SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) yesterday concluded its 147th season at Saratoga Race Course highlighted by record handle of $648,272,805 that reflects a 13.5 percent increase in corresponding all-source wagering activity over last year.
The record wagering shattered the previous high from 2012 of $590,187,876 which included international settlements that have yet to be recorded for the 2015 Saratoga meet.
On-track handle also set a record of $157,647,599, surpassing the previous high of $150,637,998 in 2012.
In addition, the 2015 meet concluded with record purses, a double-digit increase in revenue derived from dining and concessions, an increase in paid attendance, and a series of new enhancements and attractions at the historic venue.
The 2015 Saratoga season saw a record $19 million in stakes purses, topped by a blockbuster Travers Day on Saturday, August 29, featuring a Triple Crown champion, six Grade 1 races and a Grade 2 for a total of seven graded stakes worth nearly a combined $5.5 million on the afternoon.
"The 2015 season at Saratoga Race Course was truly fabulous and is one which we won't soon forget. Our fans enjoyed 40 days of world-class thoroughbred racing, spectacular weather and a series of guest enhancements to this venerable sporting venue," said NYRA CEO and President Chris Kay. "All of us at the New York Racing Association are deeply appreciative of the support we have received from the owners, trainers, jockeys, stakeholders, fans and the community as a whole during this historic season at Saratoga. Their dedication to the industry and love for the sport continue to cement Saratoga as the premier race meet in North America."
Saratoga recorded a 13.8 percent increase in revenue derived from dining, concessions and merchandise. The strong revenue gains corresponded with an increase in paid attendance.
Total paid attendance for the 2015 Saratoga meet was 1,065,625.
Many will consider the signature moment of the meet the 2015 Travers when a paid, sold-out crowd of 50,000 fans gathered to watch the first Triple Crown champion compete at Saratoga Race Course in 37 years. Twenty-four hours earlier, American Pharoah's visit to the Spa brought an unprecedented 15,000 racing fans to the track to watch the Triple Crown champion gallop as he prepared for the Travers.
While American Pharoah finished second to Mid-Summer Derby winner Keen Ice ,who closed in dramatic fashion to produce the fastest winning Travers time in 14 years, the appearance of the Triple Crown champion alongside the supercharged card resulted in an all-time Travers Day all-source wagering record of $49,668,754, a 24.5 percent increase over 2014.
"On behalf of the men and women of the New York Racing Association and the fans of our great sport, I again would like to express my deep and abiding appreciation to owner Ahmed Zayat, his son and racing manager, Justin, and Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert, for bringing 'The People's Horse' to Saratoga," said Kay. "We wish the Zayats, Bob and their champion colt the best of luck as they train toward the Breeders' Cup, culminating a historic and unforgettable campaign."
Visitors to the Saratoga Race Course enjoyed a series of capital enhancements and new attractions, including, among them, the Saratoga Walk of Fame, which houses a number of commemorative plaques honoring owners, trainers and jockeys who have made an indelible mark on thoroughbred racing at the Spa.
On Travers Eve, Friday, August 28, industry icons Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps of Phipps Stable and thoroughbred owner and philanthropist Marylou Whitney both received emblematic red Saratoga jackets during the annual winner's circle induction ceremony into the Saratoga Walk of Fame. Plaques detailing their career accomplishments and contributions to Saratoga Race Course were placed on display at the new attraction.
NYRA also honored one of the game's most renowned announcers with the unveiling of the Tom Durkin Replay Center. Located within the lower Carousel, the attraction offers fans the opportunity to view and hear 24 classic calls by the legendary race caller, who retired in 2014 following a 24-year career as the voice of New York racing.
The 2015 season featured the debut of Larry Collmus as the new voice of Saratoga. Collmus, who served as the narrator of American Pharoah's Triple Crown victory at Belmont Park on NBC in June, delighted fans with a number of memorable calls during the meet, including Honor Code's thrilling come-from-behind win over Liam's Map in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Whitney; the redemptive victory by Liam's Map four weeks later in the Grade 1, $600,000 Woodward; the dramatic debut victory of Stonestreet Stables' Jess's Dream, the first foal out of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra by two-time Horse of the Year Curlin; and the stakes debut victory of Rachel Alexandra's second foal, Rachel's Valentina, in the Grade 1, $350,000 Spinaway.
Fans enjoyed several new hospitality areas at Saratoga, including a revitalized Carousel featuring the new Fourstardave Sports Bar with five dozen tables available for daily reservation, an extensive craft beer selection and 40 flat-screen televisions. A total of 2,214 tables was reserved in the Fourstardave Sports Bar throughout the meet, demonstrating the popularity and attractiveness of the new hospitality offering.
Saratoga fans also for the first time had the opportunity to reserve a picnic table adjacent to the Paddock each day during the 2015 meet. A total of 2,893 picnic tables was reserved throughout the season, which augmented the 850 daily picnic tables available to patrons on a first-come, first-served basis.
The season was anchored by 40 days of special events at the Saratoga Pavilion. Among the many highlights was the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the city of Saratoga Springs on Saratoga Centennial Day. The New York Racing Association welcomed nearly 24,000 fans on track with free admission on Wednesday, August , and hosted a variety of activities and entertainment designed to celebrate the history and tradition of the Spa City.
Saratoga hosted the second annual Jockey Legends Day on Sunday, August 9, which featured 14 of the sport's greatest riders for an autograph session to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and a special red carpet ceremony on the main track. All totaled, the superlative jockey roster combined for 72,867 wins and more than $1.9 billion in earnings in their career.
During the meet's final week, NYRA honored service members and veterans with Military Appreciation Day on Wednesday, September 2. The highlight was the winner's circle ceremony with a dozen veterans of World War II and the ringing of the bell seven times by 91-year-old Schenectady resident and "Greatest Generation" member Gene Gierka to commemorate the 70th anniversary of VJ Day, which marked the official end of the war on September 2, 1945.
A growing number of patrons visited the highly popular weekly Taste NY at Saratoga series. Held in partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Taste NY events provided fans with the opportunity to sample a wide variety of products made exclusively in New York State while also providing local vendors with the opportunity to increase awareness of their products. The series featured an array of New York wine, cider and spirits for sampling every Thursday of the meet; New York craft beer on Fridays; and New York foods and artisan crafts every Sunday of the Saratoga season.
The expanded Berkshire Bank Family Monday series, presented by Mister Softee, featured a wide variety of family friendly activities each week of the season. The Monday series also included fundraising opportunities for area schools, PTAs and non-profit organizations supplemented with matching funds from the New York Racing Association and title sponsor Berkshire Bank.