There will be no more racing at Saratoga Raceway until the 2015 program starts up on March 1.
Race cards at the harness track had to be canceled for the final 10 days of the meet because of poor track conditions. John Matarazzo, director of racing, said Wednesday the sloppy weather the region recently received has done no favors for the new track surface that was installed in September.
“When you put a new track surface in, sometimes it takes a little time to settle,” Matarazzo said. “If you don’t get decent weather, and you get a storm like the one we got the day before Thanksgiving, and you get a lot more wet snow and rain like we’ve had in November and December, the track doesn’t get a chance to settle well. That’s our concern.
“The track is unsafe. It’s unsafe in our opinion, it’s unsafe in the opinion of the horsemen’s association and we certainly don’t want to put the drivers and horses at risk by running race cards on a track we don’t believe is acceptable right now.”
He said the track is saturated and has not been able to drain, unaided by evaporation, and is “too wet and too spongy.”
The new surface is the first since 2003, and Matarazzo said it was time for a new one.
Without racing, which usually takes place Thursday through Sunday and is simulcast to several hundred outlets, there is a significant loss of revenue. Races last took place Dec. 5, meaning 10 race cards were canceled.
“I would estimate we’re probably going to lose a couple million dollars in handle,” Matarazzo said. “That’s not revenue, that’s just betting. The other impact is the purse money we would distribute to the horsemen. Our average purse distribution is roughly $80,000 per racing program, so if we cancel 10 racing programs, that’s $800,000 worth of purse money that would typically be distributed to the horsemen that will not be, and that we’re going to have to distribute next year when we run our racing program.”
There was some thought to extending the meet, which would normally end this Sunday, in order to reschedule at least some of those lost races. Ultimately, the track officials and horsemen’s association decided against it.
“We met with our horsemen’s association and track management on a couple of occasions. Most recently was [Monday],” Matarazzo said. “We all agreed we might be able to insert some of these race cards, possibly, even between Christmas and New Year’s, but we decided we just didn’t think the track was going to be up to speed.”
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