The August Place To Be

Having grown up in Saratoga, I’ve seen racing slogans come and go, and my favorite has always been “The August Place to Be,” introducing me as it did to “august” as an adjective, and to a new pronunciation of the word. When racing went to five weeks and began in July, this was changed to the far less clever “The Summer Place to Be.” “August” works both a noun and an adjective, but “summer,” not so much.

Another memorable one is “Saratoga is exciting,” and the nearly equally ubiquitous “Saratoga est passionnant,” for our frequent French-speaking visitors from the North. Both that slogan and the Québécois visitors disappeared a long time ago.

Both august and exciting, Saratoga offers a variety of racing-related events during the six weeks of the meet. Herewith are several within the first few weeks in which the public can partake; all are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.

Sunday, July 20th: Saratoga Open House. The track is free and open to the public from 11 am – 4 pm. Five races, four of them jump races, are carded; no betting, alas. NYRA has planned lots of activities for kids, including face painting and pony rides, and two bands will provide live music. The track is offering free backstretch tours and handicapping seminars, and the day will benefit local not-for-profit organizations.

An alternative to the free open house is pricy participation in Saratoga Jump Start, a charity event to benefit the National Steeplechase Foundation and the Wesley Foundation. The National Steeplechase Foundation “helps fund the growth and development of American steeplechase racing through initiatives that support safety, rules enforcement, amateur racing and promotion,” while the Saratoga-based Wesley Foundation “specializes in developing facilities and programs to meet the needs of the aging and chronically ill through residential and health-oriented services.”

For approximately $500 per person, participants “will be treated to a cocktail party Saturday evening at the National Museum of Racing and a Sunday luncheon in the Clubhouse Terrace dining room, and will receive valet parking, premier clubhouse box seats, paddock passes and other VIP amenities.”

Monday, July 21st: At 7:00 pm the National Museum of Racing hosts its annual round table to kick off the racing season. This year, trainer Nick Zito, jockey Alan Garcia, NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward, and local handicapper Kyle Brownell will participate in a discussion moderated by Mike Kane, the Museum’s communications director.

Wednesday, July 23rd: Opening day! Yippee! First post 1:00; gates open at 11 am. Feature: the Grade III Schuylerville for two-year-old fillies.

Tuesday, July 29th: The New York State Task Force on Retired Racehorses holds an all-day panel discussion on synthetic surfaces, from 10 am – 5 pm at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion.

The task force “was established by law last year and has been charged with investigating the feasibility of creating a larger market and alternative employment opportunities for retired race horses, as well as studying the issues surrounding the installation of artificial turf on race courses” (Task Force press release).

The first panel will consist of track officials and superintendents; subsequent panels will include vets, trainers, jockeys, and “industry analysts and researchers.”

The press release notes that the following will participate: trainers Todd Pletcher, Nick Zito, Mark Casse and Dale Romans; jockeys Edgar Prado, John Velasquez (sic), Garrett Gomez, and Javier Castellano; exercise rider and horse slaughter activist Alex Brown; NYRA president Charles Hayward; Turfway Park president Bob Elliston; Dr. Rick Arthur of the California Racing Board; Professor Mick Peterson of the University of Maine; Dr. Sue Stover from the University of California’s Davis Veterinary School; veterinarian Dr. Mark Cheney; Dr. Mark Hurtig from Ontario Veterinary College and Woodbine Track Superintendent Irwin Driedger.

Not such a great job spelling Johnny V’s last name (it’s Velazquez–Cornelio spells it Velasquez), and as Garrett Gomez won’t be riding at the Spa this summer, will he be flying in just for this?

The program will be webcast through the New York State Racing and Wagering Board’s website.

Monday, August 4th: National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame induction, 10:30 am at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion. This year’s inductees are trainer Carl Nafzger, jockeys Edgar Prado and Ismael “Milo” Valenzuela, and the horses Ancient Title, Inside Information and Manila. The guest speaker will be Dr. Dean Richardson, professor of equine surgery and the chief of large animal surgery at the University of Pennsylvania’s George D. Widener Hospital at New Bolton Center. Or, as he is better known, Barbaro’s surgeon.

Praise is often heaped on Saratoga for the access it provides to the racing community, and these events are examples of how the racing world opens its doors to its fans during the six weeks at the Spa. August, yes; exciting, yes; accessible, yes. Thirteen more days…

7 thoughts on “The August Place To Be

  1. That TB retirement task force sounds great – definitely needed. I hope to make it to Saratoga one day. I’m lucky to live near Keeneland, which is so gorgeous and class, and I’ve been told that the only track that compares is Saratoga.

  2. Ah , words to warm my heart, “The August Place to Be”. Yes you are an old timer like me who looks fondly upon the old 4 week season and attached slogan. For more Saratoga happenings including the launch of the Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association check out my blog.

  3. Don’t forget the sales at Fasig Tipton. I remember walking back to my car at the Oklahoma training track after the races and hearing an auctioneer. We wandered over to the pavilion and watched the sales. It was a part of racing I’d never experienced, and I think even a casual fan would enjoy it.

  4. Kerry: I went to Keeneland a year ago and loved it. It’s different from Saratoga in a lot of ways, but the feeling is the same. I hope to get back at some point.Saratogaspa: Been reading about the new group. Have to say that initial impressions are disappointing, but that’s fodder for an upcoming post. Rich: Love the sales! Worked at them while I was in college–will work them into the second installment of “things to do” in Saratoga…

  5. Growing up in central Ky, Keeneland = October to me… sure the April meet is nice, but that October meet is really as good as it gets in my eyes…

  6. I remember going up there in ’81 and as I recall the horses were saddled under the elms without any railings or fences to keep people away. Is it still like that?

  7. Unfortunately, Michael, Keeneland’s schedule does NOT support the life of a teacher! I could squeeze out a day off in April, but in October–nearly impossible, damn it.Cainhoy: Years ago, insurance considerations led to the paddock being moved and fenced off, inaccessible to the public. It is still beautiful, and you can still get close to the horses, but they are far out of arm’s reach. I’ll post photos of the “new” paddock soon.

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