Figures to be a hot time at Saratoga for opening day....hopefully for the racing and the wagering too. But I was talking about the weather, forecast to be hot all week, and with the temperature on Friday predicted to be 95 (Weather.com) or 97 (Accuweather), along with the usual attendant humidity and chance of those passing storms which will hopefully do so to the north or south. I dunno, at 97 and high humidity, NYRA may have a tough decision on its hand with a big opening day crowd surely on tap. Don't recall exactly what the temperature was a few years ago when racing was canceled one day; but I can't imagine it could have been too much hotter than 97.
- Interesting to read these comments by Charlie Hayward the other day.
"I think it's hard to believe, but I think you're going to have people who haven't been to Saratoga in a while that are here in the city because there is no OTB, even though it's 200 miles away. I think we're going to have an increase in on-track attendance." [NY Daily News]That's a pretty steep jump in class from the OTB parlor on Queens Blvd straight to Saratoga itself. Will be interesting to see. But it seems a more achievable goal to get the former parlor-dwellers out to Belmont or Aqueduct instead. The Belmont Cafe will be equipped with temporary air conditioning; and they'll presumably roll out the giant fans on the first floor at the Big A. Both will be open on Tuesdays for simulcasting as well, and will remain open until 11PM Thurs - Sat. Seems to me that NYRA could really make some hay at these locations. And remember, as we've mentioned here before, NYRA estimates that it needs to recover just around 35% of former NYC-OTB handle through its own outlets - whether Saratoga, Aqueduct, Belmont, or its phone/internet wagering platform - to break even on the deal.
Hayward's optimism for on-track business is supported by anecdotal evidence as reported in this article. As for all-sources handle, he said: "I'd be happy with a 2-3% decline in all-source handle given what's going on in the industry." I'm thinking that the numbers could very well surprise on the positive side this year, and that the all-sources handle should be helped by the weekly nationally televised races on Versus and NBC.
- Those who do make it to the track will find that the beer is actually cheaper. That's right...cheaper!
Fans this year will pay $3 for a 12-ounce Coors Light draft beer and $4 for a Heineken draft. That’s down from $5 and $6 last year, according to a NYRA official. [Saratoga Seen]I'm thinking that any beer revenue that's not recovered due to a higher volume of sales may very well end up in the pari-mutuel pools anyway.