Saratoga cracked $800 million in all-sources wagering handle for the first time in its storied history, ending its most successful summer meet with $815,508,063 in all-sources handle.

Saratoga 2021 wrap
Racing milestones, standout horses, riders, trainers, and a record handle — the 2021 Saratoga meet had it all this summer. (Image: Saratoga.com)

That represented a 15.6% increase over the track’s previous record of $705,343,949 set in 2019. Saratoga set its new record last Wednesday, with five racing days left in the meet.

Coming along for the ride was an average daily handle of $20,387,702, which marks the first time Saratoga surpassed $20 million in average daily handle. That milestone is a byproduct of paid attendance surpassing 1 million for the sixth consecutive season, not counting the pandemic year of 2020. Saratoga welcomed an average of 26,162 fans for its 40-day meet.

“This has been a summer reunion like never before, and we’re especially pleased that the return of fans has translated into strong business for downtown Saratoga Springs and the entire Capital Region community,” New York Racing Association President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said in a statement. “The summer meet at Saratoga is as strong as any point in its storied history.”

Saez breaks Irad Ortiz Jr.’s Saratoga meet hammerlock

Luis Saez enjoyed his strongest meet on the brutally competitive NYRA circuit, winning 64 races and capturing his first NYRA riding title. The 29-year-old Panamanian defeated three-time Eclipse Award-winning rider Irad Ortiz Jr. (56) by eight wins. Jose Ortiz finished third with 51 wins.

Saez racked up $6.2 million in meet earnings. He won two Grade 1 races aboard Bella Sofia in the Test Stakes, and on Essential Quality in the Travers. Saez piloted Essential Quality to two Saratoga victories, adding the Grade 2 Jim Dandy in July. Riding the likely Champion 3-year-old gave Saez two of his six graded-stakes titles.

“This is a tough spot, so winning this title is everything,” Saez said. “To win the Travers; racing at NYRA is the biggest deal right now, and we’re so blessed to be here. It means a lot … You see how tough it is to win a race here. To win 64 races here, it’s wonderful.”

Brown recaptures training title from Pletcher

Enjoying similar success was trainer Chad Brown, who won his fourth trainer title and his third in the last four meets. Brown captured 41 races, winning 23.2% of his starts. That bettered last year’s training champion, Todd Pletcher, by 10 wins. Mike Maker finished third with 25. Between the two, Brown and Pletcher own every Saratoga training title since 2010.

Brown’s horses amassed more than $4.5 million in meet earnings. He won six graded-stakes events, paced by two-time winners Technical Analysis and Public Sector. Each won a Grade 2 and a Grade 3.

“It’s really been one of the most gratifying meets we’ve had, given the fact we started out really slow with a lot of seconds and a ton of rain,” Brown said. “For the horses and my team to persevere and battle back has just made it such a gratifying meet … We’ve turned the meet around and had a remarkable run the last 14 days.

Cox, Asmussen share in the kudos

Brown’s chief client, Seth Klarman of Klaravich Stables, led the Saratoga owner standings for the fourth consecutive meet. Klaravich Stables rolled up 21 wins, one shy of the Saratoga single-meet owner record and eight ahead of Michael Dubb’s 13. Klaravich owns both Technical Analysis and Public Sector.

Two other highlights came out of the meet. Steve Asmussen became North America’s all-time winningest Thoroughbred trainer when he won his 9,446th race on the Aug. 7 Whitney Day undercard. Asmussen enjoyed a stellar meet, winning five Grade 1 races, including the Jockey Club Gold Cup (Max Player), the Forego (Yaupon), the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (Jackie’s Warrior), the Spinaway (Echo Zulu), and the Hopeful (Gunite).

Knicks Go won that Whitney, setting up trainer Brad Cox to check off the other highlight. Cox became just the third trainer in history to win both of Saratoga’s marquee meets, the Whitney and the Travers, with two different horses.

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