The Saratoga Race Course is located on 360 acres just to the south-east of the city of Saratoga Springs, New York. It is the oldest Thoroughbred race course in the United States, and is home to the Travers Stakes, the longest running horse race for which there are continuous historical records.
The idea for a horse racing track in Saratoga was conceived in 1863 by John "Old Smoke" Morrissey. Morrissey had previously been a bare-knuckles boxing champion, bouncer, gambler and U.S. congressman before decided to test the appeal of horse racing. He staged a small meet at the "Horse Haven" training stable, which is currently on the grounds of the race course. The meet went so well that Morrissey decided to build a small track across the street from the stable to create a venue for more racing. Because of his ownership in the local gambling establishments, Morrissey decided not to put his name on the track, instead looking for some locals with the prestige to attract investors. He asked William Travers and John Hunter to front the construction of Saratoga Race Course, while silently financing the operation. They created the Saratoga Association, and elevated Travers as president.
In 1864, the Saratoga Race Course opened for it's first meet. A horse named Kentucky, with a purse of $2,950 won the first running of the Travers Stakes. Travers and Hunter owned Kentucky. While it appears suspicious that a horse owned by the two would win at their race track, this was commonplace, as track owners would also have the best stables and trainers.
The track did very well during the first seasons. Tourists from New York City would come up to Saratoga for the local spas, but stick around for the horse racing. The race track also became a pride of the city of Saratoga Springs, and soon the two became interrelated. Fourstardave won at Saratoga for eight straight years, and was so beloved among the townspeople that a street in Saratoga Springs was named after him when he retired.
Saratoga Race Course soon garnered a reputation as the "Graveyard of Champions" because of the number of upsets to take place on its grounds. The most famous of these was during the Travers Stakes of 1930, where 100-1 underdog Jim Dandy upset Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox. In the 1982 Travers, Runaway Groom upset the three winners of the Triple Crown (Gato Del Sol, Aloma's Ruler and Conquistador Cielo). Other famous losers were Man O' War (Sanford Memorial Stakes, 1919), and Secretariat (Whitney Stakes, 1973).
The Race Course is home to the Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. The Museum holds exhibits on horse racing throughout the history of the United States, as well as exhibits on famous personalities and horses. The museum also sponsored exhibits that travel to other race courses around the country. There is also a "racino" on the premisis, with video lottery terminals, for those interest in gambling even more money.
Grandstand Admission: $3
Clubhouse Admission: $5
The season starts currently runs from Mid-July to Labor Day, with no races on Tuesdays
Main Course: 1 1/8 Mile
Turf Course: 1 Mile
Steeplechase/Inner Turf Course: 7/8 Mile
Attendance Capacity: 50,000
Trackside Dining: 2,200
Total Seating Capacity: 18,000
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