Talking Track: The Novice’s Guide to the Saratoga Race Course
Ladies and Gentlemen: Get ready. It’s just about post time…and party time. We’re oh so close to enchanted mornings, and exciting afternoons. That’s right. We’re exactly four days away from the Saratoga Race Course opening its doors.
This is the first in what will be a several part series in which I break down everything you need to know about heading up to the track.
For the first installment of Talking Track: The Novice’s Guide to the Saratoga Race Course I thought I’d give some background on the track itself. First thing you should know? It’s the greatest place on earth. It’s the place where dreams come true!…Unless you’re in the 98% of people who lose almost every bet they make – in which case neither of those is true - though it is terrific fun either way.
OVERVIEW: But seriously folks. The Saratoga Race Course is one of the most historic sports venues in the country, and its six-week meet is consistently heralded as the best horse racing meet in the country. It is no wonder that the mid summer meet draws some of the biggest names in horse racing, like its best trainer Todd Pletcher. It is without a doubt the number one sporting venue in the capital region.
HISTORY: The racetrack at Saratoga opened in 1863. That’s right, 1863. It’s older than Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and the now defunct Yankee Stadium. Hell, if President Warren G. Harding were still alive the course would be a year older than he, though he’s been dead for 88 years. Since 1864 Saratoga has been the home of the Travers Stakes, one of the most important stakes races in the world.
SPECIFICS AND QUIRKS: The course holds three tracks, one dirt track that is a mile and an eighth long, and two turf tracks - and for only three dollars – before betting (infinitely more after betting) you can witness all of their splendor. The Spa also offers one of the more unique opportunities in horse racing. After each race, the jockeys must walk through the crowd to get back to their locker room. Here is your opportunity to whisper sweet nothings to your jockey in the next race, give him advice – which if he’s smart, he’ll do the exact opposite of…or just call security. Or, if you don’t fancy yourself a trainer you can just stand near him/her and see just how much you tower over someone who makes a living straddling a three quarter of a ton animal that runs a mile in a minute and a half. And you think accounting is intense.
You also have the opportunity to watch the horses be walked around and saddled in the paddock. This is your chance to play amateur horseman and pick yourself a winner based on that steely gaze the six horse just shot you. Oh wait. That’s the show pony – ‘cause let’s be honest, you haven’t a clue what you’re looking at.
NICKNAME: The course, which is nestled in between Union and Nelson Avenues just off the Northway has, over it’s unbelievable history, developed the nickname “The Graveyard of Favorites.” Legendary horses like Man o’ War and the “tremendous machine” Secretariat each fell at Saratoga in stunning upsets. Favorites routinely come up short, making Saratoga one of the toughest courses to handicap. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is just your introduction, Saratoga 101, if you will. We’ll cover handicapping in our next exciting installment (Wednesday). We’ll also cover how to read the book, something you will definitely need to know if you plan to master Saratoga…well, be taken by it just a little less than most.
So tune in next time, for a little bit more of Talking Track.