SARATOGA SPRINGS — There was no Gun Runner.
There was no American Pharoah.
Justify won six races in 112 days this year that included the Triple Crown, then went home -— the retirement home.
There was a filly, Wonder Gadot, in the Travers for the first time since 1979, but when the 2018 Saratoga Race Course season opened on July 20, it appeared to lack what could be a meet-defining star horse.
But that’s OK, because Saratoga makes its own stars.
The track itself, of course, will always be the star of this show, and as the New York Racing Association and fans contemplate the near future, there will be profound changes afoot that could affect the meet schedule and definitely will affect how the old race course and its facilities look .
In the meantime: here’s a look back at 2018, by the numbers:
People love to bet on Saratoga, even as NYRA continues to bunch its best races on Saturdays while offering an ever-increasing diet of lower-level races during the week.
All-sources handle was $659,083,459, second-highest ever.
That number was bolstered by record handle on the Travers and Woodward cards, and the second-highest for Opening Day.
That’s the year when a thoroughbred meet was first held on the grounds, next to what is now the Oklahoma training track, after which a much grander facility was built across Union Avenue a year later.
So NYRA has named the new clubhouse addition the “1863 Club,” scheduled to be completed in time for the 2019 meet. It will be a swanky, climate-controlled permanent structure replacing the white At The Rail pavilion tent and the temporary luxury trailers on the first turn.
They won’t be cheap.
As far as the potential for the 40-day meet to be spread over a longer stretch of the calendar, with two dark days per week instead of one, long-held speculation is rising that it could happen next year or in 2020.
That’s the Beyer speed figure Promises Fulfilled was assigned by the Daily Racing Form for his victory in the Grade III Amsterdam on July 28, moving him to the top of the 2018 leaderboard for fast performances by 3-year-olds (including Justify).
Look out, Breeders’ Cup.
Because of an unusually rainy meet, 50 races were moved off the turf courses and were run on the main track, by far the most in many years.
Wetney pic.twitter.com/VyNC78L0XU— Mike MacAdam (@Mike_MacAdam) August 4, 2018
That would suggest a damaging trend for a turf-heavy barn like trainer Chad Brown’s, buuuttt …
The number that easily jumps off the page in reference to Brown’s historic season is 46, his record-smashing victory total.
Just as impressive, though, is that his strike rate was 27 percent, from 171 starts, both numbers way above any other trainer’s. Runner-up Todd Pletcher’s horses made 128 starts, winning at 15 percent, and only Rudy Rodriguez (103) had more than 100.
For whatever reason, the number of equine deaths during the 2018 Saratoga meet was relatively low, after a terrible 2017 season that prompted extra scrutiny and stopgap safety measures.
After training opened on the Oklahoma in April, there was one fatality there reported on the New York State Gaming Commission equine death database on July 7.
After Opening Day on July 20, seven horses died, two because of injuries sustained during racing, one who collapsed of a possible cardiovascular event during a race and two who were vanned off the Oklahoma and euthanized.
Two others died from non-racing injuries sustained when they got loose on the backstretch.
When Javier Castellano guided turf star Catholic Boy to a victory in the Travers Stakes, it was the jockey’s record sixth win in that race, all since 2006.
He already had sole possession of the record, as no one else has more than four in 149 runnings of the Travers.
Happy horse, and why not. Travers winner Catholic Boy pic.twitter.com/SnvWGKWYN4— Mike MacAdam (@Mike_MacAdam) August 26, 2018
Monomoy Girl won the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks on July 22 to remain undefeated from five starts this year.
Oh, and they’re all graded stakes, including the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, which pretty much locks up the 3-year-old filly championship.
After Irad Ortiz Jr. accepted the Angel Cordero Jr. award for meet-leading rider on Closing Day, he was greeted back at the jocks quarters with prank congratulations from his buddies, who set him up for an egg shampoo while being filmed on a camera phone.
A little joke to the leading jockey @iradortiz @IradOrtizJrFans for his Saratoga title that’s how we congratulate our Fellow riders #Friends #Jockeyfamily @RSantana_Jr ? ? ??? pic.twitter.com/mOtoKKeQZ3— Junior Alvarado (@Juniorjockey) September 3, 2018
The joke was on everyone else scrambling behind him: Ortiz won his second Spa championship by nine victories, and it was never close for most of the meet.
Dirt starts for Yoshida in 10 career races.
That is, until he ran in the Grade I Woodward on closing weekend and won by two lengths. Between him and Catholic Boy, the connections for two proven grass stars have some decisions to make on how to proceed toward the Breeders’ Cup.
Saratoga has a tendency to do that.
Closing the books on another terrific Saratoga meet as Sunshine Gal wins the finale pic.twitter.com/T8Ck4ZlA9a— Mike MacAdam (@Mike_MacAdam) September 3, 2018