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Saratoga's 2017 meet sets wagering record

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Jockey Mike Smith celebrates after West Coast defeated the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes in the 2017 Travers Stakes at Saratoga race course. Credits: Adam Coglianese | NYRA
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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Based on figures released by the New York Racing Association, Saratoga 2017 was a banner racing season.

A total of $676.7 million was wagered during the 40-day meeting that started in mid-July at concluded on Labor Day at the venerable old race course. That lofty number established a new wagering record for a 40-day meeting that was set in 2015.

The 4.4 percent wagering increase over 2016 included an on-track handle of $157 million. That number includes wagering at the NYRA's other venues, Aqueduct and Belmont Park, and the New York State residents who wagered on Saratoga's races through the NYRA-operated NYRA Bets.

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"The 2017 Saratoga meet has truly been outstanding, and for that I would like to extend my gratitude to the fans, owners, trainers and jockeys who continue to make Saratoga so special," said NYRA CEO and President Chris Kay.

Despite the lack of a genuine superstar in the track's signature race, the Grade 1 Travers, the all-sources handle of $47.8 million recorded on Travers Day was the second highest for the day and an increase of five percent over last year when Arrogate burst on to the scene on his way to the Eclipse Award as horse-of-the-year.

In place of a superstar, the 148th running of the Travers featured the three winners of the Triple Crown races plus the Jim Dandy winner and the champion fillies Songbird in the Personal Ensign Stakes and Lady Eli in the Ballston Spa on the same card.

West Coast's gate-to-wire Travers win for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith lofted the Gary and Mary West color bearer into contention for year-end honors.

The NYRA, which has been returned to a privately appointed board of directors, offered 69 stakes worth $18.77 in purse money during its 40-day run.

Television played a magnet's role for Saratoga racing. Expanded distribution agreements with Fox Regional Sports in Southern California and Ohio expanded the audience for the the NYRA-produced Saratoga Live daily broadcasts to more than 75 million homes. That total included new markets for Saratoga races in Los Angeles, San Diego (the home market of the 2017 Breeders' Cup), Ohio and Kentucky.

During the meeting, NYRA and Fox Sports announced a three-year extension of the programming contract that will make Saratoga races available to a nation-wide audience through 2020.

Here's a five-year recap of Saratoga all-source wagering:

2017: $676.7 million.

2016: $647.3 million.

2015: $648.2 million.

2014: $571.1 million.

2013: $586.6 million.

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