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The Big Red Spring at Saratoga
The Big Red Spring at Saratoga

Dateline: 06/30/04

America's oldest track, Saratoga Race Course, opens for its 136th season on July 28th and runs through Monday September 6th. The Spa meet is generally held to be the most prestigious in the nation with 43 stakes races worth over $9.8 million in purses. 30 of the stakes are graded with 13 Grade 1 events. The biggest change Saratoga fans will notice is the addition of eight stakes races, each with a $65,000 purse, that will run on weekdays during the Spa meet. Also, on every Saturday at Saratoga this season, with exception of September 4th, fans will be treated to at least two graded stakes races. Check their stakes calendar to see what races are scheduled for each day. As they become available, a list of the horses nominated this year will be linked from each race on the schedule.

The Saratoga SHOWdown Contest is back again this year. The object of 2004 Saratoga SHOWdown is to select one horse on each of the 36 racedays of the 2004 Saratoga meeting (Wednesday, July 28 to Monday, September 6) to finish first, second or third. If successful on Day No. 1, the contestant moves on to Day No. 2, and so on, until a winner is determined. The entry fee for Saratoga SHOWdown is $10. All entry fees will be returned as prizes to the contestants who finish in the Top 10.

For those who prefer a free contest, there is the 2004 Saratoga Fantasy Challenge. The free rotisserie-style on-line contest will operate the same way as past NYRA.com Fantasy Challenges: Fans select a virtual stable of jockeys, trainers and Thoroughbreds, then earn points according to performance on the track. The stable with the most accumulated points at the end of the meeting will win a $1,000 mutuel voucher. Prizes total $2,950.

Saratoga marks the beginning of the serious two year old racing season. The Breeders' Cup juvenile favorites often come from Saratoga and such prestigious races as the Saratoga Special and the Hopeful for the colts or the Adirondack and the Spinaway for the fillies.

The three year olds are also in the spotlight at Saratoga with the $1 million Travers, known as the Mid-Summer Derby. This year the Travers should showcase Belmont winner Birdstone along with other veterans of the Triple Crown war such as Tapit and Eddington. Major races will be run in all divisions including the $750,000 Whitney for the older horses and current top handicapper Peace Rules should be there. Some of the best 3-year-old females in training should be there for the $750,000 Alabama.

Saratoga is also noted for its turf racing and steeplechases. There will be several major turf stakes for the older horses of both sexes, with the premier events being the $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational for the males and the $500,000 Diana Handicap for the females.

Misty morning workout at Saratoga, photo by Deborah Kral
Misty morning workout at Saratoga, photo by Deborah Kral

Once the exclusive retreat of high society, Saratoga is now much more democratic with picnic tables as well as turf club boxes available. The lawn and picnic area are noted as being a great place for families and children. Many racing fans plan their year around a trip to Saratoga to watch the top horses compete, take a sip from the Big Red Spring, and hang out at Siro's Restaurant. Of course no trip to the Spa would be complete without a visit to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Saratoga, the August place to be!

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Photo ©2004 Cindy Pierson Dulay, licensed to About except where noted.

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