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What you need to know for 07/23/2017

Box seats the Saratoga place to be

Saratoga Summer

Box seats the Saratoga place to be

Boxes at Saratoga Race Course total 1,789 seats and are highly coveted by businesses, horsemen and r

Who’s who in the box seats

See the complete list of box seat holders at Saratoga Race Course and how much they paid for those highly coveted seats.

Tucked above a staircase in the clubhouse with a great view of the finish line is the spot where Anne Clare oversaw the Saratoga Race Course for two decades.

The track’s superintendent from 1940 until 1960, she ascended to the position when her predecessor — husband Tom Clare — died after 16 years at the post. Needless to say, the spot has a lot of memories for her niece, Diana Burke.

“She would sit here in the afternoon and check on these guys as they were working,” she recalled from the small perch, which fits about three people comfortably.

Today, the spot is one of 361 boxes offered at the track. And at an annual cost of $5,166, it’s one of the more modestly priced boxes offered by the New York Racing Association.

For Burke, a Saratoga Springs resident, the box is worth every penny. Even forgetting the familial history of the spot, the vantage point is great for watching races and ducking away from the crowds that fill the track during big race days.

“You can’t get any better than that,” she said, gesturing to the track as the eight race crossed the finish line Friday.

Boxes at the track total 1,789 seats and are highly coveted by businesses, horsemen and racing aficionados. Nearly all of them range in price from $7,122 up to $9,930 per year depending on the size and location, as well as other factors, said John Durso, a spokesman with NYRA.

All the boxes offer unfettered view of the track and a unique ambiance that harkens back to the heyday of thoroughbred racing at Saratoga. The seats are equipped with flat screen televisions and serviced by a diligent crew of attendants that whisk in everything from bottles of bubbly to the full meals from the track’s kitchen.

“Our boxes are popular with our guests due to the intimate seating, personal attention and physical location,” Durso said.

Not surprisingly, the box seats cater to a who’s who of the equine industry. Many of thoroughbred racing’s top stables and trainers own boxes.

National Racing Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito owns a box, as does Jack Knowlton, the operating manager of Sackatoga Stables, the group that owns Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide. Ogden Mills Phipps, a prominent financier, industry executive and owner, holds owns a box in his name and another in for his stable.

Cothran “Cot” Campbell, among the pioneers of thoroughbred partnerships, has owned a box for roughly a quarter century. The owner of Dogwood Stables of South Carolina said the space is a perfect place to conduct business at the track.

“It’s kind of like having an office,” he said from a seat located in the front row.

NYRA’s 17-member Board of Directors is also well-represented among box holders, including Anthony Bonomo, Michael Del Giudice, Michael Dubb, C. Steven Duncker, Earle Mack, Barry Ostrager, Stuart Subotnick and Charles V. Wait; ex-officio member Chester Broman also has a box.

Boxes are are reserved for NYRA’s president and the chairman of the board. Another two are assigned to the state Gaming Commission.

Marylou Whitney and husband John Hendrickson own a choice box overlooking the finish line.

Dan Gerrity, the majority owner of the adjacent Saratoga Casino and Raceway, has a box located further back.

David Cassidy, the former child star of “The Partridge Family” fame, is among the few Hollywood celebrities to appear among the list of box holders.

Former politicians are also represented among the box holders. Longtime state Sen. Hugh Barclay, who also served as U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, has a box, as does Robert D’Andrea, a former assemblyman from Saratoga Springs who served 26 years in the state Legislature

Spa City mayors are also represented among box holders. Mayor Joanne Yepsen and predecessor Scott Johnson have boxes, as does Raymond Watkin, who oversaw the position for three terms during the 1970s.

Professional sports are represented too. John Angelos, the executive vice president of Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles, and legendary National Football League coach Bill Parcells both are box seat owners.

And of course, there are those boxes owned by people of note in the Capital Region. Retired publicist Ed Lewi and wife Maureen, who once owned the company that does public relations for NYRA, continues to hold a box, as do local socialites Ron and Michelle Riggi.

Most local newspapers lease boxes, including The Daily Gazette, Saratogian and Post Star. Clear Channel Radio and George Hearst III, the publisher of the Times Union, also have boxes.

Whether a symbol of status, a place to escape the crowds during big races or simply a forum to conduct business, the boxes are an enduring part of the culture at the track. And for those who can afford them, the investment is well worth it.

“It’s a better investment than I’ve been having with the horses,” quipped horse owner Kirk Wycoff.

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