And they’re off!
The graceful, cosmopolitan city of Saratoga Springs, nestled in upstate New York just north of Albany and full of Victorian charm, is a destination filled with fabulous dining, bountiful boutiques, relaxing day spas, lavish golf courses, thriving nightlife, beautiful state parks, and, best of all, the excitement of Saratoga Race Course. From this season’s Opening Day celebration on Thursday, July 11, to the 150th running of the Runhappy Travers on Saturday, August 24, Saratoga Race Course is key to making Saratoga Springs the summer place to be.
Steeped in both history and novelty, Saratoga Race Course is the crown jewel of Saratoga Springs. In addition to world-class horse racing, the numerous hospitality areas and entertainment options make the track a perfect full-day affair. Here’s everything you need to know — from what to wear to how to place your bets — to get the most winning experience out of your visit:
Saratoga Race Course provides a little Southern comfort right here in New York, and the fashion reflects the atmosphere. Pastels, bow ties, sundresses, and ornate hats are standard sights all around the track. For men, a simple pair of khakis or colored shorts paired with a classic button-down and a seersucker sport coat will help you look the part, and a whimsical bow tie will add a snazzy detail. For the ladies, bright and bold colors, patterned sundresses, and oversize sun hats will make you feel right at home at The Spa, as the grand old track is affectionately known.
Get in on the action via the NYRA Bets app, use a self-service terminal, or go old-school at a mutuel window. However you decide to play, betting is simple and the terminology is the same across the board. We’ve compiled basic terms you need to know before you pick your winners:
Your horse must finish first.
Your horse must finish first or second.
Your horse must finish first, second, or third.
Across the Board
Separate win, place, and show wagers of equal amounts on the same horse.
“Boxing” your individual race picks allows for more flexibility and a better chance to win. Your wager will be more expensive; however, it allows you to win if your selected horses finish in any order as opposed to a specific order.
Pick the first two horses in the correct order. Box it and the horses you select can finish in any order.
Pick the first three horses in the correct order. Box it and the horses you select can finish in any order.
Pick the first four horses in the correct order. Box it and the horses you select can finish in any order.
The electric atmosphere is a huge part of what makes a day at the track so special. From picnics and lawn games in the back yard to stylish hats and champagne in the Clubhouse, Saratoga Race Course has something for everyone to enjoy.
The newest option is the 1863 Club, which pairs premium luxuries with breathtaking views in a three-story, air-conditioned venue right on the Clubhouse turn. The club includes luxury suites, an event space for parties of up to 100 people, and The Rail at the 1863 Club, a spacious buffet restaurant that accommodates 500 guests.
Fans looking to make sure they have a spot to sit upon arrival at the track may enjoy a reserved seat in the Clubhouse or Grandstand, which offer great sightlines of the racing action. Larger parties may enjoy a reserved table in the Fourstardave Sports Bar or Miller Lite Picnic Paddock. A more casual option is offered in the back yard, where hundreds of picnic tables are available to fans for free each day of the meet.
Bring your appetite as Saratoga offers everything from high-end al fresco restaurants to summer concession stand favorites. Stay hydrated with specialty craft cocktails and local beverages like the Woodford Reserve Travers Smash and the Ketel One Saratoga Lemonade.
In addition to the best racing in North America, a day at Saratoga is punctuated by endless entertainment and special events, including live music, craft beer, cider and wine tastings, fashion showcases, family fun activities and much more.
The must-see event of the summer is the 150th running of the Runhappy Travers on Saturday, August 24. Often referred to as “The Mid-Summer Derby,” the first running of the Travers was held in 1864, three years prior to the Belmont Stakes and more than a decade before the Kentucky Derby, making it the oldest 3-year-old stakes race in the United States. If you prefer an early August getaway, the Whitney on Saturday, August 3, is among the most historic and prestigious races in the nation. It was in the Whitney that the legendary Secretariat was upset by a horse named Onion, which led to Saratoga earning the nickname “the Graveyard of Champions.”
After a memorable day at the track, head over to Broadway in Saratoga Springs and choose from a variety of shops and restaurants that fuel the thriving downtown business community. No matter your summertime craving, the main stretch of Saratoga Springs offers plenty of possibilities. Once you’ve taken your last bite, celebrate your winnings on Caroline Street, known for its row of bars and pubs, to keep the night going. There you’ll experience New Orleans vibes, with the party often spilling out onto the sidewalk. Or enjoy an evening at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, which features an outdoor amphitheater with expansive lawn seating for rock, classical, and jazz concerts in addition to world-class ballet.
For a quick summer getaway that involves more excitement than the beach and less sand in your shoes, Saratoga Race Course is an exceptional New York destination to visit by several lengths. The wide array of offerings provides something for everyone — even those too young to place a bet — and the charming city of Saratoga Springs will make you feel as though you’ve traveled much farther than upstate New York. It’s a trip worthy of the winner’s circle!