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NYRA reveals what Saratoga Race Course fans can expect in 2009

For those itching to pack the cooler, chomp a cigar and thumb through racing stats under the Saratoga sun, post time just got a little bit closer.

New York Racing Association officials uncovered many of the final details of the coming 2009 racing season at the Saratoga Race Course on Monday, June 29, at the Desmond Hotel in Albany.

Among the revelations made was that the always-anticipated giveaway items will be reduced from five to four this year and will not include the reintroduction of the popular bobblehead dolls, which were pulled in 2008.

Attendees will be treated to the following free merchandise on four Sunday track days while supplies last: on Aug. 2, Alabama Stakes baseball caps; on Aug. 16, Saratoga Race Course short sleeve T-shirt; on Aug. 23, a long sleeve T-shirt; and on Sept. 6, in anticipation of the coming cooler weather, a race-course-red winter cap.

Also targeted for select weekday giveaways is the new jockey autograph book, which will also be available for purchase. It features 10 of the most successful jockeys that fans can endeavor to collect autographs from.

We think it's a nice opportunity for the kids to interact with the riders, said NYRA Executive Vice President Hal Handel.

Proceeds from sale of the book will benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund.

But for those who make the trek to see the horses, officials say 2009 will offer unparalleled excitement. Stall applications were nearly double the availability for this year, said NYRA Racing Secretary PJ Campo. This year's Travers has Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird as probable contenders, and NYRA hinted at the possibility of an appearance by Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra.

"If the planets align for us, we will see some of the best races of the summer," said Campo. "I'll be looking forward to it, and I pray for sunshine."

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