We've got just a few things to do before the 25th, said Charlie Wheeler with a smile as he led media on a tour of the Saratoga Race Course.
Some of those "few things" include tending to the track's 60,000 flowers, sealing the mile-and-an-eighth main oval track and generally getting things spit-and-polished for the season's hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Thoroughbred horse racing returns to Saratoga on Wednesday, July 25, for a 36-day meet that ends Labor Day, Sept. 3. Wheeler and Charles Hayward, NYRA president and chief executive officer, took members of the media on a tour of the preparation that goes into the meet as well as the $1.2 million in facilities improvements on Monday, July 9.
For the first time ever, betting terminals will be available in the clubhouse's fourth-floor restaurant.
To the right of the track's Union Avenue entrance is an area that will be used for betting on English races. Something that NYRA is trying out new for this meet is "Breakfast with the Brits," where bettors can wager on simulcast races from England.
Saratoga Race Course patrons will be able to pay their $3 general admission starting just after 7 a.m. to enter a tent area near the track's front gate and bet on races from places like Catterick, Sandown, Thirsk, York, Newmarket, Goodwood, Nottingham and Haydock. There will be no re-entry fees for these patrons after the breakfast crowd is swept out. Hayward said he did not know what type of identification system track officials would use for the British simulcast bettors, possibly a bracelet.
"We don't expect to make a lot of money on it," said Hayward, but he added that there is enough interest among bettors, fans and horsemen to provide the experience.
Copper tops and more
An example of the improvements at the track is a new copper roof. New decking under the copper has been installed on the lower clubhouse roof at a cost of $260,000.