Often referred to as the “Graveyard of Favorites” for its handicapping difficulty, Saratoga Race Course is one of the most revered racetracks in all of horseracing. The track is located in beautiful Saratoga Springs, New York and is open for six weeks each year. The meet begins in July and traditionally closes on Labor Day, and each racing day is filled with top class racing featuring the best horses the world has to offer.
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Saratoga has been operating since 1864, making it one of the oldest racetracks in America. Each summer the top horses, trainers and jockeys converge on the town for one of the strongest stakes schedules in America and to stake their claim as the best on the track. Famous handicappers such as Andrew Beyer and sports celebrities like Bill Parcells are frequently spotted in the upscale track restaurant.
Saratoga cards a total of 36 graded stakes during the meet at “The Spa.” Two highlights on the stakes schedule are The Hopeful in which two-year-old colts often emerge as candidates for the following year’s Triple Crown series and the Grade 1 Travers Stakes which often features horses that have competed in the current Triple Crown affair. The Travers is often called the “Mid-Summer Derby.” It is a tough race; the last Kentucky Derby winner to come back and win the Travers was Street Sense in 2007.
It is traditional for the winner of the Travers to have the color of the owner’s silks painted on the Travers Canoe that sits in the infield. In 2012, the race ended in a deadheat when Alpha and Golden Ticket crossed the wire at the exact same moment. A second canoe had to be added to the infield that year.
The only horse to win the Triple Crown and the Travers was Whirlaway. In 2015, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah chose to skip the Travers and opt for the Haskell at Monmouth Park instead. He won with ease in New Jersey but many will always wonder how he would have fared in the Travers. (August 2015 American Pharoah Loses At Saratoga)
The all-time leading jockey at Saratoga is John Velazquez. Johnny V has won the riding title at the Spa a record five times. Ramon Dominguez has emerged in recent years as a threat to Velazquez with riding titles in 2009 and 2012 under his cap.
It is customary to see Todd Pletcher top the trainer standings at Saratoga. In 2012, Pletcher saddled 36 winners. This is an astounding job during such a short meet. Bill Mott, trainer of the legendary Cigar, is another trainer that does very well at Saratoga.
Graded Stakes run at Saratoga:
Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap
Coaching Club American Oaks
Go For Wand Handicap
King’s Bishop Stakes
Personal Ensign Stakes
Sword Dancer Handicap
Ballston Spa Handicap
Bernard Baruch Handicap
Honorable Miss Handicap
Jim Dandy Stakes
Lake George Stakes
Lake Placid Handicap
National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes
Saratoga Special Stakes
Glens Falls Handicap
James Marvin Stakes
Victory Ride Stakes
With Anticipation Stakes