In 2020, everything is different. If you start there, with those five simple words, then you’ll be able to handle all the change this year has brought. Or at least process the effects of it. The global health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has hit every aspect of life and Thoroughbred racing is no different.
Consider a wildly different Triple Crown schedule, shuttered tracks, spectatorless racing, canceled sales, decreased purses, altered racing calendars, backstretch restrictions and – yes – even the racing season at historic Saratoga Race Course and our newspaper The Saratoga Special.
This was supposed to be a celebratory 20th season for The Special, the newspaper we started in 2001. Instead, everything is different. The horses will still race. We will still publish. You will still read. We will still celebrate our 20th year. But, like everything else about this year, it will be different.
In short, The Saratoga Special for 2020 will be:
• Digital only. We’ll post PDF editions on our website thisishorseracing.com. You can read, scroll, print, share, post, enjoy. The electronic editions can be accessed anywhere you have internet via computer, tablet or mobile device.
• Twice a week. Like always, our first edition is Opening Day. This year, that’s Thursday, July 16. From there we’ll publish every Wednesday and Saturday through Sept. 9. See the calendar on the next page for more details.
• In between, we’ll cover things on the website with daily handicapping and some of the other content you’ve grown to love.
• As good as ever. The 2020 Special, an online publication we launched this spring as practice, a test and a promotional tool. Its impact can be seen in our increased website traffic and growing list of email subscribers.
The change of 2020 typically spurs one question; Why? For us, it’s relatively simple. Saratoga’s racing season will prohibit fans and limit other access this year. We count on those fans and that access for distribution and editorial coverage. Without them, publishing 34 editions over the course of eight weeks – an attraction appreciated by advertisers and readers alike – becomes problematic. Fewer publications, and more time between them, will help our production efforts and keep readers engaged.
From a pure economic standpoint, we know how many businesses are struggling and we have already seen many in racing trim budgets. Saratoga comes with expenses for our company – printing, staffing, renting office/housing, and so on. Though we have loyal, dedicated advertisers and generous support, the potential for decreased revenue forces us to think differently.
The 17 editions we have planned for Saratoga are half what we did in 2019, but they will be full of what we do best – quality content people like to read. This article was in our fourth edition of The 2020 Special this spring/summer. We finished up that project July 4, and we can continue to do racing and Saratoga justice with publications we are proud of and you will be proud to read.
And, we can always scale up. If conditions warrant, we’ll look at restarting the press at the Albany Times-Union and getting our – and your – hands covered in ink again this summer. We’d love to see a print edition for Travers Day Aug. 8. No promises, but it’s a nice thought. Sponsorships available, and distribution help appreciated.
So now what? Saratoga is still Saratoga. The racing will be world class. The site will be steeped in history. The sunrises will be glorious. Read our publications, sign up for the email notices, consider joining The Readers Club (more on that later), advertise your business, support our advertisers, spread the word and come along for the ride.
Just be prepared for different, but the same.