Wednesday, 07 February 2024 13:46

Harness Racing Season Kicks Off at Saratoga Casino Hotel

Skyway Victor enters the winner’s circle on opening night of harness racing at the Saratoga Casino Hotel. Photo by Jonathon Norcross. Skyway Victor enters the winner’s circle on opening night of harness racing at the Saratoga Casino Hotel. Photo by Jonathon Norcross.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — If the Saratoga Race Course is akin to a ritzy cocktail bar, harness racing at the Saratoga Casino Hotel is more like a friendly neighborhood pub. Not everyone there knows each other, but it feels like they do. Security guards are on a first-name basis with drivers. Groups of friends crowd around tables to drink and chat while a slot machine symphony rings in the background. Inside, there’s the familiar scent of beer. Outside, a hint of cigar smoke floats through the chilly air. By the time the first race begins, the place is packed.

The 83rd season of harness racing kicked off last Saturday, continuing a tradition that began in 1941, when the Saratoga Raceway hosted its first opening night. This year’s schedule will include 150 racing programs through mid-Decemeber, with more than $17 million in purses. Two notable events happening this year are the New York Sire Stakes in June, which feature New York-bred horses racing for over $1 million in purses, and the 15th annual Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial Pace on July 20. 

“We are looking forward to a tremendous season of racing here at Saratoga Casino Hotel,” said Race Secretary Peter Iovino in a statement. “Our purses will attract a quality product for our racing fans.”

This season will feature a variety of promotions, including:

• Up to 15% bonuses on all winning wagers for SaratogaBets account holders
• On Sunday, February 18, the first 400 customers will receive long-sleeve t-shirts
• A chance to spin a prize wheel to win a $25-$100 free bet on Presidents’ Day

The winter, spring, and fall schedules will include matinee racing on Sundays, Mondays, and select Tuesdays. The summer schedule will feature racing on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturday evenings, with a post time of 5 p.m. Throughout the season, track announcer Mike Sardella will be posting his race picks and writing a biweekly column on saratogacasino.com. 

Aside from harness racing, the Saratoga Casino Hotel also features slot machines, electronic game tables, the Vapor nightclub, a Morton’s steakhouse, and full-service bars. Simulcast wagering is also available.

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