“We missed it a ton like everybody else did, and this year is special," racing fan Ken Cooper Jr. said. "We got up here at quarter after 7.”

Nearly two years after his last trip to Saratoga Race Course, Cooper says there was zero chance he was missing opening day.

“I think it was just the excitement of being back, like everybody else is excited. We’re excited to see the horses, the jockeys and most importantly, the people,” Cooper said.

A year ago, the spread of coronavirus meant that Cooper and thousands of other loyal racing fans were locked out as the historic track stayed closed to spectators.

“We watched it from home," Cooper said. "I mean, we were excited because it was opening day, but you want to be here. You want to enjoy that atmosphere of being in Saratoga.”

With fans finally allowed back inside the gates, the Spa seems to be back to its old pre-pandemic self.

That means Charlie Ryan was able to resume his annual pilgrimage from Green Island.

“It was a disaster, and now, I guess, we’re going onto the other side of it, hopefully. Hopefully, we’re going to recover,” Ryan said.

For Lilly Morris and her kids, the reopening of Saratoga literally gave them something to dance about after missing last year’s trip from Ohio.

“We were disappointed we couldn’t make it last year because of COVID, but we’re here and excited," Morris said. "We’re glad it’s opened.”

With the season finally underway and devoted fans like Cooper once again able to see it up close, last summer seems to feel like a distant memory.

“Definitely worth the wait," Cooper said. "Nothing better than this at all.”