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NYRA previews summer track season at Saratoga

Saratoga Race Course will sound the bugle on its longest racing season in more than a century40 dayson Friday, July 23, when the track officially opens. Gates swing open at 11 a.m. and the first Post Time is 1 p.m.

The expanded meet"the longest since 1882"comes after months of speculation as to whether horse racing would even come to Saratoga at all this summer. Fiscal issues for NYRA and state government gridlock threatened the time-tested tradition, but NYRA President/CEO Charlie Hayward said the worst is behind them.

"Through everything we've had a very constant customer base. There was a downturn in group sales last year because of the economy, but I think we will do better this year than last," said Hayward.

With the extended meet comes a slew of special events and brand new attractions, the most notable being New York City-based Shake Shack and Blue Smoke dining venues popping up. This year's giveaways are: a St. Patrick's Day themed short sleeve t-shirt on Thursday, July 29; a Rachel Alexandra baseball cap on Sunday, Aug. 8; a Saratoga Race Course umbrella on Sunday, Aug. 22; and a long sleeve Saratoga Race Course t-shirt on Sunday, Sept. 5. All giveaways are free with paid admission and available while supplies lasts.

The 30th Annual Open house, which is always held the Sunday before the first race, will be July 18 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free and visitors will get a sneak-peek of the summer meet before racing season starts. There will be games, live music, food, pony rides, behind-the-scenes tours, mascot races and non-wagering horse racing, with proceeds benefiting more than a dozen local non-profit organizations.

From Friday, July 23 to Sunday, July 25, a three-day festival called "Hats off to Saratoga" will take over the downtown area with a hat contest to celebrate the start of the season.

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