Saratoga Race Course, in upstate New York, is one of the oldest active horse racing tracks in the United States. It first opened its doors in the summer of 1863 with a four-day meet, and its popularity was evident from the very beginning. The annual meet became a target for both talented racehorses and well-connected humans.
As a result, Saratoga holds some of the best horse races in the United States, but it offers other spectacular events and traditions as well. Here are three must-see events to look out for when you plan your next trip to Saratoga.
Find out more about Saratoga race track here: https://www.twinspires.com/race-tracks/saratoga
New York Thoroughbred Aftercare Day
On July 21, 2022, Saratoga Race Course will host the second annual New York Thoroughbred Aftercare Day, which honors and raises funds for a number of organizations that provide care for retired Thoroughbred racehorses.
One organization that is highlighted on this day is the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, which dedicates its resources to finding adoptive homes for retired Thoroughbreds. TAA often retrains retired Thoroughbreds to serve in second careers, such as show jumping or dressage. Some Thoroughbreds with quieter temperaments become therapeutic riding mounts or even children’s riding lesson mounts.
Saratoga Race Course honors these organizations with financial support and exposure, and the racegoers eagerly applaud the many success stories they hear regarding retired racehorses. The day ends with a commemorative race, the Rick Violette Stakes, named in honor of one of the founding members of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.
Saratoga County Fair
From July 19th-24th, the nearby Saratoga County Fairgrounds hosts the Saratoga County Fair. This family-friendly extravaganza includes amusement park rides, live music, and the Saratoga’s Got Talent competition. Guests can sample traditional fair foods while watching 4-H competitions, tractor pulls, and an array of specialized events and demonstrations.
One of the highlighted events for the 2022 fair is a display from The Garden of Hope, a community art project involving people of all ages painting rocks with uplifting imagery and positive messages. Pottery artist Jim Best will be working in real time, crafting items on his pottery wheel, and children will be invited to create their own works of art, such as individualized bookmarks.
Runhappy Travers Day
The most memorable events at Saratoga, of course, involve racing.
Saratoga is often referred to as “the Spa” for its proximity to springs with calming, healing qualities. However, many chagrined horseplayers refer to the track as “The Graveyard of Champions,” as Saratoga has a history of seeing fantastic- and heavily bet- racehorses fall in rare defeat.
The two brilliant red chestnuts of the twentieth century both suffered losses at Saratoga- Man o’War in the Sanford Memorial, and Secretariat in the Whitney- but perhaps the race that most exemplifies this aspect of the Saratoga meet is the prestigious Grade I Runhappy Travers Stakes, traditionally held at the end of August as Saratoga prepares to close.
The Travers Stakes is often called the “Midsummer Derby” because it is run at the same 1 ¼ mile distance as the Kentucky Derby, and its position in the racing calendar makes it a prime target for three-year-olds. Those veterans of the Triple Crown series often attempt to re-assert their dominance over their division, or fall sway to late blooming horses coming into their own.
Famously, two Triple Crown winners fell victim to previously unheralded horses in the Travers Stakes. Gallant Fox, in 1930, was so focused on his rival, Whichone, that he and jockey Earl Sande failed to notice the longshot Jim Dandy stealing the race at 100-1 odds. In 2015, American Pharoah, perhaps tired after his previous efforts in the Triple Crown and the Haskell Stakes, fell short to Keen Ice, who had never before won any race besides his maiden.