Extended Saratoga Meet Under Discussion

Number of racing days would remain the same, but spread over more weeks

Courtesy TimesUnion.com

COLONIE — The Saratoga Springs racing meet could start earlier next year.

The possibility of beginning the season a week earlier is expected to be discussed at Wednesday’s meeting of the New York Racing Association’s board of directors, according to local board member Georgeanna “Georgie” Nugent. The racing calendar would have to be approved by state regulators.

The possible expansion of the meet — first reported by WNYT — would be accompanied by an additional “dark” day at the track each week, Nugent said. (The only current dark day is Tuesday.) The number of racing days would stay the same.

“The decision has not been made,” Nugent said. “It’s up for discussion next week.”

In a statement, NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna declined to respond to questions about the possible schedule change and Wednesday’s agenda.

“While we appreciate the interest that surrounds the Saratoga racing calendar, we will formally release the dates for the 2019 season at the appropriate time,” McKenna said. “This is and has been our standard practice in notifying the public.”

Nugent explained that the potential change is being described as “temporary” and would be done to accommodate the racing schedule at Belmont Park on Long Island, where an ambitious overhaul is being planned.

Although Nugent is the NYRA board member tasked with representing the Saratoga Springs community — where she lives year-round — she stressed that board members have a fiduciary responsibility to consider the big picture when it comes to the potential change.

She vowed to go into Wednesday’s meeting with her eyes open, ready to listen. “I’ve heard both sides,” Nugent said. “I’ve heard more in favor (of the change), to tell you the truth.”

But speaking as a Saratoga Springs resident, Nugent  is opposed to the changing the schedule. “It’s small. It’s special. … Lengthening (the meet) is not the way to go,” she said.

She expressed concern the board hadn’t solicited enough input from the community on the issue, noting that the local advisory panel hadn’t been consulted.

Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association President Maddy Zanetti noted that NYRA has “toyed” with changing the meet schedule for years.

“We hope that whatever they decide to do, they make sure to have a strong relationship with the downtown businesses that work so hard year-round,” she said.

“If the meet is extended, there would be a big change for many businesses — from what days would be busier and how to staff them, to planning events,” Zanetti added. ” … That is why it is so important that we all work together.”

The most recent significant schedule tweak made by NYRA at the Saratoga Race Course was the introduction of “twilight racing,” which pushed back races to later in the evening on select days. The change produced a loud negative reaction from the downtown business community, and the program was eventually dropped.

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