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Will Saratoga’s horse racing meet be extended to 7 weeks in 2019?

By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor

The horse-racing world is abuzz with speculation that the New York Racing Association might lengthen the 2019 thoroughbred horse-racing meet at Saratoga Race Course from its current six weeks to seven or eight.

Albany-area horse owner Roddy Valente started the speculation on Nov. 27 when he tweeted “NYRA not coming out with the 2019 calendar only proves one thing: They don’t have the eight weeks finalized for Saratoga. Get ready for eight weeks at the Spa.”

The Albany Times Union reported that NYRA board member Georgeanna Nugent said she was told by a NYRA executive committee member that an earlier start to the Saratoga meet would be discussed at a NYRA meeting on Dec. 5.

But NYRA spokesman Pat McKenna, responding to the WNYT report, said, “Any reporting to suggest that the NYRA Board of Directors met today to discuss the 2019 Saratoga season is absolutely incorrect.

“While we appreciate the interest that surrounds the Saratoga racing calendar, we will formally release the dates for the 2019 season at the appropriate time. This is and has been our standard practice for notifying the public.”

Mr. McKenna, in response to a Chronicle query, made the same statement.

Mark Bardack of Ed Lewi Associates, which works closely with NYRA during the Saratoga meet, said the final schedule was still being worked on, and that it “would be smart of you to wait” on any story.

If the rumors prove true, Saratoga would continue to have 40 days of racing, but it would take place five days a week instead of six.

A seven-week meet would likely begin on Friday, July 12, 2019, and run through Labor Day, Monday, Sept., 2, with racing on that final day, a source told The Chronicle.

NYRA oversees Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct race tracks. Because of expected construction of a new arena for hockey’s New York Islanders at Belmont Park, the thinking is that racing at Saratoga would begin at least one week earlier in July, with no racing on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The source The Chronicle talked to put the odds at 50/50 of a seven-week schedule but admitted to having no idea whether it will happen. The source said there has been speculation about extending the Saratoga meet for several years.

Last year’s Saratoga schedule was announced in mid-January, so the timing of the announcement is not unusual.

The Saratoga racing meet was 24 days in August for years. It was extended to 30 days in 1991, then to 34 days in 1994 and 1995. In 1997, it was extended to 36 days. It has been a 40-day meet since 2010.

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