Racing fans will be greeted by a series of exciting new attractions, favorite events and world-class thoroughbred racing when they return to the Spa for opening weekend of the 2016 racing season at Saratoga Race Course, July 22-25, presented by NYRA Bets.
The 2016 season will get underway with gates opening at 11 a.m. on Friday, July 22. First race post time is 1 p.m. Grandstand admission is $5 and clubhouse admission is $8.
Opening Weekend will feature five graded stakes, including the traditional Grade 3 Schuylerville for two-year-old fillies on Opening Day and the Grade 2 Lake George for three-year-old fillies on the turf. The meet's first Grade 1 event, the Diana, will be run on Saturday for older fillies and mares on the turf which will share the card with the Grade 3 Sanford for two-year olds. The action will continue on Sunday with the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks for three-year-old fillies. The purse for the Coaching Club will increase to $500,000 from $300,000 contingent upon Songbird, the 2015 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies champion, starting in the race.
All fans in attendance on Opening Day will receive a free scratch-off ticket with paid admission. Fans will have an opportunity to win a variety of prizes, including $100 betting vouchers and NYRA merchandise, as well as vouchers for concessions, program books, general admission and parking.
On Saturday, fans can visit the all-new NYRA Bets Lounge located within the Saratoga Pavilion, presented by Time Warner Cable News. The NYRA Bets Lounge will offer handicapping tips and analysis from racing professionals and also feature a champagne bar and Lifestyles clothing boutique.
Additionally, the New York Racing Association will introduce the new Bets Squad to educate fans on various aspects of wagering, including how to read a program book and use a self-service betting terminal. The Bets Squad will be available for consultation in the NYRA Bets Lounge on Saturdays and will also be stationed in gazebos located in the upper grandstand and outside the paddock entrance throughout the meet. Fans can schedule private sessions with Bets Squad members.
The season's first giveaway will take place on Sunday and, for the first time, all season ticket plan and season pass holders will be guaranteed to receive a Saratoga baseball cap if they redeem the item by 3 p.m. Season pass and season ticket plan holders will be required to utilize the line designated for them at each entry gate in order to be guaranteed a giveaway item. The baseball cap, presented by Saratoga Casino Hotel, is otherwise free with paid admission, while supplies last.
Fans in attendance Opening Weekend will be treated to a number of capital improvements and upgrades, including three new high-definition video boards located near the paddock, Fourstardave Sports Bar and the main gate off Union Avenue. In addition, two of the high-definition video boards in the infield have been expanded by 25-feet to improve the viewing experience.
The Saratoga Walk of Fame also received an upgrade with a pair of new interactive digital displays which enable users to watch video replays from each running of the Travers Stakes and Whitney Handicap dating back to 1973.
During the off-season, the New York Racing Association planted more than 850 new trees to bring the total number on the property to nearly 2,800, and added 100 picnic tables in the backyard to bring the total number available to guests on a first-come, first-served basis to 950.
A new escalator which leads from the Clubhouse to the backyard will also greet guests, while a newly designed horse path leading from the paddock to the main track replaces the former dirt surface with permanent pavers and eliminates dust along the pathway.
Hospitality improvements include the addition of two dozen high-definition televisions in the Fourstardave Sports Bar to bring the total number to 60. Guests this year can reserve two-person tables starting at $20 in addition to four- and six-tops. Guests who reserve tables on Mondays during the meet will receive a free Fourstardave bobble head collectible item. The Fourstardave Sports Bar includes an extensive selection of craft beers and will be open to the public following the last race on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
The hospitality area that sits above the Fourstardave Sports Bar, previously known as the Upper Carousel, will officially welcome guests for a sit-down dining experience as The Easy Goer, and will feature a new copper roof that replaces the former awning.
Finally, a new Travers Bar, featuring Moet & Chandon champagne, will greet guests on the Clubhouse porch near the maître d stand.
Season ticket plans and season passes are available for purchase online at NYRA.com/Saratogatickets or at the Saratoga Race Course Box Office on Union Avenue beginning Saturday, July 16. Saratoga season passes ($35 Grandstand, $55 Clubhouse) may also be purchased at more than 200 Stewart's Shops locations. Season passes are valid for admission all 40 days of the meet. For a complete list of retail locations, visit www.stewartsshops.com/news/saratoga-season-passes.
All season ticket plan and season pass holders will be eligible to take advantage of an expanded Saratoga Season Perks program, which includes 10 percent discounts at most on-track concession stands, NYRA merchandise stores and Shake Shack on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The discount is valid with proof of a season pass or perks card. Discount does not apply to lottery, tobacco, restaurant dining, group sales or Dunkin' Donuts.
Season perks members will also receive 10 percent discounts at dozens of off-track locations, including Saratoga shops, restaurants, entertainment and other sporting events now through March 31, 2017. For a complete list of participating Saratoga Season Perks partners, visit SaratogaSeasonPerks.com.
All season pass holders are required to provide a photo in order to activate their season pass. Activation instructions, including information on how to upload a digital photo, are available at SaratogaPassPhoto.com. Pass holders may also activate their season pass at the Saratoga Race Course Box Office on Union Avenue beginning Saturday, July 16. The New York Racing Association strongly encourages season pass holders to upload their digital photos to expedite processing at the box office which will be closed on Tuesday, July 19 and will not process season passes during opening weekend.
Additional activities and events during Opening Weekend at Saratoga Race Course include:
Taste NY: Craft Beer, which offers guests a selection of New York craft beers available for sampling on Opening Day and each consecutive Friday of the meet in partnership with the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets. Fans will be able to sample five craft beers for $5 at the Saratoga Pavilion from noon to 5 p.m.
Hats Off to Saratoga Festival, which invites fans to celebrate the return of the thoroughbreds on Friday and Saturday evenings from 7 to 11 p.m. with free music and entertainment along Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs. The event is presented by the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and the New York Racing Association.
25th annual Hat Contest, presented by Hatsational by DEI, on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course. Participants are invited to compete in three distinct categories: Uniquely Saratoga; Fashionably Saratoga; and Kreative Kids. Registration for the Hat Contest will begin at noon under the grandstand. The competition will take place after the second, third and fourth races on the track apron for the chance to win a variety of prizes provided by Hatsational by DEI.
Taste NY: Food and Artisans, during which guests can sample and shop food and crafts in the Saratoga Pavilion each Sunday of the meet. The weekly market, held from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., will feature vendors offering products such as jams, baked goods and hand-crafted soap, amongst other items.
Berkshire Bank Family Mondays, held each Monday of the meet at the Saratoga Pavilion from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. All kid-friendly games and activities, including the opportunity to pet a retired thoroughbred, are free of charge, with the exception of one designated activity which carries a suggested donation to benefit a local school or PTA. The beneficiary of the first Monday of the season is Brown School in Schenectady. Berkshire Bank Family Mondays is presented with support from Pediatric Dental Group of New York.
The 2016 summer meet at Saratoga Race Course begins on Friday, July 22 and concludes on Labor Day, Monday, September 5. For more information about Saratoga Race Course, call (518) 584-6200 or log onto www.nyra.com/Saratoga.