Hold all tickets.
That’s what track announcers typically say when a race result is still unofficial while a potential disqualification that could change the order of finish looms.
In the case of ticket holders for the upcoming Saratoga Race Course meet, who may have purchased admission well before the COVID-19 pandemic closed racetracks to spectators, the New York Racing Association has been offering full refunds even as the possibility exists that fans may be allowed through the gates at some point.
The full range of ticket options, from picnic tables to general admission season passes to clubhouse and grandstand reserved seats, is no longer for sale.
According to NYRA director of communications Pat McKenna, the refunds are open-ended, which means ticket holders can get their money back retroactively for any racing day that is conducted without spectators.
A statement from McKenna said, “Under current New York State guidelines, the 2020 summer meet at Saratoga Race Course will open on July 16 without spectators in attendance. All ticket holders in all categories are currently eligible for a full refund on their 2020 tickets, as well as a number of options including credit toward future purchases.”
NYRA will offer 40 days of racing at Saratoga from July 16 to Labor Day, Sept. 7. Saratoga drew over 1 million in paid admission over the course of the 2019 meet, shortened to 39 days because of a cancellation due to a heat wave.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn’t decided to green-light large public gatherings yet, but NYRA has been working with state and local officials on plans to open doors to a limited number of spectators if permitted.
There could be an announcement on Friday on whether a limited number of racehorse owners will be allowed on the grounds on days in which they have horses running. NYRA submitted a request for that condition on Wednesday.
Tracks that have been allowed to open the doors to spectators with capacity limits include Delaware Park, Monmouth Park, where the summer meet begins on Friday, and Ellis Park in Kentucky, which began on Thursday.
Ellis Park opened to 50% capacity in two reserved-seats areas with no general admission.
“I think the fans overall are positive … A few people are disappointed that they can’t be on the rail or in the grandstand,” Ellis Park general manager Jeff Inman said. “But most of them are really happy and positive that we actually have live racing again.”
The Saratoga Live TV show covering each racing card at the Spa in its entirety, will be broadcast on FOX Sports and MSG Networks.
It will be a relatively quiet weekend on the Kentucky Derby trail this weekend, but there are plenty of fireworks on the rest of the stakes schedule.
The only race offering Derby qualifying points is the Grade III Los Alamitos Derby on Saturday, and a victory will be worth just 20 points to the winner. Trainer Bob Baffert has two of the five entered, including 6-5 morning-line favorite Uncle Chuck, a seven-length winner in his career debut at Santa Anita on June 12.
Belmont Park has four graded stakes on Saturday, highlighted by an eight-horse field in the Grade I Metropolitan Mile that includes 2019 Travers winner Code of Honor and 2019 Whitney winner McKinzie.
“He acts like he’s ready to run,” Code of Honor trainer Shug McGaughey told NYRA. “He’s had plenty of time off over the winter, and it seems to have done him some good, so we’ll just see what he does.”
Code of Honor is coming off a victory in the Grade III Westchester on June 6, his first race since a seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November.
McKinzie, the BC Classic runner-up for Baffert, also just came off a long break, winning the Grade II Triple Bend at Santa Anita on June 7 after running in the Saudi Cup in February.
“I think any time you win a Grade I on the East Coast, it’s pretty important, especially at Belmont and Saratoga. It’s like hitting a home run in Yankee Stadium, it means something,” Baffert told NYRA. “His comeback race was just perfect.”
Also on the Met Mile card, trainer Chad Brown has three entered in the Grade I Manhattan; the top three finishers from the 2019 Belmont Stakes, Sir Winston, Tacitus and Joevia, will have a reunion in the Grade II Suburban; Got Stormy will challenge males again in the Grade III Poker; and Frank’s Rockette is the 3-5 favorite in the Grade III Victory Ride for 3-year-old filly sprinters.
At Delaware Park, the Grade II Delaware Oaks winner will get 50 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Oaks.
Comical, who won the Schuylerville on opening day at Saratoga last year, is the 5-2 second choice.