Saratoga Horse Racing

Saratoga Race Course: Field of Dreams

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Saratoga Race Course in the summer is searing, steamy, sweltering.  Mop-your-brow hot.  But the weather is merely a metaphor, the outward expression of the heat that's generated by the power of the horses in residence during these six weeks.  

Of  the fevered passion that those horses engender as they embrace their power to captivate the human soul.

The physical atmosphere is roasting, but the racing action is hotter, still.  A haze of lazy hangs over the renowned venue on Union Avenue--the kind of heat that settles into the bones and takes your breath away.  Only the horses are capable of moving at breakneck speed, as they race not only toward immortality but straight to the core of every human within eyeshot... 


Dawn on the Main Track in 1963

Image via Wikipedia

This place may be managed by humans, but make no mistake--total ownership belongs to
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 the mighty equines who grace the stage of this, America's oldest, most-photographed and surely most-treasured of race tracks.

Indeed, Saratoga Race Course is the oldest track in the United States:  it was founded in August of 1863, one month to the day after the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest conflict of the American Civil War.  We don't know if the founders envisioned that almost 150 years later, race fans would still flock to this place--but their venture became a dream shared by millions of horse lovers and wild-eyed gamblers over the course of a century-and-a-half.   

This sport in this place is a community endeavor, as history is recounted and the future anticipated:  it never occurs to anyone that a day may come when the Clubhouse is no longer here.  Like the Pantheon, these historic buildings and sacred grounds have gone through changes and challenges--but never would it enter the human mind that it could be razed, replaced or just-plain no longer used.  

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Saratoga Race Course is America's oldest racetrack--but more than that, she is the country's oldest organized sporting venue of any kind.   Unlike most stadia, she will not be replaced by a modern, "more efficient" model.  The whim of a single man will not bring her to the ground, replaced by glass and steel, plastic chairs and artificial grass.  The ghosts who walk the creaky wooden floors and hang from the slow, silent ceiling fans will never be evicted from their perches.

No, Saratoga Race Course is a monument to the founders, and to an era of elegance and heavenly architecture.  More than this, the serene loveliness of the place reflects the beauty of the horses, themselves:  eternal values such as these cannot be swept under the rug in the name of "progress," for the values will live long after the modernists are gone.  Saratoga Race Course is every bit as significant to the history of this country and the people who forged it as the Washington Monument--and more memories have been made here than on the lawn in D.C.

This magnificent place is as American as any other national historic site--but its appeal is international.  NYRA (New York Racing Association) and the horsewomen and -men who flock here understand that a horse's mettle is tested only when running against the best.

And the best may hail from the UAE, UK, France or Australia.  Horse racing, unlike other sports, has a common language:  the horses all whinney with the same accent, and their connections get that.   Equines  from around the world lead the charge--and their trainers, owners, jockeys and other staff  come along for the ride.

Oh, so many people from the world over come here and find a memory to take home and live with them when the weather is cold, for this is the track  where memories are made, fond remembrances that last a lifetime.  

Virtually everyone has a tale to tell of their mother, father or favorite uncle sneaking them into a betting line; teaching them to read the Daily Racing Form when they were only five years old or introducing them to the first horse who nuzzled them, and forever sealed the deal. 

Saratoga is that kind of place:  a locus where innocence is rewarded and scamps make a fortune.  It is older than the hills, but it shines like tomorrow's misty sunrise.  

So much could be written about the physical spaces that comprise the track:  a tour might be conducted, of the building and grounds.  Bullet-points, arrows and maps.  But this otherworldly place transcends words, lists and maps.  It defies genuine description, for what scribe can capture the eternal, adequately?   

What words, in any language, can describe the place at which reality and mystery intersect?

Like a city set on a hill, Saratoga Race Course  shines even on a rainy day, for her comeliness comes, as they say--from within.  The foundation was laid in 1863 by men who saw an oasis--a place of refreshment on Life's long journey--and generously they shared their dream with the world.  Saratoga Race Course is America's oldest sporting venue--but, having no genuine peer, she is her own species.

Dismay not, race fans, if you missed the 2011 race meet in Saratoga.  The season has come
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 and gone.  Sigh.  But  Saratoga Springs and Saratoga Race Course will be here in 2012:  come back and make a memory.   Deepen your relationships with your children or sit back and stare at the blue Adirondack sky.   Paupers and kings, sheikhs and bug boys--all love this place, and come together in the most egalitarian sport in the world--there's space for you, too.  However you celebrate this great place--you are encouraged to find your own way.  The horses will lead you there--they always do.  

Photo Credits:
Many thanks to NYRA and Adam Coglianese.


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M.E. Altieri

THE ALPHA MARE, commonly known as M.E. Altieri, is a writer/editor/activist who lives and breathes the art and sport of horse racing—both Arabian and Thoroughbred.
At the tender age of six months, her Grandmother plopped her on the back of a pony. (See photo.) Three years later, Mare first rode a horse—an American Quarter Horse—on her cousin's farm in Stephentown, New York. That same year her Mother and Grandma took her to Green Mountain Park, a now- (sadly) defunct Thoroughbred track in Pownal, Vermont. Next stop, Saratoga Race Course. The seed was planted, and a passion, born.
While she does have other interests (Medieval languages and theology, cats, tigers, etc.) none hold a candle to her passion for horses. She finds that horses are far-more intelligent, compassionate and kind than 99% of the people she meets. Mare's career is fascinating, if nothing else: in 2011, she served as Editor of a beautiful history book, The Purebred Arabian Horses of Iraq: Myths and Realities by Dr. Mohammad bin 'Abdul-'Aziz Al Nujaifi. She's contributed to several international horse racing publications, including Al Badia, Arabian Finish Line, Desert Mirage and Galopp Magasinet.
She's the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of f!lly Magazine-- the magazine by, for and about women in horse racing. f!lly will debut in 2013. Both Thoroughbred and Arabian racing--and women, f!llies and mare from all around the world--will be featured in the full-color, beautiful, historic publication. Magazines are the first of the media M.E. wishes to tackle: she's also writing a screenplay, and seeks the perfect venue and producer for her horse racing radio show. She's got the voice; God knows, she has opinions--she feels led to put them together and broadcast to the 51% of the racing fan base that's too-often been overlooked. (Hint: 51%...could it be, women?)
An Alumna of Mount Holyoke College, Mare hopes to use these media, including her blog here at Saratoga.com, to encourage women and girls to find their vocations in horse racing and to help make the world a more loving and nurturing place for all equines. When asked to identify her Mentor, the woman who encouraged her to follow her bliss, Mare names the great Penny Chenery. Through these various media projects, Mare hopes to do for other females what Ms. Chenery did for her--open doors, encourage and bless.


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Thoroughbred Racing in Saratoga

The Thoroughbred is a distinct, created breed of horse. Saratoga Springs, New York is a unique, pristine city in Upstate New York.

Put the two together, Thoroughbreds and Saratoga, and you have America's most prestigious, lushly beautiful and important racing meet. For six weeks every summer, the world's best horses, jockeys and trainers come together to compete for trophies, cash and fame.

In this blog, we'll discover All Things Thoroughbred and the lovely international community of horsepeople, both professionals and fans, alike who set up camp in this city. Some come for six weeks, only. Others are here from April through November every year, when the Oklahoma's open. Yet others trek to town to race their mighty steeds—then fall in love with the place; buy a home and move here.

The Saratoga racing family of humans and horses is a year-round endeavour. You think that all the horses all go elsewhere after Labor Day? Then this blog is for you, too.

(Is the reference, "the Oklahoma" lost on you? Stay tuned, you'll feel like a pro in no time.)

Welcome to the only experience on Earth that can boast of such otherworldly beauty and heart-stopping thrills, all in the same breath: Thoroughbred racing in Saratoga.