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July 23, 2006 – The seats sat unoccupied this week at the Saratoga Race Course, and the simulcast television showed an empty racetrack. Most of the windows were empty, too, except where a batch of new clerks were being trained how to work the computers, talk to the minidealers, and always, always count the money.
But grounds crews and other workers were hard at work, preparing the track for the hordes who will shortly pour through the gates, when the 138th season kicks off this Wednesday.
The six-week Saratoga season will run Wednesdays through Mondays until Labor Day, and this year offers new features and events.
There’s a new slate of giveaways including a sports bag and a Todd Pletcher bobblehead, and visitors who don’t want the goodies can make use of a special express lane at the gates to bypass the crowds.
Bettors can also put their money on a new wager, the “Grand Slam,” according to New York Racing Association Vice President Bill Nader. In a four-race sequence, bettors must select a horse that places first, second or third for the first three races. In the fourth race, they have to pick the winner, Nader said. And Sept. 1 will have a 3 p.m. post time, instead of the usual 1 p.m. start, for “Twilight Racing,” to kick off Final Stretch Weekend.
Although NYRA’s franchise is set to expire Dec. 31, 2007, Nader said it would not affect operations at the track this season.