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

Dateline: 07/12/03

America's oldest track, Saratoga Race Course, opens for its 135th season on July 24th and runs through September 1st. The Spa meet is generally held to be the most prestigious in the nation with 35 stakes races worth over $8 million in purses. 32 of the stakes are graded with 14 Grade 1 events. 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.

This year NYRA will offer something new for the Saratoga meet, the Saratoga SHOWdown Contest. The object of 2003 Saratoga SHOWdown is to select one horse on each of the 36 racedays of the 2003 Saratoga meeting (Wednesday, July 23 to Monday, September 1) 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 2003 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 is expected to feature the rematch between Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide and Belmont winner Empire Maker. Empire Maker plans to prep for the race in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga while Funny Cide is being pointed to the Haskell at Monmouth for his prep. Major races will be run in all divisions including the $750,000 Whitney for the older horses and current top handicapper Mineshaft 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 ©2003 Cindy Pierson Dulay, licensed to About.

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