A year ago we were making big plans for the 20th season of The Saratoga Special. Oh, it was going to be great – marketing, events, contests, special content items, a book and a great time had by all.
And then we were just trying to survive, mostly figuratively but somewhat literally, as the Covid-19 pandemic swept the country, the world and even our little corner of it. A few people close to us got sick (all recovered), some others a little further removed weren’t so lucky and we hope we’re all on the other side of the risk now. Vaccines and free 5G for everybody.
Like businesses everywhere, we certainly felt the impact. Reminder, don’t try selling advertising during a pandemic, but we reacted, adapted, made on-the-fly decisions and simply got from one day to the next thanks to a loyal base of clients and some wildly loyal readers. From this corner, thank you.
The 20th Special happened in 2020, but you’d be hard-pressed to call it a celebration as we went without printing and with 17 total editions as racing at Saratoga Race Course went on without spectators. Sean and I stayed home, Tom Law held down the fort (and everything else) in Saratoga along with a tiny cast including marketing whiz kid Sami Loud, writers Paul Halloran, Terry Hill and Mary Eddy and photographers Tod Marks and Susie Raisher. The season did not include 34 newspaper editions, star-studded yearling sales or throngs of racing fans outside the gates each morning. But we made it through.
And here we go for 2021. Call it a hybrid season. We’re aiming for print and digital distribution, counting on 20 editions and banking on support from advertisers and readers to make it all work. Sean and I will be there, that’s the plan anyway. Of course, Tom will be there. He lives there. Sami sounds like she got a real job after graduating from Quinnipiac. Paul, Terry, Tod, Mary and a few others will surely be part of the team. The rest? Well, as Mom used to say when we pestered her about going swimming at our aunt’s house, “We’ll see.”
Our publishing season starts on Opening Day, Thursday, July 15. We’ll follow that with Saturday, July 17 and then go Wednesday and Saturday for the full meet plus a much-anticipated Sales Week run of six consecutive editions Aug. 6-11. Get tied on. That streak starts with the Hall of Fame induction ceremony Friday, jumps right into massive cards of racing (headlined the Whitney on Saturday, the Saratoga Oaks on Sunday) over the weekend, Fasig-Tipton’s yearling sales Monday and Tuesday and a Wednesday cool-down day wrapping up everything and looking ahead just a little. Travers Day is Aug. 28 and the stakes lineup barely fits on the calendar page (as usual). Our final edition is slated for Saturday, Sept. 4 – Jockey Club Gold Cup Day in Saratoga (that doesn’t sound right, but we’re in if NYRA’s in).
Twenty editions, some fans in the stands, owners, trainers, jockeys, backstretch employees, horses, horses, horses and all the buzz that comes with them? Sounds like Saratoga to us. Bring it on.
All of it will depend on Covid news continuing to trend in the right direction and the support of advertisers and readers. We can’t quite see going back to the full schedule of 2019, not right away, but we’re excited about 2021 and can’t wait to get to work.
See you in Saratoga.
And here’s the sales pitch. If you’re an advertiser, would like to be one or know somebody who should be one, check out our 2021 Advertising Guide and Publishing Calendar. We witnessed MASSIVE increases in online readership last year and look forward to mixing that energy with our traditional print product this summer while helping everybody feel a little bit better about their favorite summer race meet (we know, we know, Del Mar’s pretty cool too and we grew up thinking Delaware Park was pretty close to heaven so…).
The Special delivers value to advertisers so if you’ve got something to sell, someone to thank or an idea to share, we’re the place. Thanks for being there.