NYRA, business community expect big things from Travers Stakes

Posted at: 08/21/2013 5:56 PM
Updated at: 08/21/2013 9:27 PM
By: Mark Mulholland

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Travers week is music to the ears of the New York Racing Association and Saratoga-area businesses.

The race, which is dubbed the mid-summer derby, is the biggest drawing card in Saratoga's deck. Broadcast to the world on NBC, the one-million dollar competition attracts huge crowds. Last year, more than 46-thousand people witnessed a rare dead heat.

The all-time Travers attendance record was set in 2003 when more than 66-thousand people came through the gates. And this year, if the weather cooperates, the track will be packed.

Three of racing's biggest stars will square off---Haskell winner Verrazano, Kentucky Derby champ Orb, and Belmont winner Palace Malice.

Downtown, the sidewalks are beginning to fill up and so are the restaurants and hotels.

The Chamber of Commerce says hotels did better this July than last year. Which seems to fall in line with trends NYRA is seeing. Despite attendance being off a little because extreme heat and less popular giveaways this year, the organization that runs the races say people are spending more money on wagers, food and merchandise.

"So those are more important metrics if you will than simply the attendance," said Chris Kay, NYRA President and C.E.O.

The Travers is so important that business people are already thinking about next year. They say a sweet outcome of Saturday's race will have big crowds digging in next year too.

"It gives us something to promote," said Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. "It gives us a reason to tell people to come back in 2014."

And NYRA is giving race fans a reason to arrive a day early this year. They've scheduled a Friday morning ceremony to honor the winningest jockeys in Saratoga history----John Velazquez, Jerry Bailey and Angel Cordero Jr. The ceremony takes place near the paddock at 11:30.