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Racing season approaches Spa City

The racing season is nearly upon Saratoga Springs.

Post time for the first race of the 2009 season is 1 p.m. on Wednesday, July 29. Gates will open at 11 a.m. that day and all other weekdays.

Those who simply cannot wait to get a taste of the track can come to the 29th annual open house on Sunday, July 26, however. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., visitors will be treated to free tours of the grounds, music, games, food and handicapping seminars. The National Steeplechase Association will also present five racesfour jump races and a turf raceon Sunday. There will be no pari-mutuel wagering on these races.

Four Sunday giveaway days will be held at the track this year, Aug. 2, Aug. 16, Aug. 23 and Sept. 6. Other promotional days"including College Day, Sept. 6, when $1,000 college scholarships will be awarded at the start of every race"will run all season. For full details, visit www.nyra.com/saratogaevents.shtml.

The 141st racing season at Saratoga Race Course is set to run 36 days, highlighted by the 140th running of the $1 million Shadwell Travers on Aug. 29. Gates open at 7 a.m. on this day.

Altogether, $25 million in purses will be paid out this season, a national high. Last year's track season was impacted by poor weather and a slumping economy, and this year NYRA's handle is down 10 percent on other racecourses. The hope is to limit decline at Saratoga to 5 to 7 percent.

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