Saratoga County

Fans catch Derby fever at racino

There weren’t any mint juleps and most came wearing casual clothes, but the excitement was just as i
PHOTOGRAPHER:

There weren’t any mint juleps and most came wearing casual clothes, but the excitement was just as intense inside the clubhouse at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway Saturday as at Churchill Downs as thousands of racing fans came to place their bets on the Kentucky Derby and watch the race on dozens of TV screens.

Manager Bill McQuiston, who controls the betting systems at the racino, said he estimated approximately $1 million in wagers was placed Saturday, up significantly from a typical Saturday that might see $300,000.

“We’re up probably 5 to 10 percent over last year. This has been probably one of our five best days ever,” McQuiston said.

People seemed eager to spend and gamble money on horse racing and at Saratoga’s racino on Saturday. McQuiston said he wasn’t really surprised.

“I’ve been in this business for so long, I know that whenever the economy gets hit people like to gamble, and we have a great area here. It’s a horse racing mecca,” he said. “The fans also love a horse race with value, and today’s race certainly had that. There was no clear favorite.”

Kevin Bone, of Kingston, said he comes up to Saratoga for every Kentucky Derby and for other races during the year. Saturday he got lucky and bet on 50-1 underdog Mine That Bird, which won the race. Bone, who ran up and down screaming and flapping his arms like, in his words, a “dirty birdy,” said he won about $3,000 on the horse.

“I live up here during the summer. It’s always a great time here,” he said.

Lynne Edwards and John Ballas, who both live in Hinsdale, N.H., said they come to watch horse racing in Saratoga a few times a year but had never come to watch the Kentucky Derby before. They said they used to watch racing at a track near where they live, but it went bankrupt.

“I like to watch the flats as opposed to the pacers,” Ballas said.

“I like the excitement,” Edwards said.

The two were lucky enough to find a private outdoor booth no one was using and watched the race there. Edwards said the only thing that was missing were the mint juleps, Churchill Downs’ signature drink. Bartenders at the racino said they don’t serve them.

Categories: Schenectady County

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