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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Harness Racing, Inc. (SHRI) and American Gaming Group, LLC (AGG) announced May 20 that they have mutually agreed to terminate an acquisition agreement under which the parties had agreed that SHRI would acquire the operating assets of Wildwood Casino in Cripple Creek, CO from AGG. Both parties cite that the termination, although disappointing, was necessary based on the current economic impacts resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis. The pandemic has resulted in a need for each company to focus on its respective businesses, and has impacted the companies’ ability to realize the benefits of the transaction during these unprecedented times. SHRI owns and operates Saratoga Casino Hotel, in Saratoga Springs, featuring over 1,200 slots, electronic table games, a live entertainment venue, a variety of dining options and bars, live harness racing, and simulcast wagering. SHRI also owns and operates Saratoga Casino Black Hawk, located in the historic town of Black Hawk, CO featuring over 425 slot machines, 10 table games, a full-service restaurant, bar and a variety of guest services. SHRI is also a partner with Delaware North Companies in the operation of Gideon Putnam Resort and Roosevelt Baths in Saratoga Springs.  Additional information about Saratoga Casino Hotel can be found at Reprinted with permission of Saratoga Today

With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down casinos across the U.S., Saratoga Harness Racing, Inc. and American Gaming Group, LLC, the owner of Wildwood Casino, decided to terminate the previously announced acquisition of Wildwood Casino. Both parties deemed the termination necessary because of the current economic impacts of the COVID-19 health crisis. "At this time, we believe it's in the best interest of both companies, and our respective casinos, to cancel the deal so we can focus on doing what's best for our casinos and our players," Joe Canfora, the owner of Wildwood Casino, said. "At Wildwood, we're taking this time to develop and implement an entire health and safety strategy that goes above and beyond state and local guidelines to better protect our players and provide a comfortable, safe environment for gaming." Among the new health and safety practices, Wildwood will have on-demand cleaning crews moving throughout the casino to clean surfaces as needed and as requested by players. The casino will also be reducing its operating hours to allow for extended, deep cleaning every night. Additionally, management is looking into UV light technologies for potential air filtration and other newly discovered, best practices for protecting patrons from the virus. "This is all about the safety and security of our players and our employees," Wildwood Casino's Assistant General Manager Matt Andrighetti said. In mid-April, Wildwood distributed a digital survey to their player database asking for thoughts and feelings regarding the current pandemic and what will be important when returning to the casino. Close to 1400 players participated in the survey. "We received a lot of great input from our players, and now, we're using their feedback to create a comprehensive health and safety plan that surpasses the county and state, mandatory precautions," Andrighetti said. Also, as the newest casino building in Cripple Creek, Wildwood features high ceilings and a single-level gaming floor to offer players a more spacious, less cramped environment, he said. Along with extensively preparing for the casino's reopening, Wildwood has multiple other initiatives that are pushing forward despite the coronavirus pandemic. Construction for Wildwood's 104-room, $14-million hotel has continued throughout the crisis and will continue, Andrighetti said. Wildwood's sports betting will be launching soon. And, Wildwood is rebranding their in-casino restaurant, Joe's Diner, to feature a new theme, design and menu to cater to players and provide great seating for Wildwood's sports betting players.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — While the pandemic keeps harness racing fans guessing about the prospects for the sport, grooms and trainers at the Saratoga Casino Hotel’s harness track must still care for the nearly 400 horses in the barns there — with workers’ pay being cut or the future of their jobs in question. “They are going on and continuing to jog and train the horses,” said Tom McTygue, president of the Saratoga Harness Horseperson’s Association. “They are keeping the horses conditioned and continuing just as if they were racing. But the owners aren’t making any money. If we don’t get racing pretty soon, I don’t know.” The Saratoga Casino Hotel where the harness track is situated suspended racing after March 21 indefinitely, when the season normally runs from March 1 to mid-December. The week before the suspension, the horses ran with no fans in the stands. The track did, however, take bets off-track. Director of Racing John Matarazzo said they raced like that so the horse owners could earn some income to pay drivers, trainers and grooms — the people who care for the horses by walking, saddling, brushing and feeding them. “It went OK,” Matarazzo said. “It’s not the ideal circumstance without fans. We had some business, not a lot. We did it to get the horsemen some purse money. If (the horses) run, the horsemen get some money in their pockets.” The Horseperson’s Association, which is meeting more often than normal during the pandemic to discuss ways to help, has started their efforts with the grooms. They have been giving the 50 or so people who go to work every day — which includes 30 people who live in a dorm on the backstretch — a $50 coupon per week for food from the track kitchen. And this week, the owners got some relief from Chatham Agway, which will donate feed for a week to all the horses that live in the barns. “I partnered with the feed suppliers,” said Paul O’Neil, general manager of Chatham Agway. “Everyone has been very generous. We wanted to make a gesture because they lost every avenue to make money and still have to feed they animals. They are really up against it.” McTygue said his association will also consider on a weekly basis how to help the 50 or so trainers at the track, as well as drivers veterinarians, farriers (hoof specialists) and farmers who supply the hay—all of whom continue to work but might not get paid if the races continue to be shutdown. The group will meet this Saturday to further discuss these matters, including the cost of feed. “The horses are being fed this week,” McTygue said. “We will see what we have to do for next week.” Meanwhile, the backstretch and paddock are on lock down. Only those who work on the backstretch are allowed to be there. And it’s not just people. Owners are not allowed to bring any horse up from the Yonkers Raceway or any track south of Albany. The horseperson’s association also purchased a used trailer to house any groom who gets infected with the virus, so that they have a place to convalesce and be quarantined. The shutdown on the harness backstretch is the same as at New York Racing Association’s Belmont Park, where 585 workers — many of who come to the Saratoga Race Course — live. NYRA’s spokesman said that the track “is restricted to only employees and workers who are essential to the ongoing training operation. The property can now only be accessed at one specific gate where personnel are subjected to standard health assessment performed by EMTs that includes a temperature check.” Horses outside of the area are also restricted to those with “extenuating circumstances subject to the approval of Martin Panza, NYRA’s senior vice president of racing operations.” Everyone there also must adhere to social distancing protocols and clean and sanitize heavily trafficked and touched common areas. Belmont Park’s racing season was originally scheduled to begin April 24 and conclude July 12, but has now been delayed. Brad Maione, the spokesman for the state Gaming Commission, said that any commission decision on reopening tracks statewide will be “consistent with executive direction.” In other words, it is up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Back at the harness track, management is putting together a proposal for the state Gaming Commission to consider how the track can reopen. In addition to racing without bettors in the stands, the harness track management is considering stagger races so that fewer people and horses are waiting in the paddock area. “It’s not a fix-all, but at least it would keep people separated,” said Wayne Kellogg, owner of Kellogg Racing Stables in Hudson Falls. “If you are in the paddock and can’t keep six feet, you can be required to wear a mask. It can be enforced in the paddock.” Kellogg said he’s lucky that he saves much of his purse money and has enough to care for his eight horses and pay his staff through the first half of the summer. But by August, he doesn’t know how he will make ends meet. Still he feels lucky compared to other owners who don’t have the cash on hand to pay grooms and trainers. McTygue said though its hard now, it could get worse if someone gets sick in the dorms. “If that happens, I’m afraid we are in trouble,” McTygue said. Reprinted with permission of The Post Star

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (March 16, 2020) - Saratoga Casino Hotel announced today that it is temporarily shutting down effective as of 8pm tonight. Although there have been no known cases of COVID-19 at the property, Saratoga Casino Hotel officials said they have decided to close after consulting with the New York State Gaming Commission. The casino and simulcast wagering areas of the property will close, however the hotel will remain open and harness racing will resume as scheduled on Wednesday, March 18 without fans in the stands. Fans can wager remotely on the races on or on any other New York State approved online waging platform. Morton's The Steakhouse will also remain open offering take-out and delivery service between noon-8pm daily. Employees impacted by the shutdown will receive 2 weeks' pay during the suspension. "We will continue to monitor the situation and carefully follow the advice and guidance of the state and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)." said Alex Tucker, General Manager of Saratoga Casino Hotel. Madison Winters Marketing Coordinator

Certify (Credit Winner) lengthened his impressive local harness racing win streak on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The four year old was assigned post six in the six-horse Open Trot and driver Jay Randall was tasked with piloting the talented trotter who came out of the Melissa Beckwith barn for the first time. Certify won his first start for new connections last September when he prevailed in the $55,000 New York Sire Stakes Excelsior Series Final and has gone on a tear at the Spa ever since. Bringing a six-race win streak into Sunday's try into the $15,000 Open Trot, Certify was the public's 6-5 betting favorite and got away last in the feature. Randall was patient with the favorite who began to make his move after a half mile of 56.3. Certify progressed quickly and overpowered the race's leader past three quarters of 1:26.3 before turning on the afterburners. Shorething Fashion (Shawn Gray) mirrored the move of Certify, following his cover until the chase proved futile. Certify stopped the timer in 1:56.2 for his second Open win of the season and his seventh consecutive Saratoga victory. Shorething Fashion was the runner-up for the third consecutive week while Cartier Volo (Brian Cross) earned the show spot. Certify, who is owned by William Hartt and Marc Reynolds, paid $4.50 to win and led an exacta and triple that returned $15.60 and $130.50, respectively. Live racing is set to resume on Wednesday at Noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Franco Tristan N (McArdle) prevailed in his local debut last month at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Amanda Kelley-trained pacer was the 1-9 favorite after drawing the rail in that start in a conditional race. Following a third place finish last week, Franco Tristan N moved up into the Open Pace on Saturday night. Billy Dobson sat behind the eight year old New Zealand invader in the $15,000 as they sat the pocket to the track's defending Pacer of the Year Crockets Cullen N (Larry Stalbaum). Crockets Cullen N has a ten-race local win streak in the Open snapped earlier two weeks ago and didn't factor in last weekend's installment of the Open. Still, the nine year old was the race's 3-5 betting favorite on Saturday in a five-horse field. Franco Tristan N got the perfect trip riding the coattails of the favorite in a first half that went in just 57.3. The Kelley trainee flew up the inside in the stretch before stopping the timer in 1:54.1 to record his first Open win. Betterlatethnnever (Jay Randall) came on to finish second for the second straight week in the Open while Crockets Cullen N had to settle for third. Franco Tristan N paid $8.00 to win and led an exacta that returned $39.20. Franco Tristan N is owned by the Scheigert Racing Stable of Saratoga Springs. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon with a matinee kicking off at noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

The field for the Fillies and Mares Open was reduced to three participants after a host of harness racing scratches on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. In a race offering win betting only, Miss Irish Rose A (Larry Stalbaum) was the betting favorite in a feature that went for a purse of $15,000. Bontz N (Shawn Gray), a nominee for Pacing Mare of the Year at the Spa in 2019, wound up getting the pocket trip to Miss Irish Rose A in what was her second start back this season. Invader Fool Me Again (Mitch Cushing) got away third in the compact field of three as Miss Irish Rose A cruised through a first half in 58.3. Bontz N got geared up to go around the final turn and cruised past Miss Irish Rose A in the stretch to record the victory in 1:56. Miss Irish Rose A was the runner-up and has now finished first or second in all four of her tries in the Fillies and Mares Open at the Spa this season. Bontz N, who paid $4.60 to win, is owned by April Aldrich of Greenfield Center, NY and is trained by Gary Levine who came into the day atop the trainer standings after about a month of the racing season at the Spa. Live racing is scheduled to resume on Saturday evening at Saratoga with a 5:00pm first post.   Mike Sardella

Young pacer Flow With Joe (Roll With Joe) had a terrific harness racing season as a two year old in 2019. The Jody Weidman trainee recorded seven wins in eight starts last year while competing mostly in the New York Sire Stakes Fair Circuit. Flow With Joe followed up his good-looking freshman campaign with a fast third-place finish in his seasonal debut at the Spa in February. Last Wednesday (March 4), the sophomore went coast-to-coast to record his first victory of the season. Appearing maybe a bit green on the front end, Flow With Joe was all out to win in 2:00.2 as his race's 1-2 favorite. This Wednesday, the young pacer stepped up in company and squared off against a strong group in a $6,000 race for colts and geldings. Dan Cappello Jr piloted the Weidman trainee who was fifth in the six-horse field turning for home but displayed his versatility as the youngster who won on the engine last week came flying home to outclose his rivals to repeat on Wednesday. The victory came in 1:57.4 for Flow With Joe who pulled off a bit of an upset while dismissed at odds of 9-1. The win was one of two on the afternoon for the eight-time Saratoga driving champion Cappello who has enjoyed a solid start to his 2020 campaign. With his Wednesday win, Flow With Joe has now prevailed in nine of his eleven lifetime starts and could be poised for another solid season in NY Sire Stakes competition. Live racing continues on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post time set for noon. There is a $5,000 guarantee in the Pick Five pool on Thursday with the Pick Five beginning in the afternoon's first race.   Mike Sardella

Mister Muscle won the Open Trot at Saratoga Casino Hotel five times in 2019 after debuting here out of the Melissa Beckwith harness racing stable. As a five year old last season, Mister Muscle (Muscle Mass) enjoyed a career year winning ten races and finishing second eight times en route to just dollars shy of $100,000 in earnings. Now in his six year old campaign, Mister Muscle made his third start of 2020 in Sunday afternoon's feature for trotters and this time reinsman Jimmy Devaux got the driving assignment. Mister Muscle, who finished second in his first start back a few weeks ago, moved right out to the front end in Sunday's $15,000 Open and though he worked hard to get the first quarter in 27.3, he got a bit of a breather in the middle half before checking in at three quarters in 1:27.1. Shorething Fashion (Shawn Gray), who had a first and a second place finish in his first three Open tries at the Spa this season, sat the pocket to Mister Muscle on Sunday and gave him a bit of a scare in the stretch. The favored Cash Me Out (Brett Crawford) was looking to go back-to-back in the Sunday feature but put in just a mild bid before leveling off late in the mile. Mister Muscle stopped the timer in 1:56.2 to record his first win of the year besting Shorething Fashion who wound up as the runner-up for the second straight week. Cash Me Out had to settle for the third spot. Mister Muscle, who is owned by Patricia Scheeberger of Valatie, NY, was the 9-5 second choice in the wagering and paid $5.80 to win. The exacta with Shorething Fashion second returned $21.60. Jimmy Devaux piloted three winners on Sunday's card. Live racing resumes at Saratoga on Wednesday afternoon with first post time set for noon. There is a $5,000 guarantee in the Pick Five pool on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the month of March. The Pick Five begins in the first race of the day. Mike Sardella

Americanprimetime (American Ideal) recorded his second consecutive victory in the Open Pace on Saturday evening at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Rick Dane Jr trainee broke the lengthy local win streak of rival Crockets Cullen N last Saturday (February 29) when he went coast-to-coast in the $15,000 Open. This weekend, with Jimmy Devaux once again in the sulky, Americanprimetime was the public's top choice in the feature when bet down to odds of 3-5. The favorite wasted little time powering out to the lead and once he got there, he proved to be tough as nails. Americanprimetime paced his first half in 56.3 before being confronted by Crockets Cullen N who suffered his first defeat in his last eleven tries when he was the runner-up to Americanprimetime this week. The journey got the best of Crockets Cullen N on Saturday and the Spa's defending Pacer of the Year faded from the scene around the final turn as Americanprimetime drew away. Going back-to-back, Americanprimetime stopped the timer in 1:52 for the fastest time of the young meet at Saratoga. Betterlatethnnever (Jay Randall) sat the pocket to the winner before finishing second while Topville Olympian (Phil Fluet) came on to earn the show spot for the second straight week in the local feature. The exacta and triple in the Open paid $27.80 and $146.50, respectively. Americanprimetime is owned by the Rock&Roll Stable of Chicago, IL. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon beginning at noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Robyn Camden (Art Professor) has thrived in her limited starts at Saratoga Casino Hotel over the course of her young career and on Thursday afternoon, the Rene Allard trainee returned to the Spa to compete in the $15,000 Fillies and Mares Open. Assigned post six in the six-horse feature, Robyn Camden cruised out to the front-end in a fast first quarter paced in 27.1. Miss Irish Rose A (Larry Stalbaum), who owned a win and a second in the two installments of the feature for distaffers in 2020 leading up into Thursday's card, had made the top before yielding to Robyn Camden in the early going. Those two drew off from the competition past three quarters and it appeared that the public's top two choices in the wagering were poised for a good battle in the stretch. Robyn Camden put those thoughts to bed pretty quickly as reinsman Billy Dobson asked the 4-5 favorite to crank up the speed around the final turn and the results were instant. Robyn Camden paced away to win decisively in 1:54.2 triumph while Miss Irish Rose A held off longshot Firstup (Shawn Gray) to earn the place spot. Robyn Camden won her previous try at Saratoga when she scored in the local Open during closing week of the 2019 meet, dominating the competition en route to a victory by better than four lengths. On Thursday, the favorite paid $3.80 to win and led an exacta and triple that returned $7.80 and $29, respectively. Robyn Camden is owned by Jason O'Sullivan of Dublin, Ireland. Live racing resumes on Saturday evening with a first post time set for 5pm. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway

Harness racing trainer Jackie Greene has a pair of training titles to her credit at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The trainer of the Horse of the Year at the Spa on multiple occasions, Greene used driver Frank Coppola Jr. as her stable's regular reinsman for the last several seasons. With Coppola not in the mix anymore, Greene has used Shawn Gray on all of her horses in the first couple weeks of the 2020 racing season. On Wednesday, Greene and Gray teamed up for a pair of victories including one in a co-featured $9,000 trotting event for New York sired trotters. Deplorable Tom (Credit Winner) was acquired by the Kellogg Racing Stables this winter and after a few unsuccessful starts at the Meadowlands, the four year old made his local debut out of the Greene stable on Wednesday. Gray moved Deplorable Tom out to the early lead and they faced just a mild threat from the race's favorite before drawing off to score in 1:59.1. The Kellogg Racing's Brad's Buddy (Heston Blue Chip) put in a career-best performance on Wednesday as he posted a new lifetime mark. Brad's Buddy worked hard in the early going to overcome post seven but after getting through the opening quarter in 27.1 didn't face a significant challenge before stopping the timer in 1:54.3 to set a new career mark as Greene went two-for-two on Wednesday with new regular driver Shawn Gray at the helm. Live racing continues on Thursday afternoon with a matinee beginning at Noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Sunday's feature at Saratoga Casino Hotel was the $15,000 Open Trot and it went the way of an Open first timer. Certify (Credit Winner) was a winning machine in 2019 spending much of his year competing in New York Sire Stakes races. Whether it was traveling the Fair Circuit or racing in Excelsior competition, Certify thrived throughout his three year old campaign. A late season purchase by owners William Hartt and Marc Reynolds, Certify paid immediate dividends for his new connections when he won the $50,000 Excelsior Final contested here at Saratoga in September. Following a win last Sunday in his seasonal debut, Certify was up into the Open this week and wound up as the public's 1-2 betting favorite with Jay Randall in the sulky. The four year old trotter cruised out to the early lead in the six-horse feature and traveled unopposed for the majority of the mile before Randall asked the budding star to crank up the speed around the final turn. Certify's response was instant and he drew away to be a decisive winner in the Open stopping the timer in 1:55.4 to move his local win streak to six and record his first career Open Trot victory. Volare (Billy Dobson) sat the pocket to the winner before finishing as the runner-up while Cash Me Out (Brett Crawford) came on to earn the show spot. The exacta and triple in the feature paid $14.20 and $61, respectively. Certify is trained by Lance Hudson who has six wins and a second in his seven starts since acquiring the talented trotter in September of last year. Live racing resumes on Wednesday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post time set for 12 Noon.   Mike Sardella

Miss Irish Rose A (McArdle) sprung the upset in Thursday's harness racing feature pace at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Larry Stalbaum owns and drives the Tracy Tarantino-trained distaffer who wound up getting a pocket ride in the $15,000 Fillies and Mares Open. Miss Irish Rose A sat the two-hole to Yonkers invader Sandy's Beach (Billy Dobson) who made an early beeline to the lead in the feature. The race's favorite, The Charging Moa N (Jay Randall), was last of the five pacing mares when she made her move approaching the three quarter pole but her chase proved futile. Miss Irish Rose A popped the pocket on Sandy's Beach around the final turn before coming on to score the upset at odds of 16-1. Sandy's Beach held second while Bye Bye Felicia (Mark Beckwith) came on to finish third. Miss Irish Rose A paid $34.60 in her upset win and led an exacta that returned $93.50. The win was one of two on the day for Stalbaum and Tarantino as their Gina Grace N (Bettor's Delight) made good at odds of 1-5 to record her first victory of the season. Miss Irish Rose A joins stablemate Crockets Cullen N as Tarantino trainees to win an Open during the first week of the 2020 campaign at the Spa. Live racing resumes on Sunday afternoon with a matinee beginning at noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

There were co-features on the Wednesday afternoon harness racing card at Saratoga Casino Hotel for New York sired trotters. Each division went for a purse of $9,000. Monticello invader Chip Chip Conway (Conway Hall) was the afternoon's most decisive winner as defending leading driver Billy Dobson piloted the Gary Messenger-trained trotter to a four-plus length victory in 1:59.4 in the first of the co-features. Chip Chip Conway wrapped up his 2019 campaign with back-to-back victories at Monticello and didn't wait long to put one in the win column in his '20 season as he made good at odds of 2-5 on Wednesday. The second co-feature saw Blackjack (Credit Winner) go coast-to-coast in his first start since joining the stable of Jordan Derue. Blackjack prevailed in five of the last six tries to wrap up his '19 campaign and cruised to a wire-to-wire win in 2:00.4 in his $9,000 division on Wednesday with Derue in the sulky. Blackjack paid $6.50 to win as his race's second choice in the wagering. The favored Guilty Desire (Billy Dobson) made a break after the start and wound up closing to be the runner-up to Blackjack despite coming from last following the early miscue. Live racing continues on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post time set for 12 Noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratofa Raceway  

The President's Day matinee card at Saratoga Casino Hotel was highlighted by the season's first Open Pace. The $15,000 Open featured a field of five with all of its participants coming from Australia or New Zealand. A familiar face emerged victorious as Crockets Cullen N (Christian Cullen) lengthened his unprecedented win streak in the local Open prevailing for the tenth consecutive time in the Saratoga feature. Larry Stalbaum owns and drives the Tracy Tarantino trainee who was named Pacer of the Year at Saratoga in 2019 after winning the Open Pace in nine consecutive starts. Assigned the outside post on Monday, Crockets Cullen N got away last but wound up dropping in second behind leader Bettors Fire N (Ron Cushing) who paced a first half in 55.3. Crockets Cullen N benefited from some confusion in the race where two rivals interfered with each other allowing the track's defending top pacer to tuck into the pocket before breezing by to win in 1:54.2. Bettors Fire N finished second while Don Domingo N (Mark Beckwith) earned the show spot to compete a top trio of New Zealanders. Crockets Cullen N paid $6.90 to win as his local streak grew to ten. The exacta with Bettors Fire N second returned $16.40. Live racing takes place this week on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon beginning each day at 12 Noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

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