Saratoga Springs has long been a summer playground for horse racing fans around the globe.
The upstate New York town is home to Saratoga Race Course, one of the most storied racetracks in the world. It’s been mecca for horse players for hundreds of years.
If you’re planning a trip to the Spa this summer, here’s a quick guide on everything the town and track have to offer.
WHO: Elite Thoroughbred 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. 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.
Fun Fact: Saratoga’s first race meet was the brainchild of gambler, casino owner, ex-boxing champion, and future Congressman John Morrissey. The meet was first held just a month after the Battle of Gettysburg on August 3rd, 1863 and lasted four days, making the track the oldest sports venue in the United States.
WHAT: Both The Spa & The Graveyard Of Champions. With more than 150 years of history, you would expect Saratoga to pick up a couple of nicknames along the way. The track’s two most used are The Spa and The Graveyard of Champions – and the latter is not as dire as it sounds. That moniker 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.
The track and town are informally referred to as 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.
Fun Fact: On August 23rd, 2008, SLAMBINO, BLAZING DYNAMO and KEY EVENT set a record payout for New York when they returned a $.50 Trifecta that yielded $26,478.50.
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, with the meets marquee event- the Travers Stakes taking place on August 27th.
Fun Fact: Six races at Saratoga qualify their Winners to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships: the Whitney, the Fourstardave, the Ballerina, the Sword Dancer, the Flower Bowl, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
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.
Fun Fact: Amtrak trains go directly to Saratoga Springs from both New York City and Montreal, making the destination an easy trip for city dwellers without cars.
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.
Once horse racing arrived at Saratoga, the city became even more of a playground for the rich and famous.
One local icon was Marylou Whitney. She was a philanthropist who dedicated herself to the town of Saratoga and ushered the city and racetrack through the 1960s and 70s when the track was at its economic low point. It’s widely recognized that due to her efforts, both Saratoga Springs and Saratoga Race Course are thriving.
Fun Fact: Saratoga Race Course was named in the top ten greatest sports venues in the world by Sports Illustrated.