The Saratoga horse racing meet is one of the symbols of Summer in this part of the country and in the world of horse racing. Every year, thousands of people descend on the small upstate New York hamlet to drink, party and watch racing in an environment that feels like the Fenway Park of horse racing. It's a short meet, only forty dates a year, and people have been wondering what it will look like this year in the wake of the Coronavirus. Over the last few days we've gotten a little bit of news about the upcoming Saratoga meet.
The New York Racing Association has delayed the opening of the Oklahoma Training Track and stabling area at Saratoga Race Course because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was announced Wednesday.
The Oklahoma facility originally was set to open April 15, when training traditionally gets underway in advance of the Saratoga meet, according to a news release.
NYRA said it is working with the New York State Gaming Commission and public health agencies to determine an appropriate date to safely open the Oklahoma for training and stabling.
The Oklahoma is the track across the street where horses stabled at Saratoga train. The delay in its opening isn't a great sign, but it's also kind of inevitable considering the circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment. I don't think it's an indicator we won't have racing at Saratoga this year.
In an interview with the Albany Times-Union a couple of days ago a NYRA spokesman said that they expect Saratoga to run its full meet, which is scheduled to begin on July 16. Saratoga is run by NYRA, which is an arm of the state of New York. This actually has a few benefits in this current situation. First, being a state run department, they likely have discussed this with government officials and have some degree of confidence in what they are saying. Second, Saratoga represents a huge windfall for the state and NYRA in particular. Last year there were over a million attendees and over $705 million bet on Saratoga racing. The state could probably use that revenue right about now.
As with everything else in life at the moment, we'll have to wait and see how things develop, but for at least one part of horse racing's summer calendar, it looks like we may get a slice of normalcy back in the middle of July.