Saratoga Race Course
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2009)|
Gate A entrance to the race course
|Location||Saratoga Springs, New York|
|Owned by||State of New York & Operated by New York Racing Association|
|Date opened||August 3, 1863|
|Notable races||Travers Stakes (G1)
Whitney Handicap (G1)
Alabama Stakes (G1)
Woodward Stakes (G1)
Saratoga Race Course is a Thoroughbred horse racing track in Saratoga Springs, New York, United States. It opened on August 3, 1863, and it is typically open for racing from late July through early September.
John Hunter, who became the first chairman of The Jockey Club, and William R. Travers built Saratoga Race Course. The original track was built across Union Avenue from the present Saratoga Race Course at the current location of the Oklahoma Track (training track originally named Horse Haven), which opened the following year. Since 1864 the track has been the site of the Travers Stakes, the oldest major thoroughbred horse race in the United States, which is the main draw of the annual summer race meeting. The Saratoga meet originally consisted of only four days, but over time was lengthened, and for many years, the meet lasted for four weeks. In the 1990s it was lengthened to five weeks. Today it is a six-week meeting ending on Labor Day. In 2009, The New York Racing Association (NYRA) extended the 2010 racing meet by 4 days to a total of 40 days of racing during each meet from then forward. From 1943 to 1945, racing was not held at Saratoga Race Course due to travel restrictions during the war. During those years, the stakes races that would have been run at Saratoga Race Course were contested at Belmont Park instead.
Saratoga Race Course has several nicknames: The Spa (for the nearby mineral springs), the House of Upsets, and the Graveyard of Champions. Man o' War suffered his only defeat in twenty one starts while racing at Saratoga Race Course; Secretariat was defeated at Saratoga Race Course by Onion after winning the Triple Crown; and Gallant Fox was beaten by 100-1 longshot Jim Dandy in the 1930 Travers Stakes.
In 1999, Saratoga Race Course was rated as Sports Illustrated's #10 sports venue of the 20th Century.
The track was closed for the fifth time in its history on August 28, 2011 when Hurricane Irene hit the area. Previously it had closed on August 2, 2006 due to a heat wave which had hit the Eastern Seaboard and for three entire seasons during World War II and in 1911 and 1912 when it was not economically viable following New York State legislation enacted by the administration of Governor Charles Evans Hughes which outlawed all forms of wagering on horse racing.
Physical attributes 
- A main (dirt) track, which, like that at Aqueduct, has a 1 1⁄8 mile (1,811 m) circumference;
- A 1 mile 98 feet outer turf track known officially as the Mellon Turf Course, in honor of the Mellon family, whose members include prominent Thoroughbred owner/breeder Paul Mellon and his father Andrew Mellon, a former United States Treasury Secretary;
- An inner turf track, the circumference of which is 26 feet (7.9 m) shorter than 71⁄2 furlongs (1,509 m).
Steeplechase races are also run at Saratoga Race Course and may take place on either of the turf courses, depending on the distance of the race. Additionally, there is the Oklahoma Training Track, which is across Union Ave. from the main course. It is used for warmups and training. The Oklahoma track site was the original track used for racing from 1863 until 1909, (then known as Horse Haven) when the currently-used grandstand track was opened.
A former distinctive feature of Saratoga Race Course's dirt track was the Wilson Mile chute, which branched off from the clubhouse (first) turn at a 90 degree angle. After the 1971 meeting, its use was suspended; following a brief resumption during the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was dismantled, leaving no distance available for dirt races at one mile. A similarly-designed chute is still in use at Ellis Park Racecourse, a racetrack in Kentucky, and is the only such chute of its kind that can be found at any North American track today.
The grounds at Saratoga Race Course contain several unique features. Patrons can get close up views of the horses being led to the paddock as the path from the stables runs through the picnic grounds. There is a mineral spring called the Big Red Spring in the picnic grounds where patrons can partake of the water that made Saratoga Springs famous. A gazebo is a prominent feature on the infield and a stylized version of the gazebo is part of Saratoga Race Course logo.
Saratoga Race Course is rich with tradition. A lake in the middle of the track contains a canoe that is painted annually in the colors of the winning stable for that year's Travers Stakes winner. Also, prior to each race a bell is hand rung at exactly 17 minutes prior to scheduled post time for each race. This is to call the jockeys to the paddock.
A new addition in recent years has been "twilight racing", where the first race post time is at 2:45 PM. After its introduction in 2006, it was expanded to the first and last Friday of the meet.
- Grade I Stakes races:
- Alabama Stakes
- Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap
- Ballerina Handicap
- Coaching Club American Oaks
- Diana Handicap
- Forego Handicap
- Go For Wand Handicap
- Hopeful Stakes
- King's Bishop Stakes
- Personal Ensign Stakes
- Ruffian Handicap
- Spinaway Stakes
- Sword Dancer Handicap
- Test Stakes
- Travers Stakes
- Whitney Handicap
- Woodward Stakes
- Grade II Stakes races:
- Grade III Stakes races:
- Ungraded stakes
Buried at Clare Court Jogging Track are Fourstardave, Mourjane (IRE) and A Phenomenon. Champion filly Go For Wand, who suffered a fatal injury during the stretch run of the 1990 Breeders Cup Distaff, is buried in the Saratoga Race Course infield.
TV personalities 
- Harvey Pack (1995–1999)
- Paul Corman (1995–1999)
- John Veitch (1995–1999)
- John Imbriale (1995–2005)
- Jan Rushton (1995–2009)
- Jason Blewitt (2006–present)
- Eric Donovan (2006–present)
- Andy Serling (2008–present)
- Rich McCarthy (1995–1999)
- Mike Watchmaker (1995–1999)
- Michael Sherack (1997–2000)
- Kelly Gecewicz (2000–2005)
- Mary Ryan (1995–1999)
- Maggie Wolfendale (2011-present)
In fiction 
The Race Course is the setting of a scene early on in the Ian Fleming James Bond novel Diamonds Are Forever where the mob he is trying to infiltrate attempt to use a fixed race to pay him for a job. It also is the setting of Sherwood Anderson's short story "I Want to Know Why". Saratoga is also referenced in Carly Simon's 1972 #1 hit, "You're So Vain." The line "I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won," refers to the Saratoga Race Course horse racing season held in late July, August, and early September in Saratoga Springs, New York. The season is frequented by the rich and famous of New York and other cities on the East Coast.
See also 
- The Kentucky Derby first ran in 1875
- Hotaling, Edward (1995). They're Off!: Horse Racing at Saratoga. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. p. 45. ISBN 0-8156-0350-9. Retrieved 2010-07-10.
- Silver, Dan (October 7, 2009). "NYRA Expands 2010 Saratoga Meet By Four Days". New York Racing Association. Retrieved 2010-06-29.
- "Century's Best - SI's Top 20 Venues of the 20th Century". Sports llustrated. June 7, 1999. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- Kinney, Jim (August 3, 2006). "Too hot to trot at race course". The Record (Troy). Retrieved 2007-05-03.
- click http://maps.google.com/maps?ie=UTF8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&q=&ll=43.069452,-73.760405&spn=0.027087,0.05785&t=k&z=14&om=1 Oklahoma track is at top, main track in middle, 1-mile track at bottom is a private training facility. Two small tracks at lower left are Saratoga Casino and Raceway
- "Saratoga 2012" (webpage). Retrieved 2012-07-26.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Saratoga Race Course|
- NYRA Saratoga Page
- Article about Opening Day at Saratoga, 1907
- Saratoga Opening Day, 1919
- Saratoga: Horse Racing's Heart - slideshow by Life magazine
Other reading 
- Heller, Bill. Saratoga Tales: Great Horses, Fearless Jockeys, Shocking Upsets and Incredible Blunders at America's Legendary Race Track (2004) Whitston Publishing Company ISBN 978-0-87875-551-6