With 2 weeks in the books, attendance for the Saratoga meet is up 4.8 % compared to last year and on-track handle is up 8.3%. Pretty good news when compared to the meet figures at other tracks where attendance and on-track handle have been down this year.
What do we attribute this too? Here's my take:
Moving the Whitney Stakes back-Last year the The Whitney was moved from it's traditional weekend spot to the 1st weekend (Saturday), sharing the spotlight with the Jim Dandy Stakes being run that same weekend. This resulted in a lopsided meet leading to a stakes less weekend later on in the meet. This year it was moved back to the 2nd weekend resulting in the traditional schedule of running the Whitney a week after the Jim Dandy. Attendance for this year's Jim Dandy was 33,954 and the Whitney this past Saturday was a very healthy 39,568.
Decent weather-this year has had far less rain and more sunny comfortable days. Good weather equals good attendance, bad weather equals bad crowd. More than any other meet, Saratoga is weather dependent.
Familiar names-Saratoga visitors love to see horses, owners and trainers they know and plenty of familiar names are up here this summer-Commentator last week, with Mine That Bird, Summer Bird and maybe even Rachel Alexandra later on in the meet. I saw Mine That Bird Trainer Chip Woolery milling about at Siro's Saturday night and he was instantly recognized and treated like a rock star by the Siro's patrons.
Crowd makeup-It seems out of town visitors and week and meet long house rentals are down-but local "walk up" attendance by the locals seems to up-the Capital Region economy has faltered not nearly as badly as the rest of the country and I have seen far more frequent print media and local TV advertising by NYRA in an effort to draw the locals.
Still 4 weeks to go, but so far so good