A Guide to Saratoga Racecourse

Saratoga Spring, New York, USA, is home to the Saratoga Racecourse, a renowned thoroughbred horse racing course located on Union Avenue. It is the fourth oldest racecourse in the country and started its operations in 1863.

The New York Racing Association operates the racecourse, which is home to numerous graded stake races, including around 18 Grade 1 stake races. Steeplechase races are also held at the Saratoga Racecourse, and the thoroughbred horse racing season is from late July to early September.

Here is a brief account of the history and features of Saratoga Racecourse.

Saratoga Racecourse History

The history of equestrian activities in Saratoga can be traced to as early as 1822, when speed trials and exhibitions for horses were arranged at fairs. A trotting course was built in 1847 in an area now known as Horse Haven before the New York State Fair, and the first harness race was conducted on 14th August the same year.

The first thoroughbred horse race was conducted on the trotting course in 1863. John Morrissey, a casino owner and a future Congressman, had organised the race and, after the event’s success, bought land across the road from the Standardbred course. A new grandstand was added, and the Saratoga Racecourse venue was named.

The racecourse was purchased by Gottfried Waldbaum, an infamous gambler, in 1892, and nine years later, William Collins Whitey’s investment group acquired the racecourse. The new management made great headway in reviving the reputation and state of the racecourse.

Saratoga Racecourse has seen its share of ups and downs, including the cessation of races due to increased competition in 1896, after the enforcement of the anti-gambling legislation in 1911and World War II. However, today it is regarded as one of the country’s most premium horse racing facilities.

Saratoga Racecourse Facilities

Saratoga Racecourse is spread out over an area of 350 acres. Like the other two New York Racing Association-owned courses, Belmont Park and Aqueduct, it also has three tracks in the main course venue.

The main track is a dirt track with a circumference of 1,811m. It has a chute for 1,400m events and the Wilson chute for 1mile events. The Wilson Chute is being revived in 2022 after almost 30 years.

The Wilson Chute is one of the most distinguishing features of Saratoga Racecourse. The chute was undone in 1972 to make more room for parking. In 1992, its location was used for a few dirt mile races and in 2022, it was announced that the chute would be restored for the coming season.

The second track in the racecourse is a turf track and is 1 mile long. It is called the Mellon Turf Course, named after the family of famous horse owners and breeders Andrew Millon and his son Paul Mellon. The third track is also a turf track with a circumference of around 1,408m. Steeplechase races are mostly held on this inner turf track.

Another track, the Oklahoma Training Track, is located across Union Avenue. The first meet of Saratoga Racecourse was held at the Oklahoma track in 1863. In 1864, the main grandstand was added to the current site, while the Oklahoma Track got a new grandstand facility in 2013. The public can visit the training track and see horses in training and during workouts.

The path from the stables runs through the spectator grounds so the crowd can get a closer view of the horses when they are being steered to the paddock. The picnic ground for the spectators also features a mineral spring, and patrons are allowed to take the famous Saratoga Spring water from the facility. Another prominent feature is a gazebo on the infield, which is also featured in the racecourse’s logo.

Major Events At Saratoga Racecourse

The coming season of the racecourse is expected to feature around 77 stakes races. Some of the most notable Grade 1 races featured on the racecourse include Travers Stakes (Mid-summer Derby), the Ballerina Stakes, Alabama Stakes, Whitney Handicap and the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

When is the racing season at Saratoga Racecourse?

The thoroughbred racing season usually features events from late July to early September.

When Is Horse Racing In Saratoga?

The Saratoga Race Course typically hosts its horse racing season from mid-July to early September each year. The gates usually open at 11:00 am on each racing day, except for special events like Travers Day, when they open earlier. The course is generally dark, meaning no live racing takes place, on Mondays and Tuesdays throughout the season, except for certain holidays like Labor Day.

The racing calendar is rich with a variety of events, including graded stakes races and special racing days. Notable races that are often featured during the Saratoga season include:

– Whitney Handicap: A prestigious Grade I race usually held in early August.
– Travers Stakes: Known as the “Mid-Summer Derby,” this is another Grade I race and is one of the highlights of the season, typically taking place in late August.
– Alabama Stakes: A Grade I race for three-year-old fillies, usually scheduled in mid-August.
– Coaching Club American Oaks: A Grade I race for three-year-old fillies, often held in July.

The racing events are usually spread across various weeks and include a mix of other graded stakes races, handicap races, and special events. Each week typically features races from Wednesday to Sunday, with Mondays and Tuesdays being off days.

It’s advisable to consult the official Saratoga Race Course or New York Racing Association (NYRA) websites for the most current and specific details, as the schedule can be subject to change.

What is the admission fee for Saratoga Racecourse?

The current admission fee for the general entry or grandstand is $7 for individuals above 12, and for the Clubhouse, it is $10. You can also purchase reserve seating or picnic tables separately.

The admission fee for Travers Day is different; $20 for the grandstand and $30 for the Clubhouse.


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