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Saratoga track attracts diverse crowds of gamblers, entrepreneurs, fun-seekers

Fifteen-year-old Nicholas Byrne, of Saratoga Springs, has dealt drinks on the strip since he was 10. His coveted spot on the corner of East and Union Avenues makes him the area's top salesman. He brings in more than $100 per day. Byrne also sells souvenirs and has a crew of his friends work for him.

"It really varies day to day with the weather, but I made $400 my first summer, which wasn't bad for a 10-year-old, and I'm doing a lot better than that now," said Byrne.

Byrne said he's had a good morning. It's Monday, Aug. 4, and its one of the first days of the meet where rain isn't likely. It's a sunny 75 degrees and the general admission crowd continues to pour in. Most in the crowd are oblivious to the induction festivities going on across the street. They have one thing in mind:get in the gates and find a place to plop down their lawn chairs. If they're lucky, they might find a picnic table, but only because it's a Monday. On the weekends, families arrive as early as 6 a.m. to put down their tablecloths and stake out a spot.

These general admission folk, who pay $3 a piece to enter the racing grounds, drag rolling coolers full of cold drinks. A preponderance of the men wear polo shirts with cargo shorts. Some of them smoke cigars. The women are harder to stereotype. Some dress up in sun dresses and topped with the broad-brimmed hats that are part of an iconic Saratoga style. Others simply wear a T-shirt and shorts. A number of them sport "Saratoga" T-shirts that were given away free with admission during previous seasons.

Most of these people chase a dream. They buy tip sheets and The Daily Racing Form and spend an hour or two before the 1 p.m. post time to make their decisions.

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