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What's New At Saratoga Race Course In 2017

Saratoga Race Course is now open. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard was at the Spa Friday morning to see what’s new for the 2017 meet.

The thoroughbred racing season kicks off today in Saratoga Springs.

Making morning rounds of the famed property off Union Avenue was New York Racing Association President and CEO Chris Kay.

This is the first Saratoga meet since the re-organization of NYRA’s board. Returning as a private non-profit from state control earlier this year, much of the board and Kay are staying on to move the now-profitable entity forward.

But Kay said the change won’t affect the fun this summer.

“The idea is to enhance the fan experience, and as a fan or a guest, you won’t notice any of that regulatory or governance, you’ll just have a great time on track,” said Kay.

Since 2013, there has been $29 million of investment in the Saratoga grounds. This summer there’s a brand new play area in the backyard where parents can bring their kids. The historic paddock mutuel building has a new slate roof. There’s also a new elevator to the Clubhouse to go along with an escalator debuted last summer.

But Kay said one of the biggest upgrades is the hardest to see.

“And those are all these devices we have, spread all across the property that has a result of increasing capacity of our Wi-Fi by 250 percent,” said Kay. “And so therefore you come, turn on your phone, and you’ve got Wi-Fi immediately. And that’s especially important because this year we’re launching our own app called NYRA XP.”

The NYRA XP app is available now on various electronic devices.

NYRA Chief Information Officer Bob Hughes said the app has information on daily events and schedules at Saratoga.  But there’s also more for the more scrutinous race fan.

“Every schedule is here: the entries, results, scratches. You can even watch horse replays for specific races. You can go to the camera angels that we have. We have six different camera angles and through the app you’ll be able to pick each camera angle. Do you want the head-on shot? Do you want the pan-view? The big picture view?”

You can also use the app to find parking and your way around the complex. You can call a ride through Uber. Later in the summer, you’ll be able to order food from your seat through the app.

The app also connects users to the NYRA Bets portal, where bets can be placed at Saratoga or around the globe, and also the new NYRA Now video streaming service.

NYRA rolled out an earlier version of the app for the meet at Belmont in the spring. While Saratoga Race Course is not the first track in the country to gallop into the high-tech world, it is unique in its own way.

“The thing that’s special about the way we do this with NYRA is people who institute this type of technology are usually doing it at brand new venues. We’re doing it at the oldest sporting venue in America. That’s really cool for me,” said Hughes.

In the quiet hours between the now nicknamed “walking of the bulls,” where early bird fans snag their spots on the lawn, and the opening of the main gates at 11, the man with the best view in the house was walking in for another season: track announcer Larry Collmus. 

“Nothing quite matches this when you walk through these gates and you know there’s gonna be a huge crowd here and I’ve got myself ready for opening day and I’m excited,” said Collmus. “We’re going to have the crowd help out with ‘They’re off at Saratoga” when they come out of the gate and have a good time.”

For more information on the NYRA XP app visit: https://www.nyra.com/belmont/xp#

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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