It’s never too early to be thinking about summer races, days at the track, and the thrill of seeing your pick cross the line less than a length ahead. But while you wait, why not spend some time on the top betting sites to hone your betting skills and get ready for opening day, and learn a bit about Saratoga Race Course – often considered the nation’s oldest sporting venue!
A Thoroughbred horse racing track situated in Saratoga Springs, New York, the Saratoga Race Course opened on August 3rd, 1863, making it one of the oldest horse racing tracks in the United States. There has been a fair amount of disagreement regarding what the oldest horse racing track in the US actually is, but it’s fair to say Saratoga is probably the most famous of these early tracks even if it was opened a couple years later.
County Fairs to Country Icon
John Morrrissey, a casino operator and future congressman was the pioneer behind creating such an iconic race track in Upstate New York, organizing the first thoroughbred race card on August 3rd, 1863 at the Saratoga Trotting Course.
Saratoga Springs had been the site of horse racing at country fairs as early as 1822, but after seeing the huge potential from this 4 day meet, Morrissey bought 125 acres of land across the street from the old standardbred track where he envisioned a beautiful track and sporting venue. He then went on to build a grandstand, and along with John Hunter, William R. Travers, and Leonard Jerome, opened Saratoga Race Course to the world. Since this time the only real exceptions to its continued operations have been world wars, and strict anti-gambling legislation for a couple years in the early 20th century.
The House of Upsets
Of course the history of such an amazing and storied track make Saratoga unique, but it’s important to look at some of the track’s nicknames to really get an understanding of why most horse racing fans immediately know about The Spa. When you hear the nicknames the House of Upsets and Graveyard of Champions, you probably have a pretty good idea about why trainers, breeders, and jockeys all get a bit nervous when racing at Saratoga – some of the best horses to ever run have lost there.
Arguably the greatest thoroughbred racehorse to ever live, Man o’ War took his only loss in twenty-one starts in the 1919 Sanford Stakes hosted at Saratoga. Following that, Gallant Fox, the second Triple Crown winner lost to a 100-1 longshot in the 1930 Travers Stakes.
Moving on to the more modern racing era, who hasn’t heard of Secretariat? Ninth winner of the American Triple Crown and holder of the fastest time record in all three races, the affectionately dubbed ‘Big Red’ lost at Saratoga in 1973, the same year he left the field 31 lengths behind at the Belmont Stakes. Rachel Alexandra managed to become the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness Stakes, only to lose the following year at Saratoga in the final 1/16 mile. And the most recent upset at Saratoga was handed to American Pharoah, whose illustrious career includes being the first horse to ever win the Grand Slam of thoroughbred racing after taking the Triple Crown and Breeder’s Cup in 2015.
So as the winter thaws, and tracks start opening up their gates, it may be worth a trip to Upstate New York to experience this iconic race course and possibly see a champion dethroned. So find your smartest outfits, and dust off your hat, because Saratoga opens up on July 14th, 2022, and features three different tracks: Main Course is 1 ⅛ mile, Turf Course is 1 mile, and the Steeplechase Course is ⅞ mile.