Updated: 07/18/2014 8:28 PM
Created: 07/18/2014 5:58 PM WNYT.com
By: Steve Flamisch
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A total of 25,612 people came through the turnstiles on opening day at Saratoga Race Course, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) reported Friday.
That represents an increase of 3,477 people, or 16 percent, over last year’s opening day attendance, NYRA told NewsChannel 13.
"I love sitting here and watching the horses go back and forth," said Sharon LaGoy, of Warrensburg, who celebrated her 35th opening day. "Some of them are just beautiful. They’re magnificent."
Barbara Van Slooten and friends traveled from New Jersey, wearing the decorative hats her late mother, Helen Durante, used to wear to the track.
"This morning, we were all sitting around having coffee, talking about what hat we were going to wear," Van Slooten said. "We all decided to wear one of my mom’s hats for today."
Track announcer Tom Durkin, who is retiring at the end of the meet, called his final opening day card. The crowd joined in for Durkin’s trademark, "Annnd they’re off at Saratoga."
Jockey José Ortiz won the first two races aboard “Winter Games” and “By the Moon” respectively. Jeff Sullivan, of Albany, won $250.00 on a daily double.
"That was just by lucky numbers," Sullivan said. "That’s all. All the horses I thought were going to win didn’t do anything, so sometimes it’s a game of luck."
NYRA spent $2 million on 750 new high definition televisions and three new video boards, along with other upgrades prior to the start of the meet, its chairman and CEO Chris Kay said.
"This year, we’re very encouraged," Kay said. "We’ve had a lot of interesting support. I know the hotels are being booked up earlier. We’ve really put a focus on the quality of our work."
The Saratoga Chamber of Commerce took out advertisements in the Boston, Mass. and Hartford, Conn. media encouraging people to visit the track, Kay said.
The racing wrapped up just before 6:00 p.m. Friday. The next post time is set for 1:00 p.m. Saturday. Stay with NewsChannel 13 for continuing coverage of the 146th meet.