Updated: September 07, 2020 05:18 PM
Created: September 07, 2020 03:38 PM
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The racing went on for 40 days, without fans.
The Saratoga 2020 meet will always be known for the season when the public couldn't come in to sit in the clubhouse, grandstand, or the backyard, where green grass Monday morning was a sign it was barely walked on this summer.
Despite all of it, NYRA can declare victory on two fronts: First, keeping COVID at bay.
"We didn't have a single positive case of COVID-19 among backstretch workers, NYRA employees, outside vendors," said Pat McKenna, NYRA's director of communications.
Second, despite no one being allowed in, people still bet like almost never before, using their smartphones to place their bets.
They had a record $700 million handle last year, and about the same this year.
"What it tells you is that horseplayers not only here in New York, but around the country, continue to view this as the premier race meet," McKenna said.
However, the horseplayers couldn't visit, so most restaurants were off, despite offering outside dining, and hotel stays were down.
The operators of the Hampton Inn say it could've been worse.
"We also didn't have the SPAC concerts, so each day was just a continual struggle to try to fill the hotel," said Brian Straughter, president of Turf Hotels. "And I can say in the month of August we were down 13%."
The biggest concern businesses have is what happens in the fall and winter months when they don't have a cushion from a typical summer to rely on and fewer people are traveling.
"It's going to take every one of us stepping up if we're going to make sure these local firms survive into 2021," said Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.
For NYRA's part, McKenna says they're eager for 2021 and the return of what was missing in 2020.
"Passionate fans back here where they belong, and that's inside the gates at Saratoga Race Course."
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