Saratoga State of Mind

My first trip to Saratoga Springs was a whirlwind—four days and nights at the Spa seemed to fly by, and before I knew it, I was returning to Lexington, back to reality.

When I told people I was traveling for the first time to this quaint, upstate New York town for the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale (Aug. 6-7), the response was almost always, “You’re going to love it.”

I did. From day one, I was captivated by the Victorian charm of the beautiful, old homes, the scenic Saratoga Spa State Park, exquisite restaurants (Sperry's, Prime, Harvest & Hearth etc.), and the fact I could walk (or run) nearly everywhere from where I was staying on Whitney Avenue.


I’ll never forget the excitement of walking to Saratoga Race Course for the very first time. It was a long day of traveling…I drove from Lexington to Cincinnati that morning to catch my flight, had a connection in Charlotte, N.C., and then rented a car to drive to Saratoga once I arrived in Albany.

But the adrenaline of seeing everything for the first time—just as I imagined it—quickly rejuvenated my spirits. As I walked in the gates, I was greeted by a festive atmosphere of people picnicking and enjoying live music, the horses parading in the paddock, the historic racetrack that I’ve seen in a thousand pictures, but never with my own eyes. It was mesmerizing.

There’s something about Saratoga that is so laid back and relaxed--people just seem to be in a better mood at the Spa. Having the opportunity to witness the Whitney Invitational (gr. I) and Alfred G. Vanderbilt (gr. I) in person was quite a treat. Although Shackleford didn’t perform in the Vanderbilt (he looked a little rough in the paddock, no?) it was still an exciting race, won in gritty fashion by Poseidon's Warrior at odds of 36-1.

Shackleford in the Saratoga paddock

Trainer Kenny McPeek teaching a Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders' Association pedigree and conformation seminar in Saratoga

And the sale…oh, the sale. I spent many hours on those sale grounds throughout the week, conducting interviews, looking at horses, working in the press box, where we were packed in like sardines due to the plethora of people on the scene.

This particular sale is quite a spectacle—more like a cocktail party than an auction, with people dressed to the nines, placing bids under the night sky, then clinking glasses with their friends afterwards. The excitement in the air is palpable; the movement of the auction is high-paced, full of energy and life.

More than once, I would be talking to a trainer or owner  who would casually say, “Hold on, I’ve gotta bid real quick.” No big deal—just a $250,000 or so purchase.

Click here and here to view a couple of my video interviews during the week leading up to the Aug. 6-7 select yearling sale. 

I was sad when it all came to an end, but there’s always the promise of next year…

Okay, I want to hear your thoughts. Who out there has been to Saratoga? What were your favorite sights? What do you love most about the racetrack? The sale grounds?

I love how historic everything seemed—like nothing had changed in 100 years. It’s always and forever the good old days in Saratoga.

Check back next week for another off track Thoroughbred highlight!

8 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Zen4Zen

Saratoga is a magical place and you well evoked that magic; thanks!

23 Aug 2012 6:14 AM
smartydeb

A friend and I went to Saratoga for the weekend last summer - the weekend of the Alabama.  It is all you describe it as, and more.  We visited the Thoroughbred Museum, took the morning tour of the backside and saw how it all works up close and personal.  I would recommend a trip to Saratoga to anyone.  Just wear good sneakers - lots of walking!

23 Aug 2012 7:31 AM
Old Old Cat

I have a special interest in Saratoga in that my trainer runs horses there, both steplechase and flat racing.  Following your articles has been great for me with the information you have presented, especially on the sales.  I thought your presentations were very professionally done.  You were very organized and spoke clearly and distinctly.

However, when I tried to blog you to tell you how much I liked your articles, a screen poped up which said powered by DISQUS.  This seems to be a bug which appears on my computer screens intermittantly.  Has anyone there heard of this?  

Thank you

23 Aug 2012 9:55 AM
Esther Marr

Old Old Cat--thanks so much! I'm not sure would that bug would be, but I will check with our web production department and see if I can find anything out.

23 Aug 2012 10:54 AM
Ro

Your description of Saratoga is all the locals feel about it and more. It's nice to see a visitor's perspective is so in line with ours. One small correction - the park is *Saratoga Spa State Park. The area is rich in history. I hope you were able to enjoy a few of our fine eateries and shops during your stay. We welcome you back at any juncture throughout the year! Cheers.

23 Aug 2012 11:21 AM
Linda in Texas

Esther - i am glad you got to experience Saratoga. It is a lovely town. I bet as you walked to the Spa you halfway expected to see a unicycle ridden by a tall thin man with a high top hat pass you by! Or The Ice Wagon being drawn by a faithful horse pulling up in front of a beautiful Victorian Home. The ambiance of Saratoga is like no other. And then there were The Bread Wagon, Police Wagon,Dairy Wagon,Fire Wagon,Circus Wagon, Laundry Wagon and finally when  time had closed it's curtain for someone, The Hearse Wagon. So horses go back a long way and Saratoga to me is like a place where the clock  stopped and never caught up and that is a good thing any day of the year.

I loved my visits to Saratoga and you made me feel like i was walking right along beside you and

I hope you are able to make a yearly pilgrimage each August.

And Ro - how lucky for you that you live there. Tell us more.

Thank you Esther

23 Aug 2012 4:21 PM
Esther Marr

Linda in Texas: Thanks for your comment. That's a wonderful way to describe Saratoga--"a place where the clock stopped and never caught up." I look forward to returning to this Neverland:)

30 Aug 2012 10:26 AM
Liz Rush

Hello Esther! .first i must tell you how much i love your blog . I am a huge horse racing fan. Tb and standardbreds. I have 3 ottb tb's I event ,  I am an amature, and just getting back into competing after a 4 year hiatis[my daughter starts kindergarten. Yea! I live in orange county ny. big horse country, and many stb racehorses. I am the vet tech at the local clinic. Stb's are our bread and butter! these stb are the iron horse of the horse world. they race everyweek. Some have 40+ starts a year. It is not uncommon to see a 10 year old still racing! with alife time earnings above $500,ooo the hard way . They are becoming more and more popular outside of racing. they are truly amazing , versatile. I cannot say enough good things about them. I know your blog follows ottb. however , sept 9th is a big stb only horse show at the nj horse park. It is an amazing horse show. I am going to be a cheerleader! many of the locals are going , with there mighty steeds! I will try to get some photo's to share with you! Check out the prize list at the standardbred pleasure horse association. From barrel racing to jumpers. Keep the great stories coming.

thankyou ,

Perfectway.

this letter does not need to be posted on your blog    

06 Sep 2012 10:06 PM

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