Posted at: 08/25/2013 12:14 AM
| Updated at: 08/25/2013 12:23 AM
By: Steve Flamisch
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Tens of thousands of people squeezed into Saratoga Race Course to watch Will Take Charge pull off an upset win in the 144th running of the Travers Stakes.
Saturday's final attendance of 47,597 was 2 percent higher than the 2012 total of 46,528, according to the New York Racing Association (NYRA). The Travers Day record of more than 66,000 spectators was set in 2003.
On track handle climbed 11 percent to about $9.7 million, NYRA reported. All sources handle, which includes wagers placed at simulcast outlets nationwide, jumped 13 percent to more than $41 million.
The track hosted 14 races Saturday starting at 11:35 a.m. Bettor Bob Free, clutching a newspaper and puffing on a cigar, celebrated a win in the 13th.
"I just hit Smiling Bob for big bucks," Free intoned in a gravely voice, strained by yelling. "I'm happy. It's a good day."
Jeff Leathersich wasn't having the same luck. He had lost $50 by midday, while watching his friend, Seth Barradas, win $70.
"I try to do the educated guess based on the information, and he goes random," Leathersich said. "You always win when you don't know what you're doing. When you sort of do know what you're doing, you almost always lose."
For many spectators, Travers Day is about more than just winning and losing. Chelsea Favicchio, making her first visit to the track, raved about the atmosphere.
"It's my first time here and it's one of the best days of my life," Favicchio said. "It's awesome here. There's so many people.... It's like one big party, with horses."
Fashion is another hallmark of the track, from the ladies in fancy hats and dresses to the gentlemen in bowler hats and seersucker suits. Alexis Southerland Anekwe wore a purple hat and dress with matching lipstick, while her husband Obiora sported a fedora and high-button suit.
"We love looking at the outfits," Alexis Anekwe said. "It's wonderful."
The Anekwes, who were married two months ago, said they also enjoyed learning about the sport's history.
"We went to the museum earlier," Obiora Anekwe said. "To learn about the African-American jockeys and the history of horse racing all the way back to England has been a really exciting and educational experience for me."
As the sun set on the track, spectators filed out and maintenance personnel began picking up the garbage. Racing was set to resume Sunday.
THEY SAID IT...
Amanda Root, who is 5'2", standing atop a cooler to watch the races: "It's better than heels. More comfortable too. Nobody has given me a hard time yet. I think they feel bad for me because I'm so short."
Juliano Pabon, on his wagering success after the 13th race of the day: "I won my first bet coming in, but after the last two or three races, I fell off. I won two dollars, but I'm hoping to come up big in the last race."
Gina Sciacca, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream vendor: "Maybe people will start winning and they'll want to tip me more. We'll see. Sometimes people are very generous. Sometimes they're not."
Mark Bath, member of a group of horse racing fans who hail from all over the country: "We travel around and see the Breeders Cup. We go to the (Kentucky) Derby. And we go to Travers. This is our favorite."