Rain, rain go away. Come back some other day preferably a Tuesday.
That's what folks around Saratoga Race Course are no doubt saying after a rainy opening half to the six-week racing season.
So much rain has fallen on the 140-year-old race course on Union Avenue that the inner turf courses have been used only sparingly. As of Saturday's 140th birthday bash, 18 races had been moved off the turf three times the amount of races that had to be moved to the main track all of last year.
"Last year, we ran a record number of turf races," said New York Racing Association CEO Charlie Hayward. "We ran 163 turf races, and that was 39 more turf races than we've run before. And we only took six races off the turf."
Then, there was last Friday. A severe thunderstorm pelted the track so hard that some of the dirt was displaced, and because more storms were in the forecast, track officials decided to cancel the final eight races on the 10-race card.
"The weather has been killing us," said Hayward.
The attendance and daily handle numbers don't lie. Entering Saturday, the rain " not to mention high gas prices and fewer people taking vacations " had led to a 17.8 percent drop in daily attendance and a 9.6 percent decline in daily on-track betting from last year.
"Even if gas was 23 cents a gallon and the economy was good, we'd have a hard time reaching those numbers (this year)," said Hayward. "If we get decent weather, we won't beat last year, but we can beat our 2006 numbers."
If it was any other track in America, this would be devastating news. But those declines are off from a record-setting 2007 season at Saratoga that included $123 million in total handle.