Saratoga Race Course, which has a capacity of 50,000, is a thoroughbred horse racing track in Saratoga Springs, New York, United States. It is the second oldest racetrack in the US (after Freehold Raceway), though it is often considered to be the oldest sporting venue of any kind in the country.
Saratoga Springs was the site of standardbred racing as early as 1847.On August 3, 1863, casino operator and future congressman John Morrissey organized the first thoroughbred race card on the track previously used for harness racing (and now the location of the Oklahoma Training Track). The current course was opened across the street from the old standardbred track the following year. Among those instrumental to the creation of the Saratoga Race Course were John Hunter (later the first chairman of The Jockey Club), William R. Travers, John Morrissey, and Cornelius Vanderbilt.
The Saratoga meet originally lasted only four days. The meet has been lengthened gradually since that time; for many decades, the meet lasted four weeks and began in late July or early August. The meet today lasts a total of 40 racing days, with races held six days per week, and traditionally ends on Labor Day.
Saratoga Race Course has been in use almost every year since 1864, with only a handful of exceptions. The course had been closed in 1896, temporarily, due to increasing competition among thoroughbred tracks making the meet at Saratoga not viable that season. Anti-gambling legislation, which had passed in New York, resulted in a cessation in all thoroughbred racing in that state during 1911 and 1912.The track’s first parimutuel betting machines were installed in 1940. From 1943 to 1945, racing was curtailed at Saratoga due to travel restrictions during World War II. During those years, the stakes races usually held at Saratoga Race Course were instead contested at Belmont Park.
In the 1960s, the grandstand was extended, doubling the track’s seating capacity.
In 1999, Saratoga Race Course was rated as Sports Illustrated’s #10 sports venue of the 20th Century.
Saratoga Race Course has several nicknames: The Spa (for the nearby mineral springs), the House of Upsets, and the Graveyard of Champions. Famous race horse Man o’ War suffered his only defeat in twenty-one starts while racing at Saratoga Race Course; Secretariat was defeated at Saratoga Race Course by Onion, after winning the Triple Crown; and Gallant Fox had been beaten by the 100-1 longshot Jim Dandy in the 1930 Travers Stakes.