A week from tomorrow, historic Saratoga Race Course will kick off its 143rd meet. Horses, trainers, jockeys, owners, and fans will descend on the resort town to which summer visitors have flocked since the 19th century.
Six racing days a week keep residents and tourists alike busy during the daylight hours, but local and seasonal organizations do their best to make sure that there’s no dearth of activity outside the track gates, and social, cultural, and charitable opportunities abound. Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find during the meet, a list that will be updated regularly.
Saturday, July 16: Capital OTB Saratoga Handicapping Expo. I will join Tom Gallo (Parting Glass Racing), Josh Bauman (Karakorum Racing), and Mike Kipness (The Wizard) on a panel hosted by Trackfacts’ Tom Amello at the Albany Teletheater from 10:30 to noon. Join us for a kick-off discussion on the upcoming meet.
Monday, July 18: “A View From the Backstretch” opens to the public at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. The exhibit is a collaboration between award-winning photographer Dona Ann McAdams and a group of backstretch workers, including exercise riders, hot walkers, maintenance personnel, kitchen staff, and grooms.
Wednesday, July 20, 7 pm: The Racing Museum holds its annual meet preview, this year featuring NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward; racing secretary P.J. Campo; Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez; and trainer Todd Pletcher.
Thursday, July 21 features a trio of events sponsored by racing charities.
Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division (located in Greenfield Center, NY, a 15-minute drive from downtown Saratoga) offers two fun ways to support its retired racehorses, including Travers winners Thunder Rumble and Will’s Way.
Noon: Mini-golf tournament with Spa jockeys at Murphy’s Driving Range. $20 per person, with all proceeds benefiting Old Friends.
2:00: Open house at Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division. Tour the farm, partake in refreshments, listen to music, and enjoy a barbecue, all for $5.
That evening at 6:30, join the Racetrack Chaplaincy at Saratoga Strike Zone (that’s Hi-Roc Lanes to us Saratoga old-timers) for an evening of bowling to support backstretch families. For $25, you get three hours of bowling, shoes, two slices of pizza, a soda, and a bumper car ride.
And this is not your father’s Hi-Roc Lanes; a recent renovation has resulted in a state-of-the-art bowling alley, a play area for the kids, and a sports bar/café.
Friday, July 22: Opening Day at Saratoga!
Saturday, July 23, 5:30 – 9:30: Cocktail party and auction at the Washington Inn to benefit Old Friends at Cabin Creek. Tickets are $75.
Wednesday, July 27, 6:00: The horsemen take on the jockeys in an annual basketball game that raises money for the Racetrack Chaplaincy. Saratoga Rec Center, 15 Vanderbilt Avenue. The horsemen will be looking to avenge last year’s defeat.
Thursday, August 4: Equine Advocates holds its annual fundraiser at the Saratoga City Center. Arlington Park’s Richard L. Duchossois will receive the Ellen & Herbert Moelis Equine Savior Award for Philanthropy, and jockey Kent Desormeaux will receive the Bo Derek Award of Merit.
All proceeds will directly benefit Equine Advocates Horse Rescue, Sanctuary and Humane Education Programs. Tickets are $250 per person.
Sunday, August 7, 7:00: Join the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at the Saratoga City Center for an evening of cocktails, dinner, dancing, and fundraising, hosted by Bobby Flay and Carolyn Conley. Frank Stronach will receive the Earle Mack Thoroughbred Retirement Champion Award, “in appreciation of his outstanding efforts on behalf of retired Thoroughbred horses.” Tickets are $250.
My new favorite spot for retail adult beverages is the Crush and Cask at 170 South Broadway in Saratoga. It offers an excellent selection of wine and spirits, and its proprietors, Patty and Jeff Novo, are fans of both racing and racing charities. In that spirit (yes, yes, pun intended…), the store will host two fundraising wine tastings this summer.
On Thursday, August 11, the tasting will benefit Old Friends; on Wednesday, August 17, it will benefit the Belmont Child Care Association. Both will take place from 6-8. Tastings are free, but a paltry $2 donation is suggested, with proceeds going to the charities. Come by, donate, partake, and buy! Support this local business that supports both racing and racing charities, and check them out on Facebook.
Plenty more to follow…dig out your party clothes (or your bowling shoes), open your wallet, and get ready for six+ weeks of racing, gambling, socializing, and donating. I head to Saratoga Friday morning…see you there!