Saratoga Springs has long been known by race fans and vacationers as the “Summer Place to Be”. This phrase was originally coined by the Queen of Saratoga, Marylou Whitney, as the “August Place to Be” when the racing meet only ran for 24 days. It has since been used by both the City and Saratoga Race Course. This summer, we at Thorobros will highlight the events both on track and off-track that we deem are the “places to be” that week.
For the first week of the racing season, occupying the top three places on the list (and likely 4 – 10 as well) is the Queen of racetracks: Saratoga Race Course. After a full year without fans in attendance, it is finally time for the Spa to welcome back the cast of characters that make it such a unique venue: the FANS. The racetrack here is unique in so many ways, but in our eyes it is the access that the racing fans have to the stars of the sport that make it so unique.
Whether its the jockeys walking through the crowds on the way to and way back from races, the (mostly) open view of the paddock for all fans, or the access to the backstretch offered by NYRA via the trolley tours in the morning, Saratoga provides fans with an opportunity to feel like they are truly part of the action. And if you ask any member of the industry, whether it be the jockeys, trainers, owners, grooms, valets, hotwalkers, media members or racetrack executives and employees, I am sure they all will say it is the fans that drive them to perform their best at the nation’s premier racing meet.
After going almost two years without public access to the track, heading to the track this weekend should be the top priority for anyone in the area. Our suggestion for your visit is the same as every year for opening weekend: take it all in. Even if you have seats or a picnic table, make sure to walk around the hollowed grounds of Saratoga Race Course, the nation’s oldest sporting venue. Take a trip to the paddock to watch 2 year-olds saddle for the first time. Watch a race from the apron. Visit your favorite vendors (Hatties Chicken Sandwiches and Manhattan Clam Chowder for us! Stroll through the backyard under the tall pines and maples and enjoy the thick green grass (it will be gone by Monday). Wish the jockeys luck on their walk to the paddock. Cherish everything that is good about being back in your favorite place.
Additionally, check out some of the new sites and attractions for fans. Head to the top of the stretch and peep at the new Veranda at the top of the stretch. A unique outdoor offering with private betting and bar service – think poolside cabana in Vegas but with a private rail view of the quarter pole.
Head to the clubhouse turn to check out the new tailgating section – Tailgate at the Turn. Each car gets their own private table and a rail position on the clubhouse turn in the location of the old luxury boxes. It’s a really unique view, as the horses are running directly at you for the length of the stretch.
Last, a sneaky new addition to the vendor line up is a La Crema winery bar. Directly next to the Paddock Bar, this will surely be a stop for many of our lovely lady guests. Not only is it a bar but also has a seating area that makes you feel like you are at boozy brunch.
Whatever your fancy, just get to the track and soak it all in. Celebrate a return of racing fans to the track that welcomes you the most. Have fun and good luck to all!