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!

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