Sardella’s Column

2015 Season Kicks Off At Saratoga

Following an early end to the 2014 racing season and after an incredibly cold and snowy last couple of months in the Capital District, there were signs of spring on Sunday as it was opening day of the 2015 season at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. While there were some occasional flurries during the afternoon, the temperatures were manageable for a change as a twelve race program got the season underway. Fans on hand were treated to a long sleeve t-shirt giveaway with the purchase of a live racing program and started to see some of the changes that the raceway has to offer the fans this year. A new replay kiosk was unveiled in the upper mezzanine giving bettors a chance to watch the past races of any horse they choose. This is a major advantage to a handicapper as they have the opportunity to see what they may not have been able to by simply looking at the race program. There are several new features that will be added in the coming weeks which will be major conveniences to the horse player as well (Hint: Wi-fi and mobile betting tablets could be involved!) An additional pick three has been added to the wagering format so bettors now have a pick five, pick four and a pair of pick threes to play on every race card. These and several other fan friendly things will be rolled out this year to add to the racing experience for both the casual horse player and the ardent fan/bettor. I’ll have more on the new amenities in next week’s column.

             Also new this season is an adjustment to the post time for Thursday racing. While Friday and Saturday post times remain 6:45pm, Thursday action will now begin at 4:00pm. This change will be in effect all year long with the exception of the six weeks this summer that correspond with the Saratoga thoroughbred meet. In conjunction with the new “twilight racing”, there will be Thursday Happy Hour from 4-7pm featuring $1 hot dogs and draft beers. Fridays in March, all SaratogaBets members will be eligible to take part in handicapping contest with the winner earning a $750 wagering credit. Saturday is always the busiest night of the week as far as on-track attendance and Sunday matinees continue to be very popular. Sunday racing begins at 12:45pm during the spring and early summer.  
             Sunday’s matinee card was highlighted by a double feature. A pair of $18,000 Opens was contested on the twelve race opening day program. The six horse Fillies and Mares Open included the defending Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year Road Bet along with fellow nominee Campanile. They were joined by Yonkers invader Jonsie Jones who was the betting public’s second choice behind the 3-5 shot Campanile. Despite making just her first start of the year, Road Bet was moved aggressively to the early lead, working hard in an opening quarter of 27.1 on the chilly afternoon. Once Saratoga’s defending top mare got to the front end, she would never relinquish. Road Bet held off the first over challenge from invader Jonsie Jones and actually drew away from pocket sitting Campanile in the stretch before scoring a two length victory in 1:54.3. Making the first start in her five year old season, Road Bet saw her career bankroll move over the $300,000 mark. Campanile had to settle for second while Goddess’s Rosa earned the show spot.
             The second half of the Sunday’s double feature was a bit of an upset as well. Banco Solo secured the victory in the $18,000 Open Trot as he edged the big favorite Zooming in a win photo. Banco Solo was driven by Billy Dobson. Zooming was the race’s 1-5 public choice and was on the front end before being confronted by and eventually nosed out at the wire by Banco Solo in a very tight photo in the year’s first trotting feature. The winner returned $16.80 and the exacta with the favorite second came back $40.40. Neither of the top two betting choices prevailed in either of the first two Opens of ’15, perhaps a sign that there will be yet another year of “wide open Opens.”
             There was a strong crowd on hand for Sunday’s opening day matinee as the flurries did little to keep away the fans who have waited nearly three months for live racing to return. Handle was very good for the twelve race card and excitement was high as fans saw driver Bruce Aldrich Jr get off to a red hot start. Last year’s second leading driver at the Spa, Aldrich won four of the afternoon’s first six races to comprise his Sunday grand slam. Billy Dobson, who has won five consecutive driving titles at the Spa coming into this season, scored three wins of his own on opening day. The wait is over. The 74th racing season at Saratoga Casino and Raceway is officially underway. Come out and join us for live racing action and wagering on all of your favorite simulcast tracks.        
             Live racing takes place on Thursday starting at 4pm, on Friday and Saturday beginning at 6:45pm and on Sunday at 12:45pm during this first full week of racing for the ’15 season. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!

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