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Saratoga Race Course
The Saratoga Race Course is considered the oldest sports facility in the United States, celebrating its 150th birthday on August 3rd, 2013. In terms of racetracks, only the Freehold Raceway in New Jersey is older, running informal races during the 1830s. Since opening, fans have counted on Saratoga to host some of the most important events in American horse racing, ceasing operations only during 1911 and 1912 due to anti-gambling laws.
Saratoga Track Layout
This facility consists of three different main tracks: a seven-furlong turf track on the interior ring, an eight-furlong track turf track called the Mellon Turf Course and a main dirt track with a length of nine furlongs.
Major Races and Events
Perhaps the most intriguing cultural contribution the Saratoga has made is the popularization of the word “upset”. At this track, Man O’War suffered his only loss to a horse named Upset; Secretariat lost to Onion after winning the Triple Crown and Gallant Fox lost to a 100-1 longshot named Jim Dandy for the Travers Stake in 1930. The latter surprise resulted in Saratoga earning the nickname “The Graveyard of Champions”.
Named in honor of William R. Travers, the Travers Stakes is the pinnacle of the Saratoga racing season. The inaugural race took place in 1864 and hasn’t missed a year since 1913. The rich history of this race – the oldest major thoroughbred sprint in the U.S. – includes numerous dramatic finishes and even a scandal involving infamous mobster Arnold Rothstien, who won close to a half-million dollars in bets and purse under dubious circumstances. Currently, the race is a ten furlong sprint for three-year-olds on the dirt track, with a purse of one and one-quarter million dollars.
The Alabama Stakes was inaugurated in 1872 and was originally to be named after William Cottrell, who preferred modesty over the race being named after him. The record pace for this mile-and-a-quarter race was set by Go For Wand in 1990, with a blistering time of 2:00:80. This race also takes place on the dirt track and is for three-year-old fillies.
This race is one of the biggest events in the U.S. for older thoroughbreds, consisting of a nine-furlong, weight-for-age run for horses three years and older. The event is named after George Nicholas Woodward, a notable owner of racehorses, and was started in 1954 at the Aqueduct Racetrack before landing at Saratoga in 2006.