SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- The 124th season of racing in the countryside will open today at the Saratoga Race Course and will continue for five weeks in an experiment to test the curative powers of this famous old spa for the ailments troubling thoroughbred racing.
The Saratoga season normally runs four weeks, but was extended by a week to lengthen the most successful part of the racing year in New York state in the continuing search for answers to the recession that has stalked the sport in recent years.
More than 27,000 people went to the Saratoga track every day on the average last year, which is double the attendance this season at Belmont Park. And the thoroughbred business would like to know whether they were drawn here by the charms of the countryside, the summer seasons of the ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra or the quality of the racing itself.
Whatever the reason, the racing will start with the customary burst of young talent in the opening-day fixture, the Schuylerville Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, a race that can launch careers.
The race is a Grade II stakes with 13 fillies racing six furlongs over a track they have never tested, and it is the first of five stakes races scheduled for the opening week alone.
The cast will be headed by Celeste Cielo, a daughter of Conquistador Cielo, the star colt of a decade ago. The filly made a splashy debut at Belmont Park in June when she set a track record by zipping five furlongs in 56 4/5 seconds.