With wagering declines and economic woes permeating the sport of Thoroughbred racing, the folks at NYRA were, no doubt, braced for more bad news when Saratoga officially opened yesterday. To add to their apprehension the weather forecast called for rain…

We imagine they were ultimately both surprised and delighted by the crowd of 25,444 and weather that saw sunshine for the first four races.

The crowd of 25,444 that helped track announcer Tom Durkin start the meet with the now traditional “They’re off at Saratoga” first race break call was an increase of 40 percent over last year’s crowd of 18,127 (when it rained all day.) The on-track crowd wagered $3,651,221, an increase of 30 percent over last year’s $2,813,982. All-sources handle was $14,216,133, an increase of 24 percent over last year’s $11,431,845.

There were 96 betting interests on Wednesday’s card, compared with 69 betting interests last year when the races were run over a sloppy main track and all five turf races were moved to the main track. Wednesday, only the nightcap was moved from the turf to the dirt because of rain.

The highlight of the day was Hot Dixie Chick’s 6 1/4-length romp in the Grade 3, $111,000 Schuylerville Stakes for juvenile fillies. After showing blazing speed in her first two starts – including setting a track record at Churchill Downs for five furlongs – Hot Dixie Chick demonstrated the ability to rate in the Schuylerville.

Hot Dixie Chick (by Dixie Union, out of Above Perfection by Excess (IRE) KY) covered six furlongs in 1:10.18 and returned $5.30 as the favorite.