the track will reopen at 100 percent capacity, NYRA also announced that it would be reopening the Whitney Viewing Stand at the Oklahoma Training Track. Beginning on June 26, members of the public will be welcome to view morning training from 7-10am. Prior to the opening of the summer meet on July 15, the Whitney Viewing Stand will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 7-10 a.m. with access available via Gate 21 on East Avenue.

Licensed owners will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination when entering the Saratoga Race Course property. Beginning June 24, family members and guests will be permitted to accompany licensed owners to view morning training and visit the barn area.

Season and weekly ticket plans for the 2021 season at Saratoga Race Course are currently on sale here. Group hospitality reservations are also currently available via email at [email protected] or by phone at (844) NYRA-TIX. Tables in the Festival Tent, single-may be reserved here. Single-day tickets will go on sale on Wednesday, June 23 at 10am here; and single-day dining reservations in the Turf Terrace, The Porch and Club Terrace will be accepted beginning Wednesday, June 30 at 10am here.

Additionally, NYRA announced that it would be opening up three new hospitality areas at the track: the Spa Verandas at the Top of The Stretch, the Tailgate at the Turn picnic area and the newly expanded section of The Stretch, all to be fully functional on Opening Day. Reservations for all three areas will be available beginning on Thursday, June 24 at 10am here.

The Spa Verandas
A reimagining of one of Saratoga’s most popular spots, the Spa Verandas will replace the former Top of the Stretch reserved picnic areas with six new, partially covered sections offering a modern and casual outdoor experience. Designed to accommodate up to 45 guests each, the Spa Verandas will feature comfortable lounge furniture, mounted televisions, betting machines and private access to the track apron for uninterrupted rail-side viewing as the Thoroughbreds round the final turn and head for home. Each package comes with admission and programs. Food and beverage packages may be purchased separately.

Tailgate at the Turn Drive-up Picnic Area
The new Tailgate at the Turn drive-up picnic section will welcome fans to experience a day at the track from a casual atmosphere offering a unique vantage point of Thoroughbreds rounding the first turn. The hospitality area will feature a total of 16 designated picnic areas where parties of up to six fans can drive up to their trackside reserved section overlooking the rail adjacent to the 1863 Club. Fans may bring in their own food and beverage. In addition to a private picnic table, fans in the Tailgate at the Turn area will enjoy a hospitality tent with large-screen televisions, betting machines and bar service. Each six-person section must be reserved in full.

Additional Lounge Boxes at The Stretch

As a result of its continued popularity since being introduced during the 2018 season, The Stretch will expand to feature an additional 15 lounge boxes located in Section T of the Grandstand. The private hospitality area, which is located at the Top of the Stretch, features modern and upscale amenities in a casual environment with outstanding views of Thoroughbreds rounding the final turn. Each lounge box seats four to six guests with comfortable bench seating and access to personal tablets. Ticket holders to The Stretch enjoy exclusive access to a full-service bar, kitchen and concessions, high-definition televisions and video screens, and private restrooms. Fans also enjoy a relaxed dress code at The Stretch.

Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.

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