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Photos courtesy of Adam Coglianese/NYRA

The jockey colony once again will be in the spotlight at Saratoga Race Course with two opportunities for fans to show their appreciation for the racing industry’s top riders.  

New for 2012, the Jockey Autograph Book for the first time will be available at participating retailers and businesses in downtown Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Ballston Spa.

Fans are encouraged to pick up a copy of the 2012 Jockey Autograph Book in return for a voluntary contribution to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (limit one per customer, while supplies last).

The 2012 Jockey Autograph Book will be available downtown as the meet gets underway on Friday, July 20.

A joint initiative between The New York Racing Association, the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and the Saratoga Downtown Business Association, the three-way partnership is designed to offer easy, convenient access for fans to secure a copy of the popular autograph books, while generating funds for one of the racing industry’s signature causes.

“The jockey colony at Saratoga Race Course not only thrills us each day with outstanding racing, but also provides thousands of memories for families who visit the track each year. The Jockey Autograph Book has quickly evolved into a true family tradition at Saratoga,” NYRA President Ellen McClain said.

“We are happy to partner with the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and the Saratoga Downtown Business Association to support a cause dedicated to providing assistance to former jockeys who have suffered life-changing on-track injuries.”

The colorful 24-page book features a full page for each of the top 12 leading jockeys by wins at Saratoga in 2011, along with photos and facts plus blank pages for additional autographs. 

Featured riders include John Velazquez, Javier Castellano, Ramon Dominguez, and top female jockey Rosie Napravnik, among others. The book includes 10 of the current top 15 jockeys in the country by earnings, all of whom will be riding at Saratoga. Other popular Saratoga figures are also featured, including Sam the Bugler and a special page for champion retired jockey and current NYRA broadcast analyst Richard Migliore.

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Jockey John Velazquez, currently injured, is one of the riders featured in this year's Jockey Autograph Book. Velazquez has a well-earned reputation as a fan friendly rider.

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A young fan has her autograph book at the ready at the 2010 Saratoga meet.

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The interaction between riders and fans makes the Saratoga experience a special one for young racing fans.

Contest Highlights Hats Off to Saratoga Festival

The fashionable festivities surrounding opening weekend at Saratoga Race Course will be filled to the brim with excitement as the Spa caps its first weekend of the 144th summer meet with the 21st annual Hat Contest on Sunday, July 22.

This annual tradition is the highlight of the three-day Hats Off to Saratoga Festival, which celebrates the arrival of the summer racing season.

The contest will unfold on the track apron on July 22 as adults and kids compete in three categories — Uniquely Saratoga; Fashionably Saratoga; and, for younger trackgoers, Kreative Kids.

Registration will begin at noon under the grandstand where patrons will await their turn to flaunt fabulous headpieces. The competition will take place after the second, third and fourth races when participants parade in front of the judges for the chance to win a variety of Saratoga Race Course prizes.

“Kreative Kids” marks the first category of the afternoon and is reserved for those 18 and under. The stylish youngsters will be competing for gift cards, Saratoga Race Course merchandise, and other prizes to be announced.

The category appropriately entitled “Fashionably Saratoga” invites contestants to don their most elegant hats for the judges after the third race.

Following the fourth race, the most original artisans and architects will go head-to-head for the title of “Uniquely Saratoga.” Past efforts in this category have even included a battery-operated horse race atop a hat.

All contestants will compete for a grand prize and trophy, plus category prizes such as a betting voucher, gift cards, and other great prizes.  The panel of judges will be announced soon. 

The Hat Contest is the culmination of opening weekend at Saratoga Race Course, which kicks off on Friday, July 20.

For more information about Saratoga Race Course, call (518) 584-6200 or log onto www.nyra.com. For additional information about events at Saratoga Race Course, visit www.nyra.com/saratogaevents.

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