This Week At Saratoga: July 20

Tomorrow, the first races of Saratoga 2015 will be drawn, and on Friday, the gates will open for the 147th Thoroughbred meeting at Saratoga Race Course.

By the time we get to Labor Day, we’ll have seen 40 days of racing, 36 graded stakes, dozens of 2-year-olds, and more opportunities to donate your winnings to charitable causes than you can keep track of.

Unless you check in here regularly, so that you can keep track of the myriad racing, historical, and charitable events of the summer season; I’ll update frequently, as new events are announced. Click on the links in each entry for more information.

Have an event you’d like publicized? E-mail me if it fits into one of those categories; no commercial events, though feel free to get in touch if you’d like to talk about advertising.

Coming to Saratoga for the first time? Check out my guide to the track at Hello Race Fans.

We’ve been waiting for this since last September, and now, we’ve got only four days to go. Take a deep breath, rest up, and see you at the races…

(Photo credit for front page image: NYRA/Adam Coglianese)

Ongoing throughout the summer

Tours of the Oklahoma training facility. Offered by reservation every day except Tuesday by the National Museum of Racing. Tours begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Museum parking lot and reservations are required—weekend reservations are required by 4 p.m. the previous Thursday.

No tours are offered on August 7 or Travers weekend, August 29-30.  No children in backpacks or strollers, and tour participants must be at least 10 years old.

Sturdy walking shoes are suggested, and the cost is $5 for Museum members, $10 for non-members, which includes admission to the Museum after the tour.

For reservations or more information, call the Museum’s Education Department at 518 584 0400 ext. 120 or e-mail

At Saratoga Race Course

Mondays: Family Mondays, with activities for children including face painting, crafts, a bounce house, etc. and a weekly low roller handicapping contest.

Wednesdays: Heritage days with traditional crafts, food, dancing, and music

Thursdays:  Taste NY wine, cider, and spirit tastings

Fridays:  Taste NY craft beer tastings

Saturdays:  Fashion Saturdays

Sundays: Taste NY food and artisan vendors and low-roller handicapping contests

(details on these days included in weekly listings)

Every day: Join race caller Larry Collmus in his booth for the third race to support Backstretch Employees Service Team. Up to six people can participate each day for $100 per person, with all proceeds going to support BEST’s work with backstretch workers.

Listings for the full summer are here…keep reading for highlights of the upcoming week.

This week at Saratoga…

Wednesday, July 22

The annual meet preview at the Racing Museum and Hall of Fame.  This year’s panel comprises NYRA president/CEO Chris Kay and race caller Larry Collmus; trainer Gary Contessa; and radio/TV host Steve Byk.

7 pm, free and open the public. The panel discussion is followed by an audience Q&A.

Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fundraiser at Capital OTB, 5-8 pm. Jockeys John Velazquez, Javier Castellano, and Irad and José Ortiz will be on hand to sign autographs for a $10 donation, while Thoroughbred owners Roddy Valente and Tom Gallo and trainer Abigail Adsit will be behind the bar, with all tips going to the PDJF.

Brooklyn Backstretch’s house handicapper Brian Nadeau will bet a $500 bankroll on that day’s Del Mar races, with the balance going to the PDJF, and handicappers Seth Merrow and Tom Amello will preview Friday’s opening day card from 7–8 pm, with free past performances for attendees.

Women and Wagering, A Horse Racing Beginner’s Guide to handicapping, betting, and handicapping contests at Jacob and Anthony’s on High Rock Avenue. Complimentary appetizers are on offer from 5-6 pm, followed by an information session from 6-7. The event features handicapper Mark Cusano and trainer Leah Gyarmati. The event is free and will support Backstretch Employees Service Team (BEST).

Book discussion:  Author Bill Heller and Hall of Fame jockey Jose Santos will discuss Heller’s biography of Santos, Above It All: The Turbulent Life of Jose Santos at Northshire Bookstore on Broadway at 7 pm.  (I wrote about the book when it was published in 2011.)

Thursday, July 23

At The Post with Andy Serling returns to the Parting Glass this summer, every Thursday from 8-9 pm. This week’s guests are trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, jockey Angel Cruz, and race caller Larry Collmus. Free.

Friday, July 24

Navajo Horse Healing Project at Old Friends at Cabin Creek. Jim Harrison Sr. and Gino Antonio, traditional practitioners of Navajo ceremonies, will offer a blessing for the retired Thoroughbreds at the farm and pray for the safety and protection of all the racehorses running at Saratoga Race Course.

The ceremony begins at noon, and guests, who are welcome to bring lawn chairs, are asked to arrive at least 15 minutes early. No photography will be permitted.

Old Friends at Cabin Creek is located at 483 Sand Hill Rd. in Greenfield Center, a short drive from Saratoga. Please contact JoAnn Pepper at 518 698 2377 for more information.

Opening day! At 1 pm, Saratoga Race Course will kick off it 147th race meeting. The day’s stakes races put the fillies in the spotlight: the $200,000 Grade II Lake George for three-year-olds (1 1/16, turf) and the $150,000 Grade III Schuylerville for two-year-olds (six furlongs, dirt).  The Schuylerville was first run in 1918.

Taste NY will be on-track for its regular Friday beer tasting, this week featuring brews from Olde Saratoga Brewing Company and Druthers Brewing Company. Noon to 5 pm in the Saratoga Pavilion, and a sampling fee applies.

Hats Off to Saratoga, the traditional opening weekend event, takes over downtown Saratoga from 7-11 pm, featuring live music and entertainment up and down Broadway. This celebration continues Saturday night.

Saturday, July 25

Book signing: Hurricana: Thoroughbred Dynasty, Amsterdam Landmark. Author Louis F. Hildebrandt will sign copies of his book on Hurricana in nearby Amsterdam, New York, home of the Sanford family’s prestigious racing and breeding operation.  The signing will take place in the lobby of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame from 10 am to 1 pm. Books will be available for purchase.

While you’re there, check out the Museum’s exhibit on Hurricana, too.

If you’re interested in racing history, I highly recommend learning more about the historic Sanford farm, and Louis Hildebrandt can tell great stories about it – his father was the Sanfords’ jockey for many years. Here’s a 1999 article I wrote on the book.

At the track, the features are the $150,000 Grade III Sanford for two-year-olds (6 furlongs, dirt) and the $500,000 Grade I Diana for fillies and mares three-years-old and up (1 1/8 miles, turf).  This year is the 101st edition of the Sanford, first run in 1913. The Diana was first run in 1939.

Habitat for Humanity of Northern Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties will be at the track’s Community Outreach booth.

The first Fashion Saturday of the meet (11 am to 6 pm, Saratoga Pavilion) offers prizes for the best-dressed man and woman, including a trophy presentation for the Fashion Saturday race.  Participating shops include Hat Sational by DEI, Lifestyles of Saratoga, Rumors Salon and Spa and menswear from The National.

Reading and book signing: Local journalist/writer  Thomas Dimopoulos will read from and sign copies of Saratoga Stories: Magic and Loss at 7 pm at Northshire Bookstore on Broadway.  A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book at this event will go to Saratoga Code Blue, an emergency shelter serving homeless people in Saratoga Springs.

Hats Off to Saratoga continues. See Friday listng for details.

Sunday, July 26

Summer Stroll: Historic Fifth and Madison Avenues. Meet at the northeast corner of Nelson and Fifth at 10:30 am for a tour guided by the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, to learn about “these grand residential streets lined with elegant Victorian and Craftsman Houses.”  Reservations are suggested but not required; $5 for SSPF members, $8 for non-members.  Contact Nicole Totaro at 518 587 5030 or to register.

Saratoga baseball hat giveaway at the track. The feature race is the $300,000 Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks for three-year-old fillies (1 1/8 miles, dirt), run for the first time 1917 and the 98th time this year.

Perhaps not coincidentally hat giveaway day, you’ll also find a hat contest at the track today. Participants can compete in three categories: Uniquely Saratoga; Fashionably Saratoga; and Kreative Kids. Registration for the Hat Contest will begin at noon under the Saratoga grandstand. The competition will take place after the second, third and fourth races on the track apron.

Christie’s Heartoberfest will be at the track’s Community Outreach booth, near the jockeys’ silks room.

Taste NY: Food and Artisans will be in the Saratoga Pavilion from 10:30 am to 5 pm, offering products such as jams, honey, baked goods and hand-crafted soap.

Low Rollers Handicapping Contest for $40 buy-in ($30 going towards live money and $10 to the prize pool). Participants must place live $2 win, place and show wagers on five different horses in five different races. Only Saratoga races are accepted for contest play.  Register on the first floor of the grandstand by the lower Carousel before post time for the day’s fifth race. The tournament will be held each Sunday and Monday of the meet.

Monday, July 27

Fabulous Fillies Luncheon to benefit The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation and Shelters of Saratoga. This event at the Hall of Springs will feature a silent auction beginning at 11:30 am and a luncheon at 1 pm, followed by a fashion show.

Tickets are $150 per person; those interested are asked to respond by today (July 20). For more information, contact Nancy Kelly at 518 226 0609 or (If you’re reading this after the 20th and interested in going, no harm in calling to see if space is still available.)

The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation offers financial relief and assistance to grooms, hot walkers, night watchmen, jockeys and exercise riders, as well as office personnel and farm and training center workers. The organization has helped these individuals with medical, hospital and rehabilitation bills, mortgage payments, rent, utilities, food, prescription medications, therapeutic equipment, voice-recognition computers for quadriplegics, wheelchair accessible vans, and funeral costs.  (Click here for a 2013 article I wrote on the organization.)

Shelters of Saratoga Inc. (SOS) strives to ensure that those in the greater Saratoga region who are homeless or at risk of homelessness have safe, affordable and secure places to live, evolving from a space in St. Clement’s Church basement, to a mobile home for eight homeless men, to its current emergency shelter location at 14 Walworth Street in Saratoga Springs. Since August 2012, through the conversion of a neighboring facility, SOS has the capacity to temporarily house 32 homeless adult men and women.

At the track, the feature is the $100,000 Lucky Coin for four-year-olds and up (5 1/2 furlongs, turf), along with a low roller handicapping contest (see Sunday’s listing for details).

Family Monday in the Saratoga Pavilion from 11 am to 4 pm offers a variety of activities for children, including the opportunity to pet a retired thoroughbred.

Each Monday, schools and PTAs have an opportunity to fundraise for their operations, wth both The New York Racing Association and sponsor Berkshire Bank offering matching grants. This week’s featured organization is the Skano Elementary School, part of the Shenendehowa Central Schools District in Clifton Park.

Hay, Oats, and Spaghetti Dinner to raise money for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at Bravo Restaurant, 3256 Route 9 in Saratoga, a short drive south from downtown.

This is the site of the old Joe Collins—or Jack Dillon’s, if you’re not an old-timer—which was recently taken over by the folks at Mama Mia’s, so you know the spaghetti will be good.  Click for tickets.

Looking ahead? Click here for listings for the whole summer.

4 thoughts on “This Week At Saratoga: July 20

  1. Used to go to Joe Collins all the time. And, my favorite old after races hangout was Red’s. Loved the kids bringing in The Pink Sheet after the races while eating dinner. Before the internet it was the fastest way to read that days charts. Thanks for the update Teresa. Have a great meet.

    • Hi, Jim — Other than tonight’s event (Wedneday) at Jacob and Anthony’s, not sure of Cusano’s plans, but will ask him when I see him.

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