Ask any horseplayer for the best five tracks to play each year, and the only track that will undoubtedly appear on everyone’s list is Saratoga Race Course. Whether you are a casual fan or a serious horseplayer, find out why Saratoga is a must for horse racing betting.
We recently named Saratoga Race Course one of the top summer racetracks. Saratoga is located in Saratoga Springs, New York, north of Albany and just south of popular vacation spot Lake George.
The mineral springs in the area have turned Saratoga Springs into a resort town with many refering to Saratoga Race Course itself as “The Spa.” There are even mineral springs onsite at the track, in the large picnic area. Patrons line up every day to claim their spot in the picnic area, near the saddling paddock, marked with trademark red and white striped tents and television stands.
With just 40 days of racing, Saratoga is an elite race meet where the best of the best converges in upstate New York to try their hand at over 40 stakes races. Their stakes schedule includes 15 Grade 1 Thoroughbred stakes. Watch for races like the $1.25 million Travers Stakes — aka the Midsummer Derby — and the Whitney Handicap to see future and current champions alike.
The town itself comes alive during the short race meet with fans, owners, trainers, and track employees all coexisting in the tiny town to share the experience of Thoroughbred racing’s premier meet. Eat your way through town as you discover the best local spots. While you are there expect to hear plenty of chatter and tips about the next day’s race card.
Saratoga opened in 1863 and is not just one of the oldest racetracks in the country, but one of the oldest sporting venues in the United States. Sports Illustrated even named Saratoga a top ten sporting venue in 1999.
Only three tracks that are still open are older than Saratoga: the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Louisiana; Pleasanton in Pleasanton, California, just outside of the Bay Area; and Freehold Raceway in New Jersey.
The meet began with just four days of racing when the track first opened. Over the years, the meet grew and changed, while the track closed on occasion due to lack of interest and crackdowns on gambling in the state. Popularity of the track grew after pari-mutuel betting machines were installed and World War II came to an end. In the 1960s, the grandstand at the track was renovated to double the seating capacity wotj several improvements and changes made to the racing surfaces.
Many tracks in the United States have something unique to offer in terms of racing surfaces, and Saratoga is no exception. Unlike most tracks that are one mile in circumference, the dirt track at Saratoga is a bit larger at 1 1/8 mile. This larger dirt track allows Saratoga to have a full one-mile turf track. While most tracks only have two courses, Saratoga has three. A third, smaller turf course nests inside the standard dirt and turf tracks.
Saratoga hosts not just flat Thoroughbred racing, but Steeplechase races as well, with a full schedule of Steeplechase stakes races over the hurdles on the inner turf course.
New players and professionals alike are drawn to Saratoga for its full, competitive fields and talented horse, trainer and jockey populations. Saratoga provides some serious opportunities to make money on horse racing.
Saratoga offers a solid, classic wagering menu with every bet type you need to make money wagering on horses. In addition to the usual win, place, show bets and exotic wagers like exactas, trifectas and superfectas in each race, there are many options for multi-race bets.
Saratoga offers rolling daily doubles and pick 3s. There are two Pick 4s and two Pick 5s, early and late, on every card, and there is also a daily Pick 6.
There is a unique wager available in New York that Saratoga offers: the Grand Slam. The Grand Slam is a twist on a Pick 4 that makes it a little easier to hit and a bit more fun to play. In a Pick 4, you must select the winner of four consecutive races. In the Grand Slam, you must select horses that finish first, second or third in three straight races and then pick the winner of a fourth race. You must have the winner of the fourth race to cash your ticket, but it is easier to find horses that merely hit the board in the first three legs of the wager rather than picking four straight winners!
There is a Grand Slam available each day at Saratoga, starting in the same race as the late Pick 5.
If you can’t make the annual pilgrimage to Saratoga, you can still bet from home with an advance deposit wagering account.
Are you always trying to beat the favorite and score big with a longshot? Then Saratoga is the place for you. Nicknamed the “Graveyard of Champions”, some of the biggest names of Thoroughbred racing have suffered the biggest defeats in upstate New York:
Man o’ War: The top-ranked Thoroughbred of all time, Man o’ War suffered his only defeat in twenty-one starts at Saratoga, losing to Upset in the Sanford Stakes in 1919.
Gallant Fox: The 1930 Triple Crown winner lost the Travers Stakes to a horse named Jim Dandy, who went off at odds of 100-1. Jim Dandy is also now honored with his own race at the same track for 3-year-olds, serving as a prep race for one of the biggest races in Saratoga, the Travers Stakes.
Secretariat: The most well-known horse of the 20th century lost at The Spa. The 1973 Triple Crown winner was defeated by Onion in the 1973 Whitney Handicap.
Rachel Alexandra: Rachel, known for being one of the best 3-year-old fillies in recent years, defeated the boys in the 2009 Preakness Stakes and was later named 2009 Horse of the Year. Rachel lost to aptly named Persistently in the 2010 Personal Ensign Stakes.
American Pharoah: Even our 2015 Triple Crown winner is not immune to Saratoga, losing to Keen Ice despite being a 1-5 favorite in the 2015 Travers Stakes.
Can you beat the next favorite at Saratoga? If you can’t make it to The Spa, watch and wager on every race from home on your phone or computer thanks to TVG, TwinSpires or Xpressbet. Don’t miss your chance every summer to play a Grade 1 race, find a longshot, or even try the Grand Slam, available from July through Labor Day weekend.