Excited fans swarmed trackside as jockeys and horses pounded across the finish line on opening day of Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack’s 52nd live thoroughbred racing season.
“Its great to have racing back as it brings added energy to the entire facility,” said FLGR Senior Director of Marketing Steve Martin. “It’s always nice to see lots of familiar faces and new fans on opening day, and the spectacular weather was a bonus after such a long winter. We’re looking forward to a great 2014!”
For many in attendance, Friday’s sunny sky was as welcome as the bugle call at post time.
“We’ve been planning for awhile — we’ve had some poor weather but opening day was a success,” said FLGR Handicapper David Mattice.” We got some nice weather today and a nice crowd out there, and people are winning some money. Everybody’s excited.”
The track maintenance team did an exceptional job preparing the track for opening day, Mattice said, and the horses were all running well.
“We’ve had a different trainer and different jockey win every race now, so everybody’s enjoying a piece of the pie,” Mattice said mid-afternoon on Friday.
On the two-legged side of the rail, the crowd was no less pleased.
Former FLGR employee and Palmyra resident Peter Decker arrived before the gates opened at 11:30. A two-dollar better, he was ahead after just a few races.
“It feels great — I’ve got enough to have a couple of beers afterward,” Decker said. “I don’t come over here expecting to win a lot of money. I come over on a nice day to have something to do. It’s good entertainment.”
Gates resident Frank Giancursio had already worked a shift at his job before he came for opening day.
“I only played for one race so far and I did not win,” he said. “But it’s a nice day — a good time with friends. It’s sign that spring is started for me.”
Frank Giancola of Rochester sat next to Giancursio, enjoying the sunshine, sipping a cold beer and waiting for the next race to begin.
“We’re having a good time as long as it’s nice weather — we don’t come if it’s bad,” he joked. “It doesn’t have to be great, but it can’t be cold and raining.”
Fortunately for horses, jockeys, trainers and fans, the opening day sun never blinked once.
“Look at the weather — it’s beautiful,” said Decker. “You’ve got a lot of people here, how much better can it get?”
An announcement from Mattice Saturday revealed that things could, in fact, get just a little better. After a strong start on Friday, track officials decided to cancel this Monday’s racing schedule. Due to extended and severe cold weather over the winter, delays in training resulted in fewer horses being ready for the start of the meet than normal, he said. The elimination of races Monday is designed to stabilize the remaining days of the schedule early in the season while other horses get into shape and additional ones arrive from warmer locales.
“After a great start to the season yesterday and today, it is difficult to make this decision,” said FLGR President and General Manager Chris Riegle. “However, it ultimately should lead to better racing for everyone involved as we move further into the 2014 meet.”
No other changes have been made to the racing calendar thus far. Live thoroughbred action will resume on Tuesday, April 22, with a 1:10 p.m. first post and will continue four days a week with dark days of Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, Mattice said. Thursdays will be added to the schedule beginning May 15. Post time for most days will be at 1:10 p.m. with the exception of Friday, which will start at 12:35 p.m. The season schedule after May 31 is pending approval from the New York State Gaming Commission, said Mattice.