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Getting Around Saratoga

In just a few days, it will officially be post time.  And party time.

Let’s get you ready.

A day at the Saratoga Race Course begins with three questions.  1: How much money should I bring?,  2: How many articles of Ralph Lauren clothing am I comfortable wearing?, and 3: Where do I park?  Finding answers to the first two requires an extensive equation figuring income, social standing, and personal level of shame.  I’ll leave those to you.  The parking – and how to get there – however, I feel comfortable tackling.

Map Courtesy of New York State Racing Association, Nyra.com

Parking:

  • A - If you’re looking for a regimented, track-run parking system, Union Avenue – off the Northway’s exit 14 and shown above at letter A – is for you.  These parking lots can provide shorter walks into the track if you’re willing to pay, a free spot if you’re willing to walk a little farther, and a crush of impassable traffic whether you want it or not.  The good folks of NYRA do their best with Union Ave, but with so much going on, the road, generally, devolves into chaos as when the crowd arrives.
  • B - No such problems exist at Nelson Avenue, though, where, for five or ten dollars, a kind face will let you park in their backyard for the day.  Off Route-9 and accessed, from the South, via Northway exit 13N, Nelson Ave is, in my opinion, the best place to park for Saratoga.  It’s a short walk to the track, and an even shorter trip down Nelson and straight onto the Northway’s southbound lanes at the close of the day.  Less traffic, less hassle.

Where to Sit:

  • C - Grandstand seating, reserved seats located at the top of the stretch.  For a few dimes and some forethought, these stadium-style seats could be yours – Grandstand seats are available on Ticketmaster.
  • D - The general concourse and a number of benches, leaning posts, and TV’s.  It is the spot if you’re a serious gambler - the type of dude throwing money down on more than just Saratoga.  Monmouth, Keeneland, a dog track, a raging dice game next to the Dunkin’ Donuts, etc.
  • E - A slightly more upscale general concourse.  No short-shorts or tank-tops here, but what you lose in sleeves you more than make up for in view of the finish line and chance to mingle with the blue-bloods.
  • F - The picnic-style area, where many Saratoga patrons land.  Populated by coolers and 30-racks of PBR, it’s one of the best places to find yourself in the track’s expansive grounds – and the deeper you go, the bigger the party.  Indeed, the farther from the rail, the more likely you are to see a six-foot sub spread across two picnic tables whilst a game of beer pong plays out on a third.
  • G - The seating area surrounding the paddock, where the horses are saddled and my recommendation.  Here you’ll find a great view of the horses, a big screen boasting the odds, and an easy walk to the betting windows and track.

Landmarks To See:

  • 1 - The Track.  Come on, it is why you’re here, after all.  As delicious as the lemonade is, make sure you actually watch a horse run a race at some point.
  • 2 - The Carousel.  The name is misleading – it’s less of a carnival ride and more of a viewing area/restaurant – but certainly worth seeing.
  • 3 - The jockeys path through the crowd and back to their dressing room.  It’s one of Saratoga’s most unique features and, if you have children, a must-see.
  • 4 - The paddock, also known as letter G.  It won’t help you with your betting – be honest, you don’t know a fit horse from a St. Bernard – but you should make your way there a few times to see the horses enter the paddock, be saddled, and exit to the track with their jockey aboard.  It’s something special.
  • 5 – The Big Red Spring, which – if you believe in the healing power of spring water or  enjoy the feeling of your taste buds uniting as one in vehement revolting of the horror to which you’ve subjected them – you should absolutely check out.  It’s one of many found throughout the Saratoga region.
Watching The Race:
  • 6 - The finish line.  If you’re going to do Saratoga, do it right.  Make the walk up to the rail and catch the horses as they fly past you in a desperate sprint to clip the wire first – a wire the sits only feet from where you stand.
  • 7 - You won’t have a great view of the finish line up there, but when the horses greet you at the top of the stretch – before the low roar of the crowd begins in earnest – you’re treated with the weird, seemingly random, guttural utterances of a dozen jockeys trying to urge their horses.  Equal parts strange and fascinating.
  • 8 - Also shown at letter C, you, again, won’t have a brilliant view of the finish line, but the arial view you’re afforded standing behind the Grandstand is one you should experience at least once.
  • D - At some point, do yourself a favor and watch a race with the some of the real gamblers on one of the more crowded TV’s in the concourse.  They’re on an entirely different level of swearing.  You’ll hear some weird stuff, man.  Stuff that’ll stay with you…

For more Saratoga coverage, follow along all week as we get you ready for Saratoga’s summer meet, and follow @Joe_1045 on Twitter.  Tomorrow we teach you how to read the program.

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