Opening Day Eve, an unofficial holiday observed by those for whom Christmas comes in July when Saratoga Race Course opens, lacked its usual excitement and anticipation last year. The pandemic was only four months old, masks were still required everywhere, travel was forbidden, and large gatherings of people, even outdoors, were a non-starter under state guidelines.
There was racing at Saratoga last summer, but the historic grandstand and lush backyard were empty; a limited number of owners were permitted in only when their horses were running, and locals who had hoped to glimpse of a race from outside the fences were thwarted by semi-opaque fabric installed in order to obstruct views and prevent gatherings on the sidewalk.
To the delight and relief of the hundreds of thousands of people unable to partake in Saratoga racing a year ago, no such restrictions will be in place this year. While not everything at the track will be quite back to normal—there will, for example, be separate sections for vaccinated and unvaccinated people—the New York Racing Association and annual Saratoga customers are planning for a racing season that will be comfortingly familiar.
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