The Saratoga Race Course has served as summer entertainment for Bob Wilcox since 1948 — he loves being a part of the excitement the horse track provides every year.
The New York Racing Association hosted the 34th annual Open House at the Saratoga Race Course on Sunday, and Wilcox was one of many who used the event as an opportunity to purchase season passes for this summer’s horse racing meet, which runs July 18 through Sept. 1.
“It is really an amazing deal,” said Wilcox who purchased a grandstand season pass for $30. A season pass for clubhouse seating costs $50.
“I can come here for $30 for the whole season, that is unbelievable.”
A number of activities, including bouncy castles and a petting zoo, were geared toward attracting families to the free event. Admission and parking for the event were free.
John Durso, spokesman for Saratoga Race Course, described a number of improvements that have been made to the grounds in the past year. Hundreds of new flat screen televisions line the walls in the clubhouse, for starters. NYRA also has added new vendors and improved the Wi-Fi reception.
As for the races this upcoming season, Durso said that while there will be fewer races, the quality of the races will be increased.
“We did this to create a superior product for racing fans,” he said.
Durso said the two biggest races this summer will be the Whitney Stakes on Aug. 2 and the Travers Stakes on Aug. 23.
He added that 3,400 season passes have already been sold, substantially more than last year, and said the high figure was due in part to the partnership that was established with Stewart’s Shops, which now sells the passes in its stores.
“We are stewards of this historic landmark,” Durso said. “We made the improvements this year with the community in mind.”
People attending Sunday’s open house were enthusiastic about the upcoming racing season and took time to enjoy many of the attractions the day had to offer.
Children ran with excitement from one activity to another with their parents close behind.
One attendee, Tracey Delisle of Halfmoon, said her family has been coming to the race track for a long time.
“We have to keep the tradition alive,” said Delisle, who brought her three children. “My kids love all the activities they have to offer.”
Roger Locks, who was tending to his wife’s Hat Sational store tent, loves what the race track offers to families.
He said that it is an honor and a privilege to be at the Saratoga Race Course and added he is very impressed with the improvements that have been made.
“This is heaven for me,” he said. “No one can compete with Saratoga Springs for the ambience that this race track provides.”
Jackson McCoy of Saratoga Springs called Sunday’s event a true kickoff to summer that provides fun for the whole family.
“This gives people a chance to stake out their seats for the season and gives them a sneak preview as well,” he said.