150th Saratoga Racing season gets underway

Posted at: 07/19/2013 10:50 AM
Updated at: 07/19/2013 5:18 PM
By: WNYT Staff / Mark Mulholland

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Nothing says eager race fans like the running for the tables.

It's a Saratoga tradition.  They sprint to stake out their favorite spot.

“Gotta stay here and enjoy yourself. There’s nothing like Saratoga. It’s the summer place to be,” says Kevin Bockelmann of Kingston.

Meanwhile on the track there's more running going on.

With the scenic backdrop of a still-rising sun, Horses are put through their morning workouts on the main track, and the anticipation is building.

“We have the best racing, the best horses, the best jockeys, best trainers. But there's that intangible. Everybody wants to get off to a good start and there's that hope of what might be,” says Richard Migliore, a Retired Jockey

The workouts take place under the watchful eyes of trainers like Gary Contessa, who says he and his colleagues take all precautions to make sure their horses are safe when temperatures reach the 90s.

“What the public has to is trust that we’ve done our job, and we do our job. I mean we want to protect the horses more than anybody. This is our livelihood, and this is the big stage here so we don't want anything to go wrong,” says Contessa.

Neither does NYRA. The racing association took steps to make sure horses and humans are safe in the sun - namely extra ice and extra water.

The organization's new leader saying the decision to race is not taken lightly.

"So it's a process where the people that know the most about horses, and care the most about horses and work the most with each individual horse each day are the ones that make the decision,” says Chris Kay, the new President of NYRA.

For Kay, who started on July 1st, this is his first time experiencing racing at Saratoga. He's joined by thousands of others. Some are first timers, others who haven't missed an opening day in decades.

By 11:00, it was time for all of them to come in, and get ready for the start of Opening Day 2013.  A milestone 150 years in the making.