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Setting Up Saratoga

You can tell me and anyone else about any race track in the country. Have at it, whether I have been there or not.

Nothing beats Saratoga Race Course. Nothing.

Years ago, before I really had a major interest in covering and following horse racing, people tried to convince me to go out there. “Mike, you are such a huge sports guy. You have to go.”

I followed the Triple Crown races for years from afar and that was it. Now? It is everything. Races from the West to East, prepping the 2-year-old circuit for the 3-year old season, stakes races, females, males, Saratoga and more! I’ve also been to all the Triple Crown races and the Travers Stakes every year since 2013. I went from not that interested to obsessed. And it all started at Saratoga when former jockey Richard Migliore gave me a tour back in the Summer of 2013 when I moved to Albany.    

So with that, what makes it so special? Why make a visit out to the most glorious, best track in the country?

“Saratoga has evolved over the years,” says horse racing insider and handicapper Larry Latour. “Once well known as ‘The August Place To Be,’ it is now more appropriate to consider it ‘The Summer Place To Be!’ This is the oldest and most famous racing venue in the country with an ambience that is equaled only by the world class racing presented over the 40 days of the meet.”

While the Travers Stakes is nice to go to, every day is simply amazing at Saratoga. A quick suggestion is to go to a regular day during the week before you hit a stakes race day like Travers or the Jim Dandy or something else, walk the paddock, see the whole place with less people, walk down to the fence at night and watch those beautiful horses just a few feet in front of you. Soak it all in.

Want another reason to LOVE Saratoga Race Course? You can bring in your own coolers with food and drink, and yes, adult drinks. Just have cans and no glass. Having said that, must-try food is Shake Shack and the Mac and Cheese truck. Absolutely incredible.   

Want another reason to go to Saratoga Race Course this Summer? Some days it’s only a few bucks to get in for the whole day of racing. Technically, each race is a sporting event in my mind. So, you may pay $5 and see 10-12 races. 50 cents for a sporting event, not bad. Oh, and by the way, when you walk in, grab a spot, your spot, your group’s spot to hang out all day. Maybe a picnic table area or the space by Dunkin Donuts. Either way, have your territory and bring your lawn chairs because you can go back and forth from the track to your hangout spot without worry. And on occasion, you can watch a race or two on the monitor if that’s your thing. 

Another awesome perk of horse racing is the close proximity you have to the jockeys. After races, the jockeys walk back to the silk area (their uniforms) and will mingle with fans, sign autographs and exchange thoughts on the race. Sorry, but you can’t exactly do that right after a Patriots game with Tom Brady or a Yankees game with Aaron Judge.

And then, of course, hit Broadway for a nice meal and some drinks before the trip home. Downtown Saratoga is simply gorgeous. Or, you could be lucky enough to hit SPAC for a concert during track season. This year, Saratoga Race Track opens a week early and Dave Matthews Band is playing as well (July 11 being opening day and then DMB and races on July 12 and 13). ‘Special for me, horse racing opening in Saratoga and my 59th and 60th DMB shows.

Larry Latour adds: “Saratoga is much more than racing, however. Four and/or Five-star hotels dot the city as well as a plethora of more affordable establishments throughout the region for the budget minded. A myriad of top class dining can be found as well as several city blocks of quaint shopping venues. For those who can’t get enough action during the daytime, the Saratoga Harness track runs mostly at night and is complete with a casino and excellent hotel accommodations onsite. A short 25 mile drive North to Lake George brings multiple entertainment opportunities for the young and old alike. Clearly, Saratoga and the surrounding region is worthy of being considered ‘The Summer Place To Be.’”

As far as the competition this year, look for any number of 3-year-old horses to compete from the Triple Crown races in one of the most wide-open racing years ever. From Tacitus to Code of Honor to Sir Winston (Belmont Stakes winner) to Joevia to Country House (Kentucky Derby winner thanks to disqualification) to War of Will to Game Winner to a bunch of others, the competition should be stellar.

The Capital Region has a host of colleges, a minor league baseball team and a few other things and New York City and Boston sports teams and other cities are varied in terms of support. What does that mean? Horse racing is the “collective” pro sport that people gravitate to, which makes it even more special.

“Saratoga Race Course is unlike any other sporting venue in the country,” says Kevin Rich, Town Square Media General Manager and horse racing handicapper/analyst. “There is so much rich history here and it’s a place that some of the best horses, trainers, and owners have come to for decades upon decades. Whether you are a horse better or a novice horse racing fan, you will be sucked in and captured by Saratoga’s energy. Spending Summer days at Saratoga Race Course (and nights enjoying the vibrancy of downtown Saratoga) are the days & nights I look forward to most each and every year.”

Cya at the Spa!

Mike Lindsley
Follow Mike Lindsley on Twitter @MikeLSports and download his podcast the “ML Sports Platter” on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Spotify.