Ten Things You Should Know: Saratoga Special
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
Originally published on August 9, 2012
1) The Saratoga Special is a race for 2-year-olds run at Saratoga Race Course in New York.
2) Originally a 5 1/2-furlong race, it’s currently run at 6 1/2-furlongs, but for the majority of its history, it was at 6-furlongs. It has been at its current distance since 1994 with the exception of 2005, when it reverted to 6-furlongs for one year.
3) Run for the first time at Saratoga in 1901, it was known as the Saratoga Special Sweepstakes until 1958. A “special” race historically meant that it was a “winner take all” condition. In other words, horses earned nothing for their owners by running second or worse. Another odd condition of the race prior to 1959 was that owners were allowed to nominate three horses for a single entry fee but could only enter one in the race. Since 1959, the race has been under the more traditional purse, nomination, and entry structure.
4) The race has been on the schedule at Saratoga nearly every year since 1901. It was not run in 1911 and 1912 when racing shut down in all of New York. Belmont Park hosted the Saratoga Special from 1943 to 1945 during World War II. This century, the race was not run at all in 2004. This year is its 107th running.
5) The first five classes of inductees in the Racing Hall of Fame included five Saratoga Special winners. Sysonsby (1904), Colin (1907), Regret (1914), Blue Larkspur (1928), and Whirlaway (1940) all were immortalized in the Hall from 1955 to 1959.
6) Saratoga Special winners Sysonsby and Colin boast two of the greatest 2-year-old seasons in American Thoroughbred history. They won a combined 17 races from 18 starts in 1904 and 1907. Both were owned by James Keene and trained by James Rowe.
7) Hall of Famer Broomstick finished second in the 1903 Saratoga Special. He later sired Regret. She won the 1914 Special and became the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby in 1915.
8) The winners in 1939 and 1940, Bimelech and Whirlaway, went on to win five of six Triple Crown races in 1940 and 1941. Whirlaway swept all three races in 1941, becoming the fifth American Triple Crown winner. Bimelech won the 1940 Preakness and Belmont after racing wide and finishing second in the Kentucky Derby.
9) In 1944, champion 2-year-old Pavot won the Special in a stakes record time for six furlongs that stood until 1978. It remains the second fastest Special ever at six furlongs. Pavot would go on to win the Belmont Stakes in 1945 and the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 1946.
10) Legendary jockey Eddie Arcaro won a record seven editions of the Saratoga Special. He won his first as a relative unknown in 1935 aboard Coldstream and won his seventh in 1959 aboard Irish Lancer, three years before retirement.