Every day will loom as large as a Saturday celebration and potential Saturday “Fecta-cular” for Playfecta readers and gamblers once the Saratoga racing meet kicks off.
The summer of Saratoga dawns on Thursday at Saratoga Race Course as the fabled horse racing facility in the heart of New York state becomes a destination resort with a high-profile racing program.
Visitors view the meet, stretching from July 14-Sept. 5 with afternoon races unfolding Wednesdays through Sunday after a four-day opening weekend, as a social gala.
They understand that Saratoga will unfurl an impressive 77 stakes worth $22.6 million, headlined by the $1.25 million Runhappy Travers Stakes on Aug. 27 and the $1 million Whitney Stakes on Aug. 6.
But there’s much more.
There will be at least one six-figure purse every day of the meet. Many cards will be loaded with them, and the city of Saratoga Springs will revolve around the track schedule.
It is the hot spot for New York City residents viewing the pilgrimage as a big vacation getaway and sprinkling concerts, spa baths, dining and even camping around race track activities. High-level corporate executives make this trip. So do major gaming figures like Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings.
The meet offers a daily dose of high-quality racing for nationwide bettors, which they can access via TVG. There’s a beauty to this type of wagering-handicapping synergy. Bettors can follow the patterns daily and discover how the track plays, who is hot and where opportunities may lie.
They have an avalanche to choose from.
Here is a guide to each weekend’s lineup with the biggest events. (GI) equals a Grade 1 race. (GII) is a Grade 2. (GIII) is a Grade 3.
Saratoga Summer Meet top races
Saturday, July 16
Sunday, July 17
(GIII) Quick Call
Saturday, July 23
(GI) Coaching Club American Oaks
Sunday, July 24
Saturday, July 30
(GI) Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap
(GII) Jim Dandy
The Jim Dandy is the official prep race for the Travers, which happens later in the meet on Aug. 27. Both races were captured last year, narrowly, by eventual Eclipse-Award-winning 3-year-old Essential Quality.
Sunday, July 31
GII Bowling Green
August kicks off a major new presentation. On the first weekend, Saratoga is host to the middle jewel of not one, but two Turf Triple crown races. The Invitational has a $1 million purse for males. The $700,000 Oaks is for fillies. Bettors can handicap the events by watching replays of the series-opening races at Belmont Park this past weekend.
Classic Causeway won the Derby at a whopping 26-1 after a late scratch of front-running Emmanuel allowed this speed horse to get a relaxed lead. He held off favored Nation’s Pride in second. Bettors following Playfecta knew from the race preview that this event was wide open. Ken McPeek, the trainer of Classic Causeway, called the Saratoga Derby a “no brainer” as far as his horse’s participation.
McKulick captured the Oaks at 5-1, pouncing upon a wicked early pace and overtaking the front-runners in the stretch. It is likely, but unofficial, that McKulick will return for the Oaks. Should those horses annex a second triumph, they can head to Belmont Park in the fall (at a date to be determined) to try to claim the Turf Triple Crown.
Saturday, Aug. 6 (Whitney Day)
Fasig Tipton Lure
(GII) Glens Falls
(GI) Longines Test
(GI) Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational
Sunday, Aug. 7
Fasig Tipton De La Rose
(GIII) Saratoga Oaks Invitational
Saturday, Aug. 13
(GI) Fourstardave Handicap
(GII) Saratoga Special
Sunday, Aug. 14
Saturday, Aug. 20 (Alabama Day)
(GII) Lake Placid
Smart N Fancy
Sunday, Aug. 21
Saturday, Aug. 27 (Travers Day)
Here’s a closer look at the biggest day of the meet — Travers Day. This event is essentially a mini-Breeders Cup with over $4 million paid out in the big races alone. This year’s event might be even more loaded than usual.
- (GII) Ballston Spa with a $400,000 purse
- (GI) Forego with a $600,000 purse
- (GI) H. Allen Jerkens Memorial has a $500,000 purse
- (GI) Personal Ensign has a $600,000 purse
- (GI) Sword Dancer goes off for $750,000
- And the (GI) Travers is a whopping $1.25 million
Australian technology giant BetMakers has offered a $1 million bonus for any horse able to sweep the July 23 Haskell Stakes, this Travers event and the Nov. 4. Breeders Cup Classic.
This is, literally, an Authentic offer. Two years ago, BetMakers paid the bonus to connections of Authentic, who swept the Haskell, Kentucky Derby, and Breeders Cup. Officials at BetMakers believe this bonus is great for the sport and openly root for somebody to hit it.
Sunday, Aug. 28
Better Talk Now
The Ballerina has a $500,000 purse.
Saturday, Sept. 3 — GI Jockey Club Gold Cup and GIII Saranac
Sunday, Sept. 4 — GI Spinaway
Monday, Sept. 5 — GIII Bernard Baruch Handicap and GI Hopeful
The Saratoga meet, along with Del Mar, will have the eyes of the horse-racing world fixed upon it all summer.