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…