It was August 3rd, 1863 when gambler, casino owner, ex-boxer, and future congressman John Morrissey organized the first thoroughbred horse racing meet in Saratoga. It was one month after the Battle of Gettysburg, and (the meet) spanned out over four days at the old dirt track on Union Avenue. Over 5,000 people attended to watch, and wager on eight races.
After the success of this meet Morrissey was inspired to expand further with this new gambling venture. With the help of some wealthy friends, including Leonard Jerome, and William Travers, they formed the Saratoga Racing Association. This newly formed group quickly purchased 125 acres of land on the other side of Union Avenue, and built a new grandstand. Saratoga Race Course had been sired.
Saratoga is quintessentially American, it has survived both World Wars and legislation to outlaw gambling. It is considered the second longest- running race track in the United States, (The Fairgrounds in New Orleans being first) but is considered to be the oldest organized sporting venue of any kind in the country.
Saratoga is known throughout the world. The name evokes so many images: the elegance, and pageantry of the worlds oldest sport, the regally-bred horses (and owners)- the untold riches of royals, captains of industry, and rock stars who participate as owners, breeders and fans.
The real stars, of course, are the animals. Only the best horses in their respective divisions dare to come compete at the historic race course and test their mettle at The Spa.
This year Saratoga opens for racing on July 11th. Back in January the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced that the 2019 summer meet will be eight weeks long instead of its typical seven, with the track being dark on Monday and Tuesday. It will still have 40 days worth of racing, featuring 76 Graded Stakes races.
We’re just four weeks away from the breath of fresh, upstate New York, air that horse racing so desperately needs. The Daily Racing Blog is looking forward to bringing you stories regarding the Graveyard Of Favorites, as well as some daring prognostications on the races themselves.