I have been going to Saratoga for the racing season every year since 1977, this year will be no exception. When I started attending the track, I was merely a child, however I was captivated by both the town and the track. Almost 40 years later, nothing has changed and the excitement in the pit of my stomach has grown every day for the last week.
When I first went to Saratoga all those years ago, the saddling was done under trees in the backyard. Each horse would get a tree in the backyard and anyone could watch them get saddled, then the owners, their families and friends would enter the walking ring. Now, the saddling all takes place in the paddock, still around trees there, but the backyard is filled with families and groups having picnics and enjoying the day without ever actually seeing the front side where the races take place.
The majesty of the boxes remains today as it was then. People dress in their summer finest on major days now instead of every race day then. The owners and glitterati mix and mingle and it is wonderful people watching and photo taking.
This is because Saratoga is the pinnacle of racing. Owners point to a win at Saratoga as a goal. Last year, Ken Ramsey, one of the country’s leading owners made it a goal to win the owners championship. He had the most horses of any individual owner on the grounds and won the championship easily. He has said publicly that this year will not be a repeat performance so it will be exciting to see who will win the crown.
The trainers are the best from throughout the country. Todd Pletcher has won an unprecedented 10 titles, will he win another or will it be Chad Brown’s turn to bring the championship home to Mechanicsville?
For such a small community, Saratoga has some of the best dining anywhere. Quite often, New York City restaurateurs find their way to Saratoga for a better lifestyle for their families, and we as patrons are the beneficiaries. I can’t wait to see some of my old favorites as well as try new ones this year.
It is a gathering time for people who haven’t seen each other all year. Saratoga in many ways is summer camp for the horse racing set. While the racing is the tops in the country, The social life is unparalleled. Whether it is kibbitzing over coffee at the Morning Line as the horses work out, or seeing friends in the boxes, or the multitude of galas, parties and events there seems to always be something to do in Saratoga for the next 40 days.
Saratoga in many ways is a place where time has stood still. The track has updated but not aged. The wooden stands shake when the favorite of the Travers takes the lead midstretch and you hope this won’t be the year the grand dam of racing collapses under the collective weight of the fans. It is truly the summer place to be and I am glad to be there again!