Posted at: 06/23/2014 4:52 PM
Updated at: 06/23/2014 5:18 PM
By: Mark Mulholland
SARATOGA SPRINGS - With a little more than three weeks until the season starts, Saratoga Race Course is taking shape.
Crews were planting and pruning flowers outside the main gate on Union Avenue Monday afternoon in preparation for the 40-day meet, which begins Friday, July 18.
The cost of daily admission has gone up a little, cost of season passes has dropped and they can now be purchased at Stewart's Shops.
The New York Racing Association says, once inside the gates, you'll find 125 more picnic tables. 500 new TVs.
As always, the giveaways will draw huge crowds---a baseball cap on July 20th, pilsner glasses on July 27th.
They'll offer a canvas tote bag on Sunday August 10th, and a black t-shirt on the second to last day of the meet, August 31st.
They'll run the $1.25 million Travers on August 23rd, and for the first time, Saratoga's marquis event won't be it's richest.
The Whitney, on August 2nd, will have a $1.5 million purse. Part of an effort by NYRA to turn the Whitney into a national event, like the Travers.
"The Whitney was the most logical thing to try and make another large day at Saratoga," said Martin Panza, NYRA's senior vice president of racing operations. "It's great for the community as well because we're going to help sell hotel rooms, we're going to help fill restaurants, we're going to help bring more people to this community."
But John Hendrickson, horse owner and husband of socialite Marylou Whitney cautioned that the Travers will always be Saratoga's signature race."I think it's terrific that the Whitney is going to be bumped up, but I think the Travers is our signature event and we can't forget that," said Hendrickson.
Both the Whitney and the Travers will be broadcast live here on NBC and NewsChannel 13.
Another first this year: Wednesday and Thursday post time is 12:25 to accommodate steeplechase races.