Fun facts about Saratoga Race Course

Winslow Homer Our Watering Place.jpg

Winslow Homer's Our Watering Place -- an 1865 depiction of racing at Saratoga

The Saratoga Meet begins tomorrow, and odds are you're going to make a trip or two to the ponies this summer or you know someone who will. There's plenty of time between races to take in the sites or pick your trifecta in the next race, but in case you're looking for a way to entertain your track companions, here are a pocketful of fun facts to pull out over drinks in the clubhouse or at the picnic tables at the paddock.

Got any you want to add? Drop them in the comments and make us all smarter.

Track 2
The original track opened in 1863, adjacent to what is now the Oklahoma training track.
A group of investors purchased land across the street, and the "new" track opened in 1864. At 151 years old, the Saratoga Race Course is the oldest sporting venue in the United States.

One of the investors was Leonard Jerome. His daughter, in 1874, gave birth to Winston Churchill.

The first winner
The winner of the meet's first race, Lizzie W., crossed the finish line on August 3, 1863, exactly one month after the Battle of Gettysburg

Our watering places
Winslow Homer's engraving "Our Watering Places" depicted a race at Saratoga and was published in Harpers Bazaar in 1865. It's among the oldest media depictions of the track.

Our wickedest summer resort
 Reformers, over the years, have publicly denounced the track. In 1894 a reporter for the New York World, Nelly Bly, wrote an expose about Saratoga called Our Wickedest Summer Resort which included tales of greed, crime and "little children who play the horses."

What happened in 1911?
The Saratoga Racecourse has not been open every year since 1864. It was closed in 1911 and 1912 due to the Hart-Agnew bill, which made it illegal to quote odds openly, thus making it impossible for bookmakers to work. It was also closed from 1943 through 1945 due to World War II. Also, from 1943 to 1945 races were moved to Belmont Park because of war restrictions.

Graveyard of champions
Saratoga's reputation as the graveyard of champions stems from the defeat of famous horses including Man O' War losing to Upset in the 1919 Sanford Stakes. The loss to Upset was Man O' Wars only defeat in 21 starts, but, contrary to the legend that race was not responsible for the use of the word upset to refer to come from behind victories in racing. Other famous upsets at Saratoga include Gallant Fox losing to Jim Dandy in the 1930 Travers, and Secretariat losing to Onion in the 1973 Whitney Handicap.

Triple Crown winners
The only Triple Crown winner to also win the Travers was Whirlaway, in 1941. No decision has been made whether Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah will run in the Travers.

Buried at Saratoga
Three horses are buried in Clare Court, in the backstretch at Saratoga -- Fourstar Dave, Mourjane and A Phenomenon. Go for Wand is buried in the infield at Saratoga.

75 years of racing
+Hall of Fame Trainer James "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons came to Saratoga for an estimated 75 years. He died in 1966 at the age of 91.

How do you get to Saratoga?
If you are ever asked for directions to Saratoga, you can try out this line from Sportswriter Red Smith: "From New York City you drive north for about 175 miles, turn left on Union Avenue, and go back 100 years."


In 1986, a horse named Allumeuse won a race at Saratoga, but was later disqualified, in that it was claimed the horse caused interference during the race. Eventually the videotape showed that the stewards had DQ'd the wrong horse and Allumeuse's owner was allowed to receive the purse for winning the race, but the race results were made official and bettors on Allumeuse were out of luck.,4435381&hl=en

In 1997 I won $76 on a trifecta and thought I was the coolest guy in Saratoga.

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