Every year, like most Saratogians and all true racing fanatics, I start counting the days–oh, starting the day after Labor Day–’til the next Opening Day at Saratoga. This year’s meet opens on July 29th…which is 35 days from today, to be exact.
But that countdown doesn’t include the three days prior to the meet’s opening–and that day, that of the NYRA Open House–is just as important, in my heart. Why? Because the Open House is NYRA’s way to extend a big, friendly “Welcome!” to everyone who’s in town. Once the meet starts, locals will have to share our Race Course with thousands of visitors from places with exotic-sounding names like “Bayshore,” “Bayonne” and “Bahrain”–but on July 26th, before the tourists check into their hotels, the beautiful, historic track is all ours, compliments of the New York Racing Association.
(Photo above compliments of NYRA–New York Racing Association)
Just inside the storied gates of Saratoga Race Course, a day of free admission; tours; entertainments; demo races and great food opps awaits. The 29th annual Open House is NYRA’s way of thanking the community that’s hosted the best racing in America for 141 years, and to give locals a sneak peek at improvements and programs, and to experience the rich, lush beauty that can only be experienced at the Saratoga Race Course.
Activities for children and adults, alike, will keep the place hoppin’ from 11AM ’til 4PM: I’d suggest getting there early, you don’t want to miss a single minute of the action! A sampling of the diverse offerings include:
* Petting Zoo:
Children are born with tender hearts: access to animals is key to the emotional development of a child. The Open House will again feature a petting zoo–plenty of critters will be on-hand for you and the children in your life to experience. This opportunity for children–and adults, too–to interact with God’s creatures is a gift of profound implications. I shan’t get into the deep stuff, just trust me that, in the vernacular–it’s tres cool that NYRA recognizes the importance of the relationships between two-leggeds and four-leggeds, and uses the Open House as a vehicle to nurture and encourage inter-species communications.
(And remember, in the words of the late, great Ogden Nash:
“A one-l lama, that’s a priest.
A two-l llama, that’s a beast.
But I will bet a silk pyjama
you’ll never find a three-l lllama!”)
* Pegasus x 5:
If you think that Pegasus is an archetype, a mythological creature, be at the rail at 2PM. The National Steeplechase Association will offer five races, all preps for the glorious Steeplechase races during the meet. Four hurdles and one flat race will thrill you and make you sit on the edge of your seat. There’s a reason why the NSA says that Steeplechase is the only sport in which horses run and fly–and once you’ve seen the beautiful Pegasi lifting off the Earth and winging heavenward–your life will be changed forever.
(There’s no pari-mutuel betting on any of the races, but that’s incidental: the horses will be there to delight your heart, and to give wing to your weary souls. Save your betting cash for Wednesday, the 29th and the rest of the meet.)
* Tip of the Day:
If you want to feel like a Rockefeller as you watch the flying horses–listen up. The captains of industry and movers and groovers in racing won’t be in their Clubhouse boxes at the Open House. So slide on up to the sacred space above the Porch; look at the names on the red-and-white signs in the boxes–and park yourself for the Steeplechase races. You might even want to plan this ahead, and dress rather nicely, to honor the horses and riders. Sit there in the sweltering Saratoga heat; fan yourself with a program; sip a cold beverage and fancy yourself to be a member of the Old Money Crowd. I guarantee, you’ll exit “your” box at the end of the demo races holding your head a tad higher, feeling quite grand about yourself.)
There’s plenty to see and do on Sunday, July 26th at the renowned, holy Saratoga Race Course. If you attend Open House and are bored–don’t blame me, or NYRA. They pull out all the stops to make the annual Open House an event that delights everyone from eight to eighty–all you have to do is show up, and open your heart to new experiences. And don’t worry, you won’t starve: in true Saratoga tradition, nobody goes home hungry. A wide variety of food and beverages, presented by local charities, will be available for purchase.
Just think: a day of free entertainments in the fresh, clean Saratoga air. The chance to see flying horses, as you sit where Astors reclined, and to feel like a billion bucks before taxes.
Activities to touch the child inside you, and the child you bring-with.
Where else could all this happen in one five-hour period? Only Saratoga, only the NYRA Open House. Put it in your Palm, blast it into your Blackberry. This is a day not-to-be-missed, the day that will get you so jazzed for the six weeks of the meet that your heart will burst. And if you happen to see a NYRA employee while you’re taking in the real Happiest Place on Earth–thank them. It’s not every day that a racing organization gives their local community the chance to refresh and revive–but in Saratoga Springs, it’s an annual event.
And that, dear readers, is reason enough to give NYRA a great, big Alpha Mare Kiss.
WHAT: New York Racing Association’s 29th Annual Open House
Entertainment, food, fun of all sorts–silly and sublime–await within the gates.
WHERE: The historic Saratoga Race Course, the oldest and most beautiful Thoroughbred racetrack in America. Union Avenue in Saratoga Springs, New York, in case you’ve not-yet been there.
WHEN: Sunday, July 26th, 2009. 11AM – 4PM
WHY: To thank the community, and to get us jazzed about our wonderful race meet, which starts only three days later.
HOW: Drive there. Walk there. Ride a horse there. Just be there.