Saratoga Race Course
Saratoga, largely considered the third oldest track in the U.S. and the “oldest organized sporting venue of any kind” in the country,1 opened in 1863, under the leadership of John Hunter, William R. Travers, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and John Morrissey. In its first operating year, developers used the harness racing track (now the Oklahoma Training Track) for Thoroughbred flat racing before opening the predecessor of the current course.
After a period of decline in the late 19th century due to heightened gambling competition, the course was purchased in 1901 by a William C. Whitney-led group of investors. Saratoga, like the majority of New York tracks, suffered after the state’s anti-gambling legislation in 1908, and a 1910 amendment essentially brought Thoroughbred racing to its knees across the state in 1911 and 1912. Aside from those years, a brief closure in 1896, and a three-year period of Belmont Park hosting long-standing Saratoga races due to World War II public movement restrictions, Saratoga boasts consecutive Thoroughbred racing seasons for over 150 years.
Saratoga has hosted the Travers Stakes, the country’s oldest Thoroughbred race, since 1864. The track is also home to the Whitney Handicap, Woodward Stakes, the Forego Handicap, and the Alabama Stakes. Saratoga has received many industry greats over its long history, from Man o’ War to Secretariat and from Gallant Fox to American Pharoah; and it was the upsets these horses experienced at Saratoga that coined (in the case of Man o’ War) and reinforced (in the case of Gallant Fox, Secretariat, Rachel Alexandra, and American Pharoah) some of the course’s nicknames, including the “Graveyard of Champions” and the “House of Upsets.”2
Saratoga is widely regarded to capture the timeless essence of Thoroughbred racing, and the iconic facility was named among the country’s top 20 venues of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated in June of 1999.
1. & 2. SRC. (2014). “History of the Saratoga Race Course.” Retrieved on October 3, 2016, from http://www.saratogaracetrack.com/about-horse-racing/track-history.cfm
Olmsted, L. (2013). “Nation’s Oldest Racetrack Turns 150 and Plans Summer of Fun.” Retrieved on October 3, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/larryolmsted/2013/05/29/nations-oldest-racetrack-turns-150-and-plans-summer-of-fun/#2b3d263168bb
Saratoga.com. (2015). “150 Years of Excellence: Saratoga Historic Milestones.” Retrieved on October 4, 2016, from http://www.saratoga.com/150/timeline.cfm
Sports Illustrated. (June 7, 1999). "Century's Best - SI's Top 20 Venues of the 20th Century."