From Mary Lou to Tom; Jim Dandy to Fourstardave; Siro’s to backyard tailgating; and morning workouts to give aways; Saratoga has a cast of heroes, customs, and institutions which make it, in our opinion, the most unique sporting venue on Earth. Over the next 40 Days, we will profile 40 of these legends and traditions, adding our own memories and experiences from 30 plus years of summering at the Spa. It’s our Salute to Saratoga. We hope you enjoy following along.
In all sports, greatness is honored. Heroes are vaulted to a level of immortality by placing them in household names like Cooperstown and Canton. Thoroughbred horse racing is no different, and it makes sense that this sports history is honored in the town where it has been supported continuously for over 150 years. The National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs pays homage to the heroes and figures who made this great sport what it is.
Located across the Union Avenue from the Saratoga Race Course, the Hall of Fame provides a great start to any day at the races. Show up at 10 am when the doors open, and you can stroll through the entire place and still make the first post. What better motivation is there for a great day at the races than seeing collectibles and trophies from the triumphs of Seattle Slew, Man O’War and Cigar.
Not just a Hall of Fame, the museum educates its visitors about the sport and its history, dating back even earlier than Saratoga itself. There is even a starting gate, so you can see the horses view as a race begins. The children’s exhibit provides hands on experiences to nourish the young minds of future handicappers, race-callers and horsemen.
But my personal favorite part of the Hall of Fame is the induction ceremony. Every year on the Friday in August prior to the Fasig Tipton Select Sales, the Hall of Fame inducts new members to the sports greatest fraternity. The crowd is a who’s who of racing, as many living inductees attend the ceremony to welcome in the newest class.
Each class member is presented to those in attendance by an presenter of their choosing. The speeches bring about nearly all emotions. Laughs, smiles and tears are always part of the production. But most importantly, each speech displays a large element of love.
Both presenters and inductees put o display the amount of love that goes into this sport. Love for horses and the brilliant performances they have given. Love for competition and the enduring will to compete. But most impressive is the love and compassion for the fellow horse men and women. This sport is difficult, many hard days and tough beats. But through all the hardship, the people who make a living in this sport have great love for each other. Yes, they are competitors but in the end they are compatriots and they have display happiness for the success of their fellow horsemen.
Yes, this sport is horse racing but it is the people that make it the game we all love. So, next year if you have the chance, go to the Hall of Fame induction. Listen to the speeches. Feel the emotions of the games greatest fil the room. You will not be disappointed.