Sunday, July 18, 2010

Off to the Races

Remember when we told you that upstate New York is full of history and super cool stuff?  On Sunday we got to check out the oldest organized sporting venue of any kind in the United States...the Saratoga Race Course!  The six week racing season kicks off July 23rd, but hosted an open house on Sunday for a behind the scenes look at the 147-year-old track.

The track is home to the oldest major thoroughbred horse race, the Travers Stakes and is known by the nickname "Graveyard of Favorites."  Some big names have lost some big money there!  Man o'War suffered his only defeat in 21 starts at Saratoga, Secretariat lost there after winning the Triple Crown and Gallant Fox was galloped past by a 100-1 long shot in the 1930 Travers Stakes!  After school special lesson learned here: no bets are ever really safe kids.
The Race Course itself is huge! 350 acres to be exact.  Back in Arkansas, when it came to betting on the ponies, the Garrett's headed over to Oaklawn in Hot Springs and settled on a $2 bet to win and maybe a 'rita if we won.  Well, that track sure looks small potatoes compared to this one!  First of all, bring your binoculars.  There are actually three separate tracks in the main course at Saratoga.  The main/dirt track has a 1 1/8 mile circumference.  Track #2 is the Mellon Turf Course and is 1 mile + 98 feet.  The inner turf track is just 26 feet shorter than 7.5 furlongs and is where many of the Steeplechase races are run.  If you can see past all of the horses running, you might find the middle of the track.  Look closely, there's a small lake that has a canoe floating-the canoe is painted annually in the colors of the winning stable for that year's Travers Stakes winner.  Don't forget to listen for the post warning!  Before each race, a bell is hand rung at exactly 17 minutes prior to post time.
It's all for a decent price too.  Free general parking, grandstand admission is only $3 and clubhouse admission is $5, plus a variety of discount packages available.  The New York Racing Association also has tons of activities planned over the season and lots of free giveaways.  But you'll get your money's worth just being on the grounds themselves.  They are just beautiful!  The path from the stables to the Saratoga paddocks runs right through the picnic grounds giving folks a close up view of the horses.  Imagine watching history walk by!  Hopefully we will get to see Rachel Alexandra prance this close this season!  (and btw-the horse has her own blog that you can follow!)  

If all that horse gawking makes you thirsty, you can wet your whistle from the Big Red Spring gazebo where Saratoga Springs famous mineral water flows.  Complimentary cups and all, except Heather couldn't find them right off the bat.  Or after 10 minutes of looking.

If you are ever up this way, put a trip here down on your to do list.  You won't be disappointed.  Unless you lose all of your money, betting it on a favorite to win.