What more could any racing fan want than four weeks in a picturesque community filled with people who share the same passion, four weeks at a track that offers the best thoroughbred competition in America?
As the Saratoga racing season is about to begin on Wednesday, most longtime regulars would selfishly ask for something more: four weeks in a place that isn't so damned crowded. Like an undiscovered little restaurant that suddenly gets a rave review, Saratoga's newfound popularity has changed its essential character. It is being spoiled by its own success.
For much of its 119-year history, Saratoga was a gathering spot for the elite members of the horsey set and the hardcore fans who would come here from New York. As recently as 10 years ago, a typical weekday crowd would number a bit more than 10,000 people, which was just about ideal.
The track retained that relaxed, tranquil atmosphere that so distinguished it from so many urban betting factories. Besides, its old wooden grandstand didn't have room he big crowds that Belmont and Aqueduct could.
But over the last few years, the world has discovered SaratoNew York" advertising campaign helped popularize this region, and this town in particular. The Saratoga Perfornd the vacation facilities at Lake George lured more visitors to the area. More important, the introduction ofo upstate communities created thousands of new horseplayers, who only get to see live races for one month a yeey are so hungry for the sport that a couple of weeks ago, when six exhibition races for 2-year-olds were run wagering, 8,000 people showed up to watch them.)
As the crowds grew, Don Drew, New York Racing Associationid, "You got the psychological effect of 'It's the place to be!' But Saratoga's growth has started to wear a llast season the track was bursting at the seams. Weekday crowds of 25,000 became commonplace; more than 42,000 people turned out for the Travers Stakes. There were lines at the refreshment stands, lines at the bathrooms,ng windows. Management had to allow 35 minutes between races to accommodate everybody, so a day's racing progrnereal pace.
But the worst problem of all is the shortage of seats. There are only about 7,000 seats in the Saratoga grandstand, thus the vast majority of people who come to the track will not be permitted that elemental comfort. Seats go on sale on Jan. 1, and on that day this year the NYRA received more than 2,500 pieces of mail asking for tickets. Forget about gle in the dining room on Travers day; it takes clout to get a seat in Section W of the grandstand on a Monday.n though a day at the races here has become more of an ordeal than a tranquil afternoon outing, people keep coming back, because Saratoga is still special in maack in America offers so many good races day after day. In this 24-day season, there is only one day without ae are no races for claiming horses worth less than $25,000, no maiden-claiming races at all. It's solid qualitan easily immerse himself in the Racing Form for hours a day, so rich and varied and challenging are the racin And if he does so, no one will suggest that his monomania is somehow unhealthy, because everybody else is do Go to breakfast at Mother Goldsmith's and you'll inevitably get involved in a discussion of the day's upcoming races with some other handicappers. Have a drink after the races at Siro's and you can join in the post-mort everybody else. Go to dinner at Sam's Diner (distinguished as probably the only diner in America with valet ponversation at every table is likely to deal with the next day's races.
You'll hear a few complaints about the fact that Saratoga has become overcrowded to the point of ruination, but nobodg town in protest.