By Vic Zast
Red and white are the colors of Saratoga Race Course, but green is the color of money.
That’s why this 140-year-old racetrack, recently strapped to the brink of bankruptcy along with the other New York Racing Association tracks, will be opening today with a new, air-conditioned luxury box on the finish line and a “Restaurant Row” located opposite the Nathan’s hot dog stand near the path that the jockeys take to the silks room. It will be more tempting than ever for the lean, hungry athletes to stop walking.
Five local fine-dining establishments have set up an outpost where fans can buy a tasty meal for under $7. In keeping with the green theme, all implements and tableware will be eco-friendly.
“The service is recyclable, bio-degradable or compostable,” said Hillary Van Alstyne, a self-described “go-to gal” at Hattie’s popular chicken emporium. Meanwhile, fry cook Nicole Hamilton had the quote that got down to the nitty-gritty. “Downtown you can’t get Hattie’s until dinner. So if you have a fixin’ for chicken, now you have it,” she said.
NYRA must have gotten lucky by drawing the one guy from Saratoga’s Historical Preservation Society with poor taste, or if not, then the linoleum salesman. “Restaurant Row” isn’t what Martha Stewart would consider picturesque. It has a corrugated metal roof atop a wooden shack that’s supposed to look like a barn at Horse Haven. The worst part of the design is the slabs of plastic sidewalls decorated with faux brick, make-believe subway tiles and Lincoln logs.
On the other hand, the finish line luxury box, which is a 360-degree glass enclosed rectangle, makes the most of unusable space and, without room for the decorators to tinker much, is fine and dandy. What’s green here is the $15,000 tab for a table for four that high rollers will pay for the season. Users will have to watch the races on television, but they’ll have a perfect view of the unsaddling area. At the same time, passersby, snoops and curiosity-seekers will have a perfect view of the users.
Because this is a racetrack, Saratoga will open with the usual grumbling. Some people, even those who sit in the grandstand, are already complaining that NYRA took 38 clubhouse boxes away from locals and others who don’t have the “skin in the game” that some horse owners have.
The weather forecaster is calling for rain, thus creating a possibility that five races scheduled for the turf will be moved to the dirt for the opener. State-breds will race four times out of the ten times the starter flips the switch on the starting gate. Ocean Colors, wearing a red number one saddle cloth, not a green one, is favored in the $100,000 Schuylerville (gr. 1).