Updated 09/03/2012 11:17 PM
The Spa Spot: 144th Saratoga season reaches finish line
Jockey Rosie Napravnik finished what she started Monday, winning the finale of the 40-day meet that she opened with a victory on July 20. The bookend wins produced double-digit payoffs.
What turned into a good season with remarkably favorable weather, steady attendance and gains in handle, was conducted under a cloud of uncertainly about the future of the New York Racing Association. The State of New York moved to take control of the non-profit association earlier this year after a betting scandal was exposed. The state has not announced its appointments to the new NYRA board and senior management remained in place throughout the Saratoga meeting.
However NYRA officials generally maintained a very low profile during the season. NYRA President and COO Ellen McLain did not talk with reporters Monday to offer comments about the meet, which has been the standard operating procedure for a couple of decades.
On the track, there were many highlights. Questing turned in the performance of the summer with her smashing victory in the Grade 1 Alabama. One week later, on August 25, what was considered a mediocre Travers field produced a thrilling race with an historic dead heat for victory with favored Alpha and long shot Golden Ticket.
NYRA reported that the total attendance for the meet was 901,033, which was a 3.4 percent increase from 2011. Since last year's meet was reduced to 39 days by Tropical Storm Irene, the daily average comparison is more appropriate: the 2012 average of 22,526 was up 0.8 percent.
NYRA ran 20 more races this year and showed increases in on-track and total handle. The daily on-track average of $3,207,356 was up 3.3 percent and the total on-track handle of $128,294,220 was up 5.9 percent.
The daily average for total handle was $14,708,799, up nine percent from last year. The total handle for the meet of $588,351,964 was up 11.8 percent.
Riding the full Saratoga season for the first time, Napravnik finished with 21 victories. The 20th came earlier on the Labor Day program when she guided Shanghai Bobby to a win in the Grade 2 Hopeful Stakes.
Napravnik rode Nine O Wonderful ($28.20), trained by Chad Brown of Mechanicville, to a win in the first race of the season more than six weeks ago. She made a last-to-first rally on Golden Tornado ($15.80) in the 417th and final race of 2012.
Todd Pletcher won the training title for the third consecutive year and ninth time in 15 years. He finished with 36 wins, seven more than Brown, and his ninth title tied Bill Mott for the Saratoga record since the New York Racing Association was formed in the mid-1950s.
“We love Saratoga and we try to emphasize the meet," Pletcher said. "We’ve been blessed with a lot of nice 2-year-olds this year. It’s nice to win the Hopeful to close it out."
Ramon Dominguez won his second Saratoga jockey title with a record 68 victories. Dominguez twice won a record-tying six races on a single program and eclipsed John Velazquez' record of 64 victories.
"It means the world to me to be able to win a title here in Saratoga," Dominguez said. "The way we had done it, getting lucky and winning so many races, is really unbelievable. I really have to stop and pinch myself, so to speak. It's really hard to believe how well we have done."