Saratoga Race Course opened in Saratoga Springs, NY on August 3, 1863, and is the oldest organized sporting venue of any kind in the United States. It is typically open for racing from late July through early September. The race course has two well-known nicknames — The Spa (for the nearby mineral springs), and the “Graveyard of Champions” (for the upsets that have occurred there, including Secretariat).
The grounds at Saratoga Race Course contain several unique features. Patrons can get close up views of the horses being led to the paddock as the path from the stables runs through the picnic grounds. There is a mineral spring called the Big Red Spring in the picnic grounds where patrons can partake of the water that made Saratoga Springs famous. A gazebo is a prominent feature on the infield and a stylized version of the gazebo is part of Saratoga Race Course logo.
Saratoga Race Course is rich with tradition. A lake in the middle of the track contains a canoe that is painted annually in the colors of the winning stable for that year’s Travers Stakes winner. Also, prior to each race a bell is hand rung at exactly 17 minutes prior to scheduled post time for each race. This is to call the jockeys to the paddock.
The 2012 meeting will be 40 days long from Friday, July 20th to Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 3rd. Saratoga is the home of the 143rd Running of the Travers Stakes on Aug. 25th, 2011. The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) and the NBC Sports Group have announced the schedule for this year’s Summer at Saratoga series, with five live broadcasts from Saratoga Race Course, starting on Saturday, August 11, going through Saturday, September 1, and including marquee races such as the Alabama, Travers, and Woodward.
“Where the Turf
Meets the Surf”
Del Mar Racetrack is an American Thoroughbred horse racing track at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in the seaside city of Del Mar, California, 20 miles north of San Diego. Operated by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, it is known for the slogan: “Where The Turf Meets The Surf.” It was built by a partnership including Bing Crosby, the actor Pat O’Brien, Jimmy Durante, Charles S. Howard and Oliver Hardy.
The first Bing Crosby Handicap was held at Del Mar in 1946 and that same year the Sante Fe Railroad began offering a racetrack special bringing spectators, bettors and horses to Del Mar from Los Angeles. Throughout the late 1940s and 1950s the track became the Saratoga of the West for summer racing. The track had large purses for many stakes, over half of which were won by the legendary jockey, Bill Shoemaker.
The track has a one-mile main dirt track and a seven furlong turf course. The track runs during the summer at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and can stable more than a thousand horses. Del Mar is known for its tan stucco grandstand located directly on the Pacific Ocean.
The first race of the meet on opening day (this year Wednesday, July 18th) starts at 2:00pm when track announcer Trevor Denman begins each racing season with his trademark call: “And there’s the roar from the Del Mar crowd as the Del Mar meet is underway.” An estimated crowd of 40,000 plus will be in attendance. This year racing will be from Wednesday to Sunday with a 2:00pm start time except for Friday when first post is 4:00pm and followed by a concert.
Your Bucket List
If you enjoy the sport of kings and love to spend a summer afternoon at the track then put these two venues on your bucket list and get planning. Whether it’s at “The Spa” in upstate New York or “where the turf meets the surf” in sunny Southern California you will be in for a special treat indeed.