While NYRA Spins (and Steps Over the Dead Bodies), Betting on Saratoga Races Plummets

I’ve long been suspicious of the New York Racing Association’s (NYRA) attendance numbers for Saratoga. No doubt Saratoga is successful, one of but a handful of tracks that is. But the data for the recent meet only serves to further validate those suspicions.

Monday, NYRA announced that the paid attendance for the 2023 meet topped 1.1 million, an almost 3% increase over last year, and highest since 2018. But, on-track handle – amount wagered at the track – declined 6.1%. So, more people, less betting? Hmm. The all-sources handle, by the way, plummeted even more: 9%. Better yet, with Saratoga as the prime factor, betting on all U.S. racing in the month of August was 7.3% lower than it was in Aug ’22. And, total U.S. handle has fallen for six straight months. Progress.

Curiously, in the NYRA press release there was nary a mention of the 16 “athletes” killed during the “season” (see list below). Read that again: 16 athletes killed in one season. Of what other sport has that ever been written? Furthermore, and disgustingly, BloodHorse said this of NYRA chief David O’Rourke: “O’Rourke personally brought families into the paddock and winner’s circle for each race.” O’Rourke himself added:

“The response was phenomenal…. Especially with kids, getting them closer to the action and letting them see with their own eyes how incredible these athletes are.”

It’s a good bet that some of those children saw a horse die this summer. All of them, we know, were witness to animal cruelty (the whipping alone). In other words, Saratoga was host to more than one type of abuse. Great job, NYRA.

Kaon, May 26 – “yet-to-be-raced horse euthanized”
Ami’s Curlin, Jun 10 – “laminitis in all four feet, euthanized”
Frigid Lady, Jul 15 – “broke RF leg, euthanized”
Winter Son, Jul 20 – “injured, vanned off, euthanized”
Blame It On Mary, Jul 23 – “injured, vanned off, euthanized”
Lawful, Aug 2 – “suffered injury, euthanized”
Sopran Basilea, Aug 3 – “injured on gallop-out, euthanized on course”
Maple Leaf Mel, Aug 5 – “fell, euthanized on track”
Closed Caption, Aug 6 – “pulled up, vanned off, euthanized”
Ever Summer, Aug 6 – “fell, euthanized on course”
Wisecraken, Aug 16 – “suffered injury, vanned off, euthanized”
Art Collector, Aug 17 – “laminitis, all four feet”
Burning Bright, Aug 23 – “suffered fatal cardiac event”
Nobel, Aug 26 – “suffered catastrophic injury…euthanized on the course”
New York Thunder, Aug 26 – “suffered catastrophic injury, fell, euthanized on track”
Shutters, Aug 29 – “found down, died before vet could arrive” (trained five days prior)

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  1. From what I see, the horseracing channels make it look like there are loads of people at the track. They show the gathering spots like in the paddock mounting area and where the rich and famous congregate.

  2. Patrick, thank you for doing all the research and reporting the facts!!!!! I know I saw the headline that “the attendance at Saratoga was up” but didn’t read the article. It sounded like the playbook of lies to sell the “public” on why they should sacrifice education and infrastructure for all of these phony-boloney jobs that $455-MILLION IN STATE-BACKED BONDS TO THE NYRA will allegedly create, because $230-MILLION (+/-) IN SUBSIDIES/VIDEO LOTTERY TERMINAL PAYMENTS EVERY YEAR WASN’T ENOUGH.

    Here we go again with “creative” math.

  3. Oh yes, get the kids closer to racing and see what it is all about. Kids under 18 should be banned from race tracks. I mean what would traumatize a kid more, a few “bad words ” or a dead horse in front of them with a leg broken in half? I am going to pursue this. A trip to the track is not a family friendly activity.

    • If the children who are taken to the racetracks were not already suffering from some degree of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, seeing a racehorse breaking down on the racetrack would certainly be traumatic and gruesome enough to cause PTSD, in my opinion.

      • Seeing a mare break both her front legs from a barn / trainer that we were galloping horses in the am for was traumatizing for us in our mid 40`s! Shortly after seeing that we QUIT galloping in the am for that trainer / barn & 1 year later we quit racing participation forever.

        • This insane cruelty and greed must be stopped. It costs so much for the taxpaying public to keep this despicable industry afloat. There was an article in the Times-Union by Emilie Munson that details how New York State has bankrolled horseracing for so many years to tune of billions of dollars.

  4. I am proud to say that I have never gone to a horseracing event. I am disgusted by horses being abused by being whipped and their untimely deaths. I am hoping that more people will stop attending these horrible events.

  5. Certainly, I would take anything that NYRA reports with a grain of salt. But, having been to Saratoga and attended the races literally, hundreds of times over the past 30 years, I can say that there is a possibility that attendance very well could be up, but the betting handle down.

    The only possible reason for this is, that there are many people who pay admission to enter the track, but often may never place a bet, or may only bet on a race or two. Sure, heavy bettors like myself [let me clarify- used to be!!] would bet thousands every day. But the folks who decide to set up in the picnic area, bring their families along with food, drinks, and lunch will usually attend the races for a sunny afternoon outdoors and have little interest in the betting, but enjoy the social aspect of it. I might add, that I believe Saratoga is the ONLY race track that offers such amenities. I don’t think Belmont, Aqueduct, Santa Anita, Del Mar and others do – at least I’ve never seen it.

    Plus, upstate New York is a beautiful area in the summer, and many vacationers who go there may add a “stop at Saratoga” to their trips.

    But the key feature here is that the wagering handle is DOWN, and from all aspects, it appears that this trend will continue. I don’t see it reversing course anytime soon. And, while those posting here can’t wait to see the end of racing, which I fully understand, I also feel this downward trend will begin to snowball. Look for a steep decline in the betting handle as more opportunities arise for the public’s betting dollar. Look ALSO to the next generation who have little to no interest in betting on horse racing.

    A story I like to post, and is worth repeating here, is that many years ago I asked an attractive young woman out on date, and suggested we go to the races. her response:

    “Why? “Who wants to watch a bunch of smelly old men screaming at television sets?”

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