The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) successfully concluded its 2020 summer meet at Saratoga Race Course without interruption and with all-sources handle topping $700 million for the second consecutive year.
Highlighted by Tiz the Law’s dominant performance in winning the 151st running of the Grade 1, $1 million Runhappy Travers, the meet was conducted without spectators and with only a limited number of essential personnel, horsemen and owners on-site due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All-sources handle for the 2020 summer meet totaled $702,535,468 compared to $705,343,949 wagered from all sources on Saratoga in 2019.
Average daily handle for the 40-day meet was $17,563,387. The 2019 meet, which was run across 39 days due to the cancellation of a full card due to weather, generated average daily handle of $18,085,742.
Pari-mutuel wagering funds the majority of the NYRA purse account, which is awarded to horsemen and, in turn, benefits hundreds of small businesses operating at NYRA tracks and others dependent on the thoroughbred racing industry.
A total of 409 races were run this summer including 226 on dirt and 183 on the turf. 32 races were taken off the turf due to weather. Average field size over the 409 races was 7.4. This compares to 403 total races run in 2019, including 225 on dirt and 178 on turf. 38 were taken off the turf due to weather. Average field size in 2019 was 7.9.
Tiz the Law Wins Travers
Pletcher, Ortiz and Klaravich Top Standings
Todd Pletcher, Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Klaravich Stables finished atop their respective standings with the trio finishing as the leading trainer, jockey and owner for the 40-day summer meet at Saratoga Race Course that concluded on Labor Day Monday.
“It doesn’t get old and it doesn’t get easier,” said Pletcher. “I’ve been fortunate to have won it that many times, but I still have a tremendous appreciation for how hard it is to do. I have a lot of great owners and I’m grateful for the opportunities with so many good horses.”
Pletcher returned to familiar territory, finishing as the leading trainer for the Saratoga summer meet for the 14th time in his illustrious career, tallying 32 wins.
Pletcher, who won his first Saratoga crown in 1998, won the H. Allen Jerkens award as the meet’s top conditioner for the first time since 2017, registering a record of 32-23-15 with 142 starters. His success ended reigning four-time Eclipse Award-winner Chad Brown’s run of two consecutive meet titles and three in four years. Brown finished second with 28 wins.
Among Pletcher’s highlights was saddling Halladay for his Grade 1 Fourstardave triumph on August 22 while racking up stakes wins with Spinoff [Alydar], Nonna Madeline [Summer Colony] and Moretti [Birdstone].
“Halladay winning the Fourstardave stands out for me,” said Pletcher. “Grade 1 wins are hard to come by and that was a big win.”
The 53-year-old Pletcher won six Saratoga training titles consecutively from 2010-15 and tallied his most wins in a summer meet with 40 in 2017.
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Ortiz Top Jock
Irad Ortiz, Jr. earned the Angel Cordero, Jr. Award for the third time overall and first since 2018, finishing with 59 wins to top younger brother Jose Ortiz [58 wins] and Joel Rosario  in third. Ortiz, Jr. won his first crown in 2015.
“It’s very special. My agent [Steve Rushing] did a great job and I’m very thankful for all the trainers and owners, without them I would not be here,” said Ortiz, Jr., who missed three days of racing late in the meet with a wrist injury. “After my injury, I had to take off a few days and they still named me on their horses and gave me the confidence and the opportunity.”
The 28-year-old native of Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico compiled a 59-47-43 record in 282 mounts, totaling earnings of more than $4.4 million with a winning percentage of better than 20 percent.
A memorable meet was highlighted by his winning ride aboard Improbable in the Grade 1 Whitney on August 1, part of a day in which he registered four wins in total. Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Improbable marked the second Whitney winner in three years for Ortiz, Jr., who also was victorious with Diversify in 2018.
Ortiz, Jr. won 10 stakes at the meet including graded scores in the Grade 3 Peter Pan aboard Country Grammer on Opening Day; the Grade 3 With Anticipation on Fire At Will; and the Grade 2 Honorable Miss with Come Dancing on Sunday.
Klaravich Stables Wins 13
Klaravich Stables was once again the top Saratoga owner, recording 13 wins, 11 runner-up finishes and 17 third-place efforts from 58 starts. The win total was three more than the next-closest competitors in Repole Stable. Headed by Seth Klarman, the stable again teamed with Brown for its meet highlights, which included the stakes scores of Selflessly in the Grade 3 Lake George and Domestic Spending in the Saratoga Derby Invitational.
Live racing returns to Belmont Park on Friday, September 18 for the 27-day fall meet, which includes 38 stakes worth $5.58 million in purse money. Following opening weekend at Belmont, live racing will be conducted Thursday through Sunday, with the exception of Columbus Day weekend, when live racing will be offered on Monday, October 12 and will resume on Friday, October 16. The meet runs through Sunday, November 1.
New York state currently requires all racetracks to operate without spectators in attendance to combat the spread of COVID-19.
America’s Day at the Races will present daily television coverage of the Belmont Park fall meet with coverage to air on FOX Sports and MSG Networks.