The gates of Saratoga Race Course open for their 142nd time Friday and, following decade’s worth of tradition, its first feature is the Schuylerville Stakes.
A six-furlong event for two-year-old fillies on the dirt, Saratoga’s racing history has proven itself to be a successful launching pad for juvenile thoroughbreds.
I trust Friday’s feature will follow suit.
Named after the neighboring village 12 miles east of Saratoga Springs, Schuylerville holds great distinction in American history. It is important to note, however, that the name of the town at the time was Saratoga.
It was here; in September of 1777, that the army of British General John Burgoyne crossed the Hudson then marched nine miles to Stillwater, NY. There they engaged in what we know now as The Battles of Saratoga.
There were two significant fights in the Battles of Saratoga: The Battle of Freeman’s Farm, held September 19 and the Battle of Bemis Heights, fought on October 7.
After earning a slight strategic victory in the former, Burgoyne and his army were soundly defeated in the latter.
He and his army returned to Saratoga the morning of October 8th and positioned themselves as they had several weeks earlier, just prior to the Battle of Freeman’s Farm.
By October 13th the American Continental Army had them surrounded. On the 17th the Brits surrendered.
At the time it was considered the most significant battle of the Revolutionary War. Today, we still regard it as the war’s turning point.
In 1831 Saratoga was renamed “Schuylerville” for General Philip Schuyler, a hero of that conflict.
But by no means was that the end of conflict and battle in Saratoga County.
For years, beginning in 1863, there have been numerous wars waged that have captured the attention of Americans everywhere. However, these clashes have been held in the confines of a mile and an eighth oval, pitting strategic and strong athletes aboard blazingly fast 1,200 pound creatures, expertly trained and conditioned, against one another.
The battleground that is Saratoga Race Course has, over the years, experienced their fair share of bloodshed, too.
There have been casualties.
There have been wounded.
Wounds which take forever to heal and some that never do.
But unlike Burgoyne and his army, there is one thing you will never see in any of these contests … and that is surrender.
Sure, many will be beaten. But none will quit.
Not at Saratoga.
There’s 40 days of racing ahead of us and if the Opening Day card is any indication of what the race meet will look like, it’s gonna be a heck of a summer. 10 races with 127 horses entered to run.
So dust off your muskets (i.e. handicapping skills), pack plenty of ammunition (i.e. money) and prepare to do your part.
First post on Friday is 1:00 p.m. EST.
Pictures from the National Park Service:
Picture 1: The Saratoga Monument: This 155′ tall obelisk was built in the late 19th century to commemorate the American victory in the Battles of Saratoga.
Picture 2: American General Philip Schuyler built this house, start to finish, in November 1777 after the British army retreating from the Saratoga Battlefield set fire to the previous house and nearly every building on the estate.