Opening weekend at Saratoga Race Course to feature new attractions and returning favorites for 2017 season
by Pat McKenna and Mark Bardack
Racing fans will be greeted by a series of exciting new attractions, perennial-favorite events and world-class thoroughbred racing when they return to the Spa for opening weekend of the 2017 racing season at Saratoga Race Course, Friday, July 21 through Monday, July 24.
The 2017 season will get underway July 21 with gates opening at 11 a.m. Post time for the first race is 1 p.m. Grandstand admission is $5 and clubhouse admission is $8.
Limited reserved seating in the clubhouse and reserved tables in the Miller Lite Picnic Paddock and Fourstardave Sports Bar are currently available for Opening Weekend through www.Ticketmaster.com.
Saratoga season admission passes are currently available for purchase online at www.NYRA.com/Saratoga and in-person at nearly 160 Stewart's Shops locations. Clubhouse admission passes are available in limited quantities.
"Saratoga Race Course is a special place and we are pleased to continue to invest in this historic property to provide an enhanced experience for the greatest fans in racing,” said NYRA CEO and President Chris Kay. "These continued improvements reflect NYRA’s commitment to cultivate and grow new generations of fans, and we look forward to another tremendous season at Saratoga.”
Opening weekend will feature five graded stakes, including the traditional Grade 3 Schuylerville for two-year-old fillies on Opening Day. The meet's first Grade 1 event, the Diana, will be run on Saturday, July 22. The action will continue on Sunday with the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks for three-year-old fillies.
The 2017 season will be marked by the Saratoga debut of NYRA XP, a new app that will enable fans to personalize and navigate their on-track experience through their mobile device. Fans who download NYRA XP will be able to learn about upcoming events, purchase tickets, find their seat location, bet through NYRA Bets, live stream races and customize their viewing experience from various camera locations, conduct wayfinding activities and, later in the meet, order food from on-track concessions and purchase reserved parking.
“We are excited to introduce these mobile-based options for our fans,” said New York Racing Association Senior Vice President and Chief Experience Officer Lynn LaRocca. “By combining all elements of recent technology upgrades, including NYRA Bets and NYRA Now, our new NYRA XP app will serve as a one-stop-shop that aggregates everything a fan needs right at their fingertips.”
Guests in attendance for Opening Weekend will be treated to many capital improvements and upgrades, including a revitalized playground area offering families a smoke- and alcohol-free interactive play area near the Reserved Seats Box Office and the Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion.
New features of the Saratoga Family Zone include: an oval multi-lane running track surrounding the playscape, a miniature replica starting gate, a “selfie” photo station, spring horses and educational panels designed to teach children about the life of a race horse. Surrounded by trees, televisions showing the races and adjacent to the horse path, this area will welcome families with young children to run and play while parents relax. The playground area will also be available as a hospitality space for various special events, including children’s birthday parties.
A number of infrastructure upgrades will be evident, including a series of enhancements to the historic paddock mutuel building, which now features a new slate roof and rafters. The improvements are designed to ensure the continued preservation of the historically-significant building, which was built in 1902 and originally used as a saddling shed during inclement weather.
Fans will also be welcomed by a new elevator in the grandstand to provide guests with easy and convenient access to the facility’s upper level. The elevator will complement the new Clubhouse escalator, which was introduced last season.
This year’s enhancements to the facility bring the total amount of capital improvements at Saratoga Race Course to $29 million since 2013.
Activities and events during Opening Weekend at Saratoga Race Course include:
- The inaugural
Friday edition of Taste NY: Craft Beer, which offers guests a selection of
New York craft beers available for sampling on Opening Day and each
consecutive Friday of the meet. Fans will be able to sample five craft
beers for $5 at the Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion from noon to 5 p.m.
- The Saturday debut of Taste NY: Food and Artisans, a lively on-track market where guests can sample and shop food and crafts in the Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will for the first time expand to two days, having previously been held only on Sundays. The market will be held each Saturday and Sunday of the 2017 meet. The events will be complemented by handicapping tutorials and racing tips from the Bets Squad, as well as the opportunity to learn more about NYRA Bets and NYRA XP.
- On Sunday, fans will enjoy the first giveaway of the season – a red and white Saratoga baseball cap, presented by Saratoga Casino Hotel. All giveaways are free with paid admission, while supplies last. Season pass and season ticket plan holders are guaranteed a Saratoga premium giveaway item on the day of the giveaway contingent on the following: Season pass or season ticket plan holders must be in attendance at Saratoga Race Course, enter through the designated season ticket and pass holder lines and redeem the giveaway by 3 p.m. Redemptions will begin when gates open to the general public.
- The 26th annual Hat Contest, presented by Hat Sationa! by DEI, on Sunday, July 23. Participants are invited to compete in three distinct categories: Uniquely Saratoga; Fashionably Saratoga; and Kreative Kids. Registration for the Hat Contest will begin at noon under the grandstand. The competition will take place after the second, third and fourth races on the track apron for the chance to win a variety of prizes provided by Hat Sationa! by DEI.
- Berkshire Bank Family Mondays, held each Monday of the meet at the Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. All kid-friendly games and activities, including the opportunity to pet a retired thoroughbred, are free of charge, with the exception of one designated activity which carries a suggested donation to benefit a local school or PTA. The beneficiary of the first Monday of the season is Brown School in Schenectady.
Guests can also enjoy Breakfast at Saratoga, presented by the B95.5 FM Breakfast Club, held daily (except Travers Day), during which fans are invited to enjoy breakfast on The Porch of the Clubhouse while the thoroughbreds train on the main track. Breakfast is held from 7 to 9:30 a.m. and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. The morning buffet is available for $18.50 for adults and $10.25 for kids. Mornings at Saratoga also welcome fans to go behind the scenes with a free, guided backstretch tram tour. Tram tours begin at 7:30 a.m. and depart from the Clubhouse entrance approximately every 15 minutes through 9 a.m. Tours are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are 45 minutes in length.
The New York Racing Association reminds guests to allot extra time for arrival due to security screening at the admission gates.
Coolers are not permitted inside the building or clubhouse at any time. Coolers no larger than 12" x 18" are permitted on the trackside apron and Top of the Stretch and must be kept off seats and out of aisles. Coolers are subject to search by NYRA security at any time. Guests are reminded that these policies will be strictly enforced.
The 2017 summer meet at Saratoga Race Course begins on Friday, July 21 and concludes on Labor Day, Monday, September 4. For more information about Saratoga Race Course, visit www.NYRA.com/Saratoga.