"If you look back, since 1999 our on-track handle has been growing every year," said Hayward. "So unlike most race meets where their attendance and handle has been declining, ours has been increasing."
On the track, Saratoga received some good news and some bad news last week. The good news is that Curlin " who has been stabled in the Spa City all summer " will run in the Woodward Stakes Aug. 30. The bad news is Big Brown " arguably the biggest horse on the thoroughbred scene " will not run in the Aug. 23 Travers Stakes.
NYRA was hoping Big Brown might run in Saratoga, especially after the Kentucky Derby and Preakness champion won the Haskell Aug. 2 in Monmouth, N.J. But, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. announced shortly after Big Brown's latest victory that he won't be appearing in the Travers.
"Running horses on three weeks rest, you'd have to win the Haskell more impressively than he did," said Hayward. "But if Big Brown had run well in the Haskell, we'd have a smaller field in the Travers."
The Travers is shaping up to be a competitive race without Big Brown. Belmont winner Da' Tara is on board for the highlight of the Saratoga meet, along with Colonel John, Harlem Rocker, Acai, Macho Again, Mambo in Seattle, Pyro, Tale of Ekati and Tres Borrachos.
How many of those horses run in the Travers and other big stakes races at Saratoga may depend on the weather " something that NYRA can't control.
"Whatever run of bad luck we have (with the weather), we'll still have a stronger meet than most tracks across the country," Hayward said.""