Saratoga Springs has long been a summer playground for sports fans: the upstate New York town is home to one of the most storied racetracks in the world, and it’s been mecca for horse racing fans for hundreds of years.
The racing season at Saratoga begins in less than two weeks, so if you’re planning a trip to The Spa this summer here is quick beginners guide to the town and racetrack.
WHO: Elite Racehorses And Their Human Connections. Saratoga is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to racehorses. Some of the top horses in the nation, along with the most promising 2-year-old racehorses around, will spend their summer in Saratoga.
That’s because the meet is packed with the highest levels of races (known as Stakes Races), many of which offer an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in November.
Naturally, these horses each come with a human support team, so you’ll see the best trainers, jockeys, and grooms at Saratoga as well as get the chance to rub shoulders with some of the most prominent horse owners in the game.
WHAT: The Spa and/or The Graveyard Of Champions. With more than 150 years of history, it’s no wonder that Saratoga has picked up a couple of nicknames along the way.
A couple of the track’s most popular monikers are The Spa and The Graveyard of Champions – and the latter isn’t nearly as macabre as it sounds.
That nickname refers to the fact that some of the most famous racehorses in American history have lost races at Saratoga: MAN O’ WAR, SECRETARIAT, and AMERICAN PHAROAH, just to name a few.
It’s just one reason that bettors love the races at Saratoga so much- when favorites lose, savvy gamblers Win BIG.
The track and town are colloquially called The Spa because the city sits on top of natural springs with waters rumored to bring good health to humans and horses.
Saratoga became a playground for the rich throughout the Gilded Age thanks to the mineral water and the race meet, and there are still bathhouses and drinking pavilions galore throughout the town.
WHERE: Saratoga Springs, NY. Nestled in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains and located approximately 40 miles north of Albany, Saratoga is a place of serene natural beauty.
The track and town are easily accessible by plane, car, and train and is (relatively) equidistant to Boston, New York, and Montreal, Canada.
WHEN: July 14th To September 5th. Saratoga is called the Summer Place To Be for good reason: the meet lasts from mid-July through Labor Day, and it draws vacationers and racing industry professionals throughout the season.
Saturdays tend to have the most prestigious races, so the attendance at the track is usually larger.
WHY: National History. The Mohawk and Abenaki tribes, have long celebrated the area now known as Saratoga for its natural springs; and when the British built a fort in the region in 1691, they, too, revered the spring water for its restorative properties.
The first permanent U.S.-British settlement was built in 1776, and the 1777 Battle of Saratoga was the turning point of the Revolutionary War.
Even before the advent of horse racing in 1863, Saratoga had become a haven for the rich and famous due to the mineral springs in the area, and the Roosevelt Baths are still revered as a spa retreat to this day.
Once horse racing reached Saratoga, the city became even more of a playground for the rich and famous.
One local icon was Marylou Whitney, a philanthropist who dedicated herself to the town of Saratoga and shepherded the city and racetrack through the 1960s and 70s when the track was at its economic low point.
Thanks in large part to her efforts, both Saratoga Springs and Saratoga Race Course are thriving.
Want another reason for a road trip ? Saratoga Race Course was named as one of the Top Ten Greatest Sporting Venues in the world, by Sports Illustrated.
Hope to see you there.