The Story behind the Saratoga Race Course

The Story behind the Saratoga Race Course

The Saratoga Race Course is one of the defining hotspots in Saratoga Springs NY, drawing visitors from all over the world for a day at the races.

While for millions of Americans, summertime means baseball, barbecues and beaches, for many in the Capital District, the Saratoga Race Course is the highlight of these warmer months.  Nothing in the area is so universally loved by locals and tourists alike and represents such a proud and cherished piece of our local culture.

Though for the past 100 years or so the Race Course has been the driving force behind the area’s tourism, it is important to note that Saratoga Springs gave birth to the track, not the other way around.  Long before the opening of the Race Course in 1863, the springs in Saratoga turned the town into a flourishing vacation community, promising cool comfort and relief from the summer heat to the rich and elite across the northeast.

These summer homes drove the demand for entertainment (especially gambling), providing local businessmen and horse owners John Hunter and William Travers an incredible business opportunity.  On August 3, 1863, the two opened a racetrack they deemed “worthy of their thoroughbreds” and hosted the first ever meet.  At only 4 days long, the track’s inaugural season was obviously a bit shorter than the current 40 days, but nevertheless it makes Saratoga Race Course the oldest sporting venue in the United States.  Since 1864, the track has been the site of the Travers Stakes, the oldest major thoroughbred horse race in the United States.  Like the Kentucky Derby, the Travers Stakes is contested on dirt and is open only to three-year-olds.

The 2017 season for the Saratoga Race Course began with Opening Day on Friday, July 21, 2017 and ends with Closing Day on Monday (Labor Day), September 4, 2017. There are 6 days of racing each week all season long (the Track is dark on Tuesdays). Travers Day will be Saturday, August 26, 2017.

The most legendary thoroughbreds in history have known Saratoga as the gold standard in their respective divisions.  From Man o’ War to Secretariat, only the best of the best are deemed worthy enough to test their grit and earn their glory on these hallowed grounds.  It was here at Saratoga that the word “upset” came to be used as a noun describing “an unexpected or unbelieveable defeat”.  In 1913, crowd favorite and legendary thoroughbred Man o’ War was an obvious favorite in the Sanford Stakes.  Victory was all but guaranteed when an underestimated literal “dark horse” came from behind and stole the race.  That horse’s name; Upset.

Over the past 150 years, Saratoga has grown into a legacy across pop culture and around the world for its unparalleled prestige and beauty.  From mention in books, music and film, the name “Saratoga” has become synonymous with glamour, beauty and excitement.  Whether you’re in from out of town, or a local regular, the track is truly a spectacle to behold and a beloved tradition of the Capital District.

 

Photo: ThatMattWade/Flickr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/