Saratoga Race Course

Saratoga stakes, track details and schedule of events
Saratoga Race Track

With more than 150 years in the business, the Saratoga Race Course has a special place in racing history.

While only open for about two months each summer, the excitement of each season is worth the wait.

SARATOGA RACE COURSE & TURF

  • Address: 267 Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
  • Owner: New York state
  • Operator: The New York Racing Association
  • Main Track: 1 1/8 mile oval racetrack
  • Course Type: Sandy loam cushion
  • Live Racing Available: Yes
  • Racing Season: July and August

About Saratoga Race Course

The historic Saratoga Race Course is a thoroughbred track that offers 40 racing days every summer.

More than 150 years old, it was named one of the top 10 greatest sports venues in the world by Sports Illustrated

Saratoga is also famous for its three tracks. 

The main dirt track is nine furlongs, the second track is an eight-furlong turf track and there is a seven-furlong inner-turf track.

The grounds at Saratoga maintain a historical feel, but the technology featured gives visitors a modern, convenient experience. 

The grandstand is the favorite area for many fans, who will find bars and food areas, simulcasting and betting windows at every turn. The paddock and horse path are easily accessible, as well as a view of the horses’ workout area.

Fans with large groups or those who want a more sophisticated experience can find that in the clubhouse, in box seating, the reserved dining areas or at the elite 1863 Club.

Those who want to explore can arrange for a walking tour around Saratoga. It includes everything from the lake in the infield to the landscapes and unique architecture. 

The bell is a part of the tour as well; the famous bell is rung by hand precisely 17 minutes before every post time.

Course information

The main track is dirt and boasts of a 1 1/8-mile circumference, equal to nine furlongs or 1,811 meters. 

It is comprised of a top layer of more than 4 inches of sandy-loam cushion over 10 inches of a clay, silt and sand base. Under that is a sand drainage course over natural soil.

The inner-turf track is seven furlongs or 1,408 meters. The eight-furlong turf track is officially named the Mellon Turf Course in honor of owner and breeder Paul Mellon and his father, former US Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon.

Both of the turf courses have a base of natural soil, over which 8 inches of sandy topsoil that is covered by Kentucky Bluegrass turf.

Stake races

The long history of the track is demonstrated in the most prominent race at Saratoga, the Travers Stakes

It is the oldest major thoroughbred horse race in the US, having run since 1864.

The Travers Stakes is an American Grade 1 race, also known as the Midsummer Derby

It races 3-year-old thoroughbreds and is the third-ranked race of its kind, behind only the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes

Named for original Saratoga Racing Association President William Travers, the race is the most well-attended of the summer. Typically, it offers a $1.5 million purse.

The Alabama Stakes is a thoroughbred race for 3-year-old fillies that dates back to 1872. 

The Grade 1 race is a 1 ¼-mile dirt track race held in the middle of August with a purse of $600,000

Since 2010, it has been the third leg of the American Triple Tiara of Thoroughbred Racing along with the Acorn Stakes and Coaching Club American Oaks.

Another popular race at Saratoga is the Whitney Stakes or the Whitney Handicap. Some call it the “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup

Three-year-old thoroughbreds compete for a $1.2 million prize and run 1 1/8 miles in late June or early August.

Events and graded stakes

The 2020 calendar for Saratoga Race Course has yet to be finalized; however, it typically run from late July-August through Labor Day weekend. The last races usually run on the first few days of September.

Grade IGrade IIGrade III
Alabama StakesAdirondack StakesAmsterdam Stakes
Alfred G. Vanderbilt HandicapBallston Spa HandicapGlens Falls Handicap
Ballerina HandicapBernard Baruch HandicapSanford Stakes
Coaching Club American OaksHonorable Miss HandicapSaranac Stakes
Diana HandicapJim Dandy StakesSchuylerville Stakes
Forego HandicapLake George StakesVictory Ride Stakes
Fourstardave HandicapLake Placid Handicap
H. Allen Jerkens Memorial StakesNational Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes
Hopeful StakesPrioress Stakes
Personal Ensign StakesSaratoga Special Stakes
Spinaway StakesWith Anticipation Stakes
Sword Dancer Handicap
Test Stakes
Travers Stakes
Whitney Handicap
Woodward Stakes

History

Records of harness racing begin in 1847 in Saratoga Springs, but thoroughbred racing didn’t begin until 1863.

That happened in August of that year when a gambler, casino owner, and former boxing champion named John “Old Smoke” Morrissey hosted a four-day horse meet. Thousands of people attended the function that included three horse races.

Morrissey then formed the Saratoga Association with several friends: John Hunter, William Travers and Leonard Jerome. 

The team arranged for the construction of a grandstand to oversee a new racecourse, the old one being relegated to horse stables. (The track is the main one used today, and parts of the old course encircle the current stables.)

There were several points in history that Saratoga Race Course was silent during the racing season. The first was in 1896, due to too much competition in the area. In 1911-12, when New York laws against gambling prompted the track to close for two years. Then World War II prompted travel restrictions that resulted in a shutdown of the track from 1943-45.

Upon its reopening after the war, summer drew thousands of patrons. When that number began to exceed 10,000, more seating was built to extend the grandstand.

See more tracks and schedules

Belmont ParkChurchill DownsSaratoga RacecourseMonmouth ParkArlington International Racecourse
Pimlico Race CourseKeeneland Race CourseSanta Anita ParkOaklawn RacingFair Grounds Race Course

Upgrades were made throughout the past several decades to expand the offerings for patrons. 

These include the Whitney Viewing Stand to view horse workouts, a gazebo in the infield and public access to the Big Red Spring from the picnic grounds.

Some nicknames given to Saratoga include “The Spa,” due to the mineral springs on and near the grounds, the “House of Upsets” and “Graveyard of Champions.” 

The last two came from famous losses at the track, such as Man o’ War’s only defeat in 1919 in 21 starts, Secretariat in 1973, and American Pharoah in 2015.

Today, the motto of Saratoga is, “Health, history and horses.”

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