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Jul 20, 2007

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            The 2007 Saratoga meeting is upon us. You don’t have to mark off your calendars any more the opening day card is here and the best racing in the land is ready to roll. Beginning on July 25th and running six weeks through closing day, Labor Day September 3rd; Saratoga is a 36-day meeting running six days a week with the only dark day coming on Tuesdays unlike when racing is downstate and the dark days are Mondays and Tuesdays.

            The highlight of the Saratoga meeting is the “Midsummer Derby” the Travers Stakes which is held on August 25th. This year’s race may see Kentucky Derby STREET SENSE and Preakness winner CURLIN renew their rivalry. RAGS TO RICHES the filly who won the Belmont Stakes and was possibly being considered for the Travers will most likely just point to the Alabama Stakes for three year old fillies which comes a week earlier on August 18th.

            Consistent with the great racing that is synonymous with Saratoga there is a stakes race every day. The first week gets things off to a big start. The opening day feature is the Schuylerville Stakes which came back last year after missing in 2005 and is for two year old fillies to be run at six furlongs. The following day the Sanford for two year olds is run also at six furlongs, giving the racing fans the opportunity to see the top two year olds in action. On the first Friday Saratoga hosts the first of the two sunset racing Fridays during the meeting. Last year they held one sunset racing Friday, starting the races at 2:45 and it was a big success. This year they decided to host another one at the beginning of the meeting and one again towards the end of the meeting. With racing starting at 2:45 it gives the fans an opportunity to visit the town and then go to the races in the afternoon.

            The first Saturday of the meeting is a huge day of racing with four graded stakes races on tap; three Grade I’s and one Grade II. The Diana, for fillies and mares three year olds and up to be run at 1 and 1/8th miles has a purse of $500,000 and should feature the top turf fillies in the country. The Grade I Go For Wand Stakes for three year olds and upward fillies and mares at 1 and 1/8th miles will carry a purse of $250,000. The likes of SIGHTSEEK, ASHADO and AZERI have won this race over the past few years. In the Grade I Whitney Stakes for three year olds and upward, run over 1 and 1/8th miles will carry a purse of $750,000 and was won last year by Horse of the Year INVASOR. INVASOR was unfortunately retired with an injury while preparing for a race at Belmont and this should leave this race wide open, with many trainers taking a shot. The final graded race is the Grade II Alfred G. Vanderbilt, to be run at six furlongs for three year olds and upward with a purse of $200,000. This race features the top sprinters in the country as evidenced by sprint champion SPEIGHTSTOWN who took this race back in 2004.

            It will be hard to compare with those races on opening weekend but by looking at the schedule on www.nyra.com you can see there are top races throughout the meeting. There are also some popular giveaways sprinkled throughout the meeting. On Thursday, July 26th there is an Angel Cordero Jr, bobble head doll giveaway. On Sunday, July 29th there is a Saratoga Baseball Cap giveaway. The following week on Sunday, August 5th there is a Saratoga T-Shirt giveaway. The next Sunday, August 12th, will be the Saratoga folding chair giveaway. The very next Sunday, August 19th there is the Saratoga umbrella giveaway. The final Sunday of the meeting, September 2nd, the Saratoga cooler bag will be the final giveaway. The attendance for these days will be inflated as there are many who will go through the turnstyles to get multiple items. This does help at Saratoga because it is a track that attracts tourists, many people plan their summer vacations around this meeting and they love these giveaways. However the hope is that some of these people will stick around and play the races, becoming fans of this great game and getting it back to the stature it held in the past. Either way, Saratoga is always a great meeting, the racing is great, the town is great, the people are friendly and the weather cooperates most of the time. Even if things don’t go that well at the windows Saratoga is the only place that one will walk away with the time of your life.



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