Oklahoma Training Track renovation moving forward

ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Crews work on scraping down the dirt track at the Oklahoma Training Track on Dec. 9, 2020, in preparation for renovation of the surface.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Crews work on scraping down the dirt track at the Oklahoma Training Track on Dec. 9, 2020, in preparation for renovation of the surface.

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, Sports

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Season 2 of “The Makeover” at Saratoga Race Course has been greenlighted by the producers.

After major renovations were conducted on the main track in 2020, the New York Racing Association received official approval from the New York State Franchise Oversight Board on Monday to move ahead with similar work on the Spa’s Oklahoma Training Track.

The project, which is expected to be finished in time for the traditional opening of the Oklahoma in April, will include installation of a new limestone base layer, modernized drainage and the addition of a rider protection inner safety rail.

The training track will also be widened by 10-12 feet in some spots to accommodate the large number of horses that work out during the Oklahoma training season, which typically runs into early November, well after the racing meet concludes.

NYRA began scraping down the Oklahoma surface a few months ago in preparation for any renovation that might be deemed necessary. 

Work on the main track last year, which included a new safety rail like the one that will be installed at the Oklahoma, was partly aimed at producing a more consistent track surface that can recover quickly from severe rainstorms.

The dirt track drew compliments from trainers during the 2020 Saratoga meet for its consistency and safety.

The start of workouts at the Oklahoma, which is considered one of the most forgiving training surfaces in the country, was delayed for seven weeks, until June 4, last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The race meet itself started on time, with no fans, and NYRA conducted 40 days of racing.

Although NYRA hasn’t released official dates or a stakes schedule for the 2021 season, opening day would be Thursday, July 15, if NYRA follows its current pattern of five race days a week up to Labor Day, Sept. 6.

Allowing fans at Saratoga is still contingent upon updated guidelines from the state Dept. of Health. Currently, the public is barred from racetracks in New York.

There should be an opportunity to return to the traditional sequence of stakes at Saratoga, after the calendar was disrupted by the pandemic, which postponed many of the biggest races, including the Triple Crown.

Churchill Downs is currently offering ticket sales for the Kentucky Derby on May 1, after moving the Derby to the first Saturday in September in 2020, leading to a domino effect of stakes rescheduling.

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