While NYRA has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the economy has also worsened in that time. And as the plight of Las Vegas and other gaming-based recreational hotspots attests, gambling is not the recession-proof industry many had thought it to be.
"Like every other gaming venue in the country, we've struggled," said Handel.
NYRA President Charlie Hayward noted, however, that racinos countrywide are not being affected as badly as vacation hotspots, and he speculated that many people will be taking "stay at home-type vacations" to the track this summer.
So far this year, NYRA's handle is down 10 percent. The goal at Saratoga this summer will be to limit decline to 5 to 7 percent.
"I think it would be imprudent to say we're going to turn the decline into a positive," said Hayward.
Saratoga will be one of the richest tracks in the country, though, with $10.8 million in purse money slated for the coming season.
As in the 28 years previous, the gates of the race course will open three days before the first race for the annual Open House on Sunday, July 26.
The race season will run for 36 days, starting July 29. There will be racing every day except Tuesdays.
While the 141st racing season will be similar to those in years past, 2009 will present a few improvements for attendees. A new restaurant, Curlin CafE (named after the two-time Horse of the Year), will join the dining options at the track and offer a private trackside dining room with butler service and a private bar.
The popular television show "Talking Horses" will broadcast from insides the gates of the race course for the first time. The show, presented by Daily Racing Form, will be broadcast live 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. from the Carousel Restaurant.