Track Guide: SaratogaBy Teresa Genaro, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
When: Summer Meet (Mid-July through Labor Day weekend)
Updated for 2017
Day after day, week after week, Saratoga attracts what few racing meets do: a big crowd every day. Arguably the most popular racing meet in the country, Saratoga appeals to the casual fan and the serious gambler, to families and crowds of friends out for a day of gambling and socializing.
Though little of Saratoga remains from that first 1864 season at the intersection of East and Union Avenues, visitors to the track will see and sit in the 1892 grandstand and walk among buildings more than 100 years old. The grandstand and clubhouse, the most recent addition to which was constructed in 1965, are open air and lack air-conditioning, a boon on a perfect Adirondack afternoon, a curse on the steamy days for which Saratoga is famous.
Racing’s royalty — through pedigree or wealth — populate the small, wooden clubhouse boxes; clubhouse and grandstand seats are also available. Those who care more about comfort than racing can rent one of the few luxury suites, air-conditioned and situated on the first turn, offering a limited view of most of the races.
Though no shortage of people get dressed up to “go racing” at Saratoga, the vibe is decidedly casual; shorts are as ubiquitous as heels, and the Old Spa welcomes both the scions of racing families and the rookies who aren’t sure where the finish line is.
The highlight of the Saratoga meet is the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes, named in honor of the man instrumental in bringing racing to Saratoga Springs and the first president of the Saratoga Association, which oversaw the track until 1955. 2017 marks the 148th running of the Travers, which has been won by such notable horses as Man o’War, Whirlaway, Native Dancer, Alydar (via disqualification of Affirmed), and Easy Goer. In 2015, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah suffered his only defeat of the year in the Travers.
The oldest race for fillies in the country is the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama, run the week before the Travers. Inaugurated in 1872, it’s been won by Miss Woodford, Beldame, Maskette, Shuvee, Mom’s Command, Sky Beauty, and Silverbulletday, all of which have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, which sits right across Union Avenue from the track. In recent years, Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar have found their way to the Alabama winner’s circle.
In 2016, Saratoga boasts a schedule of 36 graded stakes races, 18 of them Grade 1. Notable races for 2-year-olds include the Grade 3 Sanford and Grade 1 Hopeful for colts, and the Grade 3 Schuylerville and the Grade 1 Spinaway for fillies.
For turf horses, Saratoga offers the Grade 1 Diana for older fillies and mares and the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational for older males, among other graded stakes options.
Steeplechase races will be run on Thursdays, with the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers’ is scheduled for August 24th at 2 3/8 miles.
The first Thoroughbred meet was held in Saratoga in August of 1863, on the grounds of the trotting races that had been going on in the town for several decades.
Already a summer destination for the well-heeled, Saratoga was known for its architecture and spas: the mineral springs on which the town sits were reputed to have salubrious qualities, and visitors came in herds every summer, to indulge in the baths, to take the waters, and to socialize.
John Morrissey, the child of Irish immigrants, grew up in Troy, New York, not far from Saratoga. A gambler and a prize fighter, he opened casinos in New York City before setting his sights back upstate, establishing two casinos in Saratoga. One of them, in downtown Saratoga’s Congress Park, still stands and is now the home of the Saratoga History Museum. Knowing a good opportunity when he saw one, and looking for a way to amuse his casino customers during the day, Morrissey guessed rightly that wealthy summer Saratogians would welcome enthusiastically the chance to bring their horses to the Old Spa for bragging rights and a little gambling.
Coordinating with New York businessmen William Travers, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Leonard Jerome, among others, Morrissey staged the first racing meeting from August 3 to August 8, 1863, on the grounds of what is now the Oklahoma training facility, on the old trotting track. It was such a success that a group of businessmen and horsemen came together to purchase the land across Union Avenue, and with few exceptions, Thoroughbreds have come to Saratoga every summer since.
No meetings were held in 1896 due to financial difficulty, poor management and a conflict with The Jockey Club. Racing was cancelled in 1911 and 1912, when state anti-gambling laws led to suspension of racing until May of 1913, and World War II halted racing from 1943 to 1945.
This year, the 149th racing meeting will be held at Saratoga. The meet was a week or less until 1870 and has been held at various lengths through its existence; it currently runs 40 days, from mid-July until Labor Day, with Tuesdays dark each week.
Saratoga offers a variety of seating options, from high-end and expensive to rustic and nearly free.
At the top end of the scale, Saratoga offers a limited number of luxury suites, situated at the first turn. They are one of few air-conditioned areas open to the public, and while they offer a magnificent view of the track, sitting there means that you’ll only see horses actually running in a race that’s longer than 7 furlongs. Your primary view of horses will be of the gallop-out, as you’re sitting beyond the finish line.
But if you want food service, air conditioning, and a private deck, the suites are the place to be. (Pricing and details scroll down)
Boxes: Clubhouse boxes are available by subscription or by the day. Each box seats five people, and waiter service is available for food and drink. Each box is equipped with a television.
Neither jeans nor shorts are permitted in the boxes, and men are required to wear jackets (though on very hot days, ushers have been known to relax the jacket requirement).
Seats: Clubhouse seats are available through Ticketmaster in advance of the meet or daily when available. Day-of seats go on sale at the on-site ticket booth at 9 a.m.
Neat casual wear is appropriate attire for clubhouse seats; jeans and shorts are permitted, as are small coolers.
Clubhouse seating is also available in the track’s restaurants (see Food & Drink).
Grandstand seats are available through Ticketmaster in advance of the meet or daily when available. The major difference between clubhouse seats (not the boxes) and grandstand seats is the distance from the finish line. The dress code is pretty much the same, in practice if not in policy; the price in the grandstand is lower than in the clubhouse, and as in the clubhouse, small coolers are permitted
All seats in the clubhouse and grandstand require a ticket and are generally in high demand.
Depending on availability, grandstand and clubhouse seats are on sale beginning at 9 a.m. each day at Gate A on Union Avenue (7 a.m. on Travers Day, though tickets are in scant supply for that day).
Grandstand seats are $15 on weekdays and $20 on weekends; clubhouse seats are $23 and $28. Seats are often available, though they are hard to come by on big race days.
Tickets for the Whitney Racing Festival on Saturday, August 5 are $30 for the grandstand and $48 for the clubhouse. On Travers Day, Saturday, August 26, tickets are listed on the NYRA website as sold.
In the past, the ticket office has been accommodating to those who purchase tickets ahead of time but lose or forget them. That accommodation may not be likely this summer, so make sure you’ve got your tickets when you arrive at the gate.
Top of the Stretch picnic area
Groups of up to 48 can reserve an enclosed picnic area at the top of the stretch through NYRA group sales (scroll down for details and prices).
Backyard and apron
For the cost of grandstand admission alone ($5), visitors can grab a seat or picnic table in the expansive and beautiful backyard or at the top of the stretch, or on the benches on the apron.
The majority of picnic tables are first come, first served, and it’s not uncommon on any racing day to see people lined up outside well in advance of the 7 a.m. opening for the chance to dash inside and snag a table. On big race days, all 950 tables are taken within minutes.
Each day, 100 picnic tables near the paddock are available for reservation. Reservations can be made through Ticketmaster and cost $60 on weekdays, $90 on weekends, and $160 on Travers Day; the price includes the price of admission. Each table accommodates six people.
The apron in front of the clubhouse and grandstand provides dozens of benches; visitors who choose these spots should bring plenty of sunscreen, because you’ll be in the direct sun all day. Many visitors also bring their own folding chairs and set them up at various places around the track.
Coolers are welcome at Saratoga in the backyard, on the apron, and at the top of the stretch. Food and beverages of all sorts can be brought it, but glass is prohibited. Expect your cooler to be searched when you enter.
In the backyard and on the benches, Saratoga has a long tradition of respect for saved seats. Marking your territory with a newspaper, a tablecloth, or a chair generally means that that seats is yours for the day.
All areas of Saratoga Race Course are equipped with wireless access.
Saratoga offers seating in a number of restaurants, among them the Turf Terrace, the Club Terrace, the Fourstardave, and the Easy Goer. Reservations are advisable in all of them.
The Fourstardave Café, formerly known as the lower Carousel and recently renovated, is named for the horse that won a race at Saratoga every year from 1987 to 1994; the name was chosen by a fan vote. Marketed as a sports bar, it shows primarily racing, mostly of Saratoga (it doesn’t offer a view of the track), and offers tables that accommodate two, four, and six people and can be reserved ahead of time through Ticketmaster.
Tables of two can be reserved for $30 on weekdays, $40 on weekends, and $80 on Travers Day. Tables of four can be reserved for $60, $80, and $140, and tables of six for $90, $120, and $180. No outside food or beverages are permitted.
Diners in the Fourstardave will also be able to order from a number of food vendors in other areas of the track, like The Lobster Hut and Hattie’s, with full table service.
A recent addition to the track is the Easy Goer, named for the 1989 Travers winner. The Easy Goer, on the second floor of the grandstand above the Fourstardave, will offer a buffet and a prix fixe menu. Reservations are accepted, as are walk-ins if tables are available.
The cost is $58 per person on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, $72 on Fridays and Saturdays, and $95 on Travers Day.
Groups can be accommodated in the Easy Goer, the At the Rail Pavilion, and the Top of the Stretch picnic area.
Food stands and bars are scattered throughout the track, some offering usual track fare (hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn), other offering a more varied menu (lobster rolls, a clam bar, burgers from the Shake Shack). The Lobster Hut, located on the ground floor of the grandstand, may be the best bargain at the racetrack.
The Shake Shack area was opened in 2010; in addition to the well-known burger joint, visitors will find El Verano Taqueria, Box Frites and The Post a bar, situated next to the paddock. The Saratoga Dog at Box Frites, which features crushed barbecue potato chips, scallions, and mustard sauce, is a winner.
Hattie’s Chicken Shack has been a Saratoga Springs staple since 1938; a few years ago, it brought its famous fried chicken (it beat Thoroughbred owner and NYRA board member Bobby Flay’s chicken in a 2006 Throwdown) to a stand at the racetrack, and its fried chicken sandwich gets rave reviews. Hattie’s devotees will find it on the ground floor of the grandstand, along with Shirley’s, a Saratoga staple for decades that will be offering poutine, among other snacks to trackgoers.
Taste NY, a statewide initiative to highlight New York State products, will offer craft beer on opening day and every Friday; On Saturdays and Sundays, Taste NY offers food, fashionartisan vendors, and on Thursdays, wine, spirits, and cider are featured. Taste NY events take place in the Saratoga Pavilion on the backyard side of the grandstand towards the top of the stretch.
Like much of the rest of Saratoga, the restrooms evoke quaintness rather than modernity. As at any public place where it’s hot and people are drinking, lines can get long; common sense suggests avoiding the bathrooms just after the end of race, or just after prices are posted.
Restrooms are situated throughout the grandstand and clubhouse, and in several locations in the backyard.
The women’s rooms at Saratoga all have attendants to keep the place clean and keep the supply of candy and mints, hand lotion, and hair spray well-stocked. A gratuity for the attendant is part of the Saratoga experience.
For over a hundred years, horses were saddled in Saratoga’s backyard, under the trees; no fences or other barriers separated the horses from the customers who wanted to see them.
Security concerns ended this practice in the mid-1980s, and since then, horses have been saddled in the paddock adjacent to the backyard, just behind the clubhouse.
Saratoga’s paddock is legendarily beautiful, and before each race, hundreds of fans line up to get a look at the horses, to take photos, and to assess the horse’s ability to win the race, though in recent years, customer access to paddock views has been impeded by encroaching hospitality tents, a set for NYRA’s television productions, and reserved picnic tables.
Entrance to the paddock is restricted to those with a credential or a badge.
Saratoga doesn’t offer the sort of simulcast area to which frequent track visitors might be accustomed. Televisions throughout the track and in the backyard will show races from other tracks, and the television above the bar at The Post is often tuned to Del Mar.
You are likely to be able to find a television tuned to your track of choice, but it might take a bit of wandering, and there is no central area where you can easily simulcast multiple tracks.
One of the many great things about Saratoga is that it’s not only accepted, but expected, that you talk about racing all the time. Saratoga encourages total immersion, so if a full race card isn’t enough to satisfy you, you’ve got plenty of other ways to get your fix.
Breakfast at the track
Saratoga in the morning is a must for any visitor. The gates open at 7 am every day except Tuesday, and visitors can sit in the Porch restaurant and partake of the reasonably priced buffet (scroll down for details and pricing) while watching morning workouts.
Alternatively, you can sit in the empty clubhouse with breakfast from the Dunkin Donuts located on the grounds. A less expensive option is to stop at one of the many terrific local bakeries or delis and bring your own breakfast to eat as you watch from the boxes near the finish line.
An on-track host narrates the workouts, offering tidbits of Saratoga history, trivia contests, and help identifying jockeys, trainers, and horses as they go by. Trackside parking is $12 during the week and $15 on weekends, but if you get your car out of the parking lot by 10 am, when the track is cleared, the full parking fee is refunded.
Whitney Viewing Stand
In 2013, as part of the sesquicentennial celebration of Thoroughbred racing in Saratoga, NYRA opened the Whitney Viewing Stand. On the grounds of the Oklahoma training facility just inside the East Avenue entrance, the structure recalls the old judges’ stand that stood on the main track in the 19th century.
Long closed to the public for morning workouts, the Oklahoma is now accessible to visitors, opening at daybreak at the first horses take to the track. Visitors are not permitted in the barn areas, but they may watch workouts in the area near the viewing stand.
Saratoga native and NYRA race analyst Andy Serling handicaps the full card every day from the paddock-side set, offering selections and wagering advice. He’ll be joined by a variety of racing analysts, including Gabby Gaudet, Ernie Munick, David Aragona, Maggie Wolfendale, Anthony Stabile, Paul LoDuca, and Tom Amoss. During the racecard, a variety of analysts offer insights and observations before each race.
Low Roller Handicapping Challenge
Take your shot with a $40 buy-in ($30 goes to your own live bankroll, $10 to the prize pool) every Sunday and Monday in the Lower Carousel near the Fourstardave Sports Bar. Official rules (pdf).
NYRA Bets Squad
New this year will be the NYRA Bets Squad, available to help educate customers on wagering, including how to read past performances and use the many self-service betting terminals throughout the track. The Bets Squad will be stationed in the NYRA Bets Lounge on Saturdays and in gazebos on the second floor of the grandstand and outside the paddock entrance through the meet. Bets Squad members will also be available for individual sessions.
The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
Situated right across the street from the track, the Museum is a terrific way to spend an hour or two. The Hall of Fame is a must for lovers of racing history (you could easily spend an hour or more just looking at the plaques of the inductees), and the Museum itself offers a variety of art and history exhibitions. The adventurous can get aboard a mechanical horse and put your jockey skills to the test.
Every race day: Take a free 45-minute tour of the backstretch. No reservations are accepted; tram tours begin at 7:30 am and depart every 15 minutes until approximately 9 am. Tours leave from the Wright St. entrance to the track, near the clubhouse. No tours on Travers Day or Labor Day. You can find more details here (scroll down).
Jockeys are celebrities at Saratoga. They walk along a horse path to get to the paddock and along a specially designated path after the race from the track; both go through the crowd, and it’s not uncommon to see children (and adults!) asking for autographs. Most jockeys are accommodating and friendly (though not all are); autograph-seekers should be mindful that the jockeys are at work and probably don’t have time to stop and talk. It’s also probably best not to ask for an autograph after a bad ride or the jockey’s been aboard a beaten favorite!
Walk of Fame
In 2013, NYRA held its first Red Jacket ceremony, honoring jockeys John Velazquez, Jerry Bailey, and Angel Cordero. Each year since, three racing luminaries have been recognized for their contributions to the sport of horse racing, and last year, NYRA built its Walk of Fame along the main path into the track from the Union Avenue entrance. This year, the photographs and text will be augmented by interactive video terminals, at which racing fans will be able to call up renewals of the Travers and Whitney Stakes since 1973.
2014 Red Jacket honorees: Allen Jerkens, D. Wayne Lukas, Tom Durkin
2015 Red Jacket honorees: Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps and Marylou Whitney
2016 Red Jacket honorees: Cot Campbell and Bill Mott
Fasig-Tipton yearling sales have been held at Saratoga since 1917, and legends and champions have passed through the ring here: Man o’War, Raise a Native, Sky Beauty, Open Mind. More recently, last year’s champions American Pharoah, Tepin, Stellar Wind, and Songbird are all alumni of this Saratoga sale.
This year’s sales take place on August 7, 8, 12, and 13 at the Fasig-Tipton grounds on East Avenue, just a block from the track. Horses will begin to arrive a week or so before the sales and be stabled on the sales grounds, which are free and open to the public, as are the snack bars, bar, and restaurant.
While consignors are known to accommodate visitors’ requests to see a particular yearling, bear in mind and be considerate of their primary responsibility, which is to potential buyers.
Visitors are also welcome on the grounds during the sales themselves, but seating in the pavilion is reserved for those wishing to purchase a pricey equine baby. Those wishing to see the colts and fillies up close can do so at the walking ring behind the pavilion; a PA system and multiple video screens transmit the action from inside.
View an updated list of weekly Saratoga events at Brooklyn Backstretch
Saratoga Race Course is located in the heart of Saratoga Springs, close to many residential neighborhoods and downtown. It’s no more than a 30-minute walk (and often less, depending on your pace) from downtown.
All gates at the track have bike racks.
Parking can be a challenge and is limited on-track. Preferred parking at the track, which requires a short walk, is $10 on weekdays and $12 on weekends, with increased prices for Whitney and Travers Days. Trackside parking is $12 during the week, $15 on weekends, and $20 for the Whitney and the Travers, while valet parking is $32 (weekdays), $45 (weekends), and $50 (Whitney/Travers).
Free parking is available across the street at the Oklahoma training facility, but it can involve a bit of a walk. Locals sell parking in their driveways and yards; prices vary depending on the day of the week, proximity to the track, and the stakes races scheduled for the day.
Back this year is SpaceDerby, a web-based application that permits customers to reserve a parking place ahead of time; the program is designed by a Saratoga native and unaffiliated with NYRA.
Gates open daily at 7 a.m. and admission at that time is free, but on every day except Travers Day, the track is cleared of visitors at 10 am. Patrons can return at 11, when the track officially opens.
On Travers Day, the gates officially open at 7 a.m.; there is no trackside breakfast that day, and admission fees are collected when the gates open.
From Saratoga’s official site:
Seating / Tickets
2017 Giveaway Schedule
General Information: Binocular rentals, ATM, first aid, lost & found, race replay center
Meet Standings (updated daily):
Andy Serling on Twitter
Maggie Wolfendale on Twitter
Trailways from NYC to Saratoga Springs
Very nice guide.
Thanks Jason! Care to share any good tips?
What are the times and cost for the Back Stretch Tours and do you have accomodations for a person needing to remain in a wheelchair? Thank you.
I’m not sure of the times of the tours for this year, but in the past, they’ve left every 15 minutes or so from the clubhouse entrance. I don’t know whether the tours are wheelchair-accessible, but I’ll try to find out and post it here, and you can contact Saratoga Race Course directly at (718) 641 – 4700 or (516) 488 – 6000 before the meet opens, and at (518) 584 – 6200 during the meet.
Hope that helps–
Thank you for this information – seems that among all the websites offering info about Saratoga Race Course, there’s a lot that isn’t explained.
For example, here is an interesting package that is offered and can be found all over the thoroughbred websites. Perhaps you could tell me why or why not I want to purchase this package given the variety of benefits:
In regards to this package:
This package offers “all day access” to the clubhouse, yet I understand that the clubhouse is a place to sit; What’s the benefit of access if I don’t get a seat?
Is the “private viewing area” of the Top of the Stretch any good?
Where in “The Rail” area is the Balcony Bar and is it worth having a beer there? I see no information on NYRA’s website about this…
The buffet sounds great! Yum! Compared to the prices at the Club and Turf Terrace ($20+ for a burger), could this be what I’m paying the most for and is it any good?
Cash bar at “The Finish Line” – is this at the Porch or some other bar? NYRA website mentions nothing of this bar.
Handicapping Seminar? Who puts this on and what is it’s street value? Again, NYRA doesn’t speak of it.
My hopes was to understand whether this is a value or an overpriced gimmick ($318 for two people) by searching the info myself, yet there doesn’t seem to be much out there about the nooks and crannies of the track. I appreciate your assistance in understanding the lesser known areas of this track not described by any website out there, that I can find. Thank you!
I’m afraid I can’t answer most of your questions about this package, as I’ve never purchased it, and we don’t mention it here at least in part for that reason. As with all hospitality experiences, whether it’s worth it or not will likely, I’d think, depend on what you’re looking for from a day at the races.
Calling NYRA or CID entertainment directly would probably be your best bet — sorry not to be of more help, but I hope that you have a great day at Saratoga!
Do you know what the distance of the stretch run is for the dirt track at Saratoga?
According to DRF the distance from the final turn to the finish line is 1,144 feet (which is slightly over 1.7 furlongs):
While only somewhat related, we also have a Guide to One and Two Turn Configurations. It doesn’t detail the length of the stretch but it can be a handy to guide to see which distances are one or two turns at various tracks:
Are restrooms plentiful?
They are indeed!
Just an FYI – parking rates increase to $12 for trackside parking and $7 for preferred parking. General parking is still free.
Even though Tuesdays are dark and there is no breakfast or tours, can we still go watch the horses train? I can’t find that info on any of the websites.
Hi, Barb– The track is closed to the public on Tuesday. I’ll update the article to include that–thanks for asking- Teresa
If you set up in the backyard, how far are you from wagering windows and places to see the odds, the finish, and results? Also, does it make sense to have a picnic table along with Grandstand or Clubhouse seats so you can move around throughout the day? And finally, can you bring alcohol to the picnic tables?
Great, informative site, by the way. It has me feeling more confident about visiting Saratoga!
Hi, Brian — the backyard has plenty of wagering windows and televisions to see odds, etc., though there is no direct view of the track. Having both seats and a table seems a little superfluous to me — seems like you’d be OK with one or the other. And yes–you can bring alcohol, but no glass, which will be confiscated. Thanks for the kind words about the site, and have a great trip!
I understand that shorts and jeans are not allowed in the clubhouse boxes but are capris allowed?
Hi, Donna — I think the answer is yes, though there have been times when I’ve had capris on and were told they were shorts and I couldn’t go in. I wouldn’t shrink from wearing them and having a reasonable conversation with an usher if anyone says anything. I’ve worn them in that area plenty and only been stopped once.
Hi, We are attending the Travers this Sat and want to bring our lawn chairs because the last time we went we could not find a seat!!! Do you which gate they open at 7am and where the shady areas of the park are? Thanks for all the great info, it has been really helpful.
Hi, Jackie. On Travers all of the gates will be open by about 6:45 am; people begin lining up hours before in order to get a picnic table, or to leave their chairs. There are plenty of shady spots because the backyard has tons of trees, but a lot of the spots are taken pretty early. Glad you found the site useful! — Teresa
Thank you so much for you quick response
did jet pilot run at Saratoga in 1946 or 1947?
Hi, Milton. That will take a little digging, but I’ll see if I can find out. Might take a few days, though.
Great article and perfect for me, a first time visitor to the Saratoga track in two weeks. However there was no discussion of how/where to actually place bets. I assume there are machines that will take my money and give me a voucher which I then use to place bets of actual wagering machines? Also I thought I read somewhere that there is remote betting at Saratoga, via some app on the cell phone?
Plenty of windows throughout the track, both staffed by humans and equipped with machines that take vouchers or betting cards, which can be purchased as specially designated windows.
The track has wifi, so you can also wager on your phone/tablet through your account. Hope that helps!
Thanks for the great guide. In past years you had to pay general admission even if you already have tickets for the clubhouse. I’ve heard this has changed, but can’t confirm. Anyone know?
Hi, Dave. This year, the cost of admission is included in the cost of the reserved seat.
I was wondering where the sun/shade line is for the Grandstand seats (what row) , and are all Clubhouse seats in the shade. My Mom can’t be out in the sun. Thanks!
Hi, Ann — I can’t tell you exactly for each individual section (and it’s likely to vary by section and time of day), but to be safe, I’d make sure to get seats in the upper two-thirds of the grandstand and clubhouse sections. You should be fine there. Enjoy your visit — Teresa
If we arrive to Saratoga Amtrak Station, what are our options to get the racetrack from the station?
A cab is your best bet. This bus also serves the station, but it won’t take you directly to the track. You could walk it in probably an hour. — Teresa
Is the general public allowed to watch morning workouts from the backstretch area? If so, how? And do you have any advice for identifying horses during works? You can see the saddlecloth for the trainer, but with big barns, you don’t know who’s who! Thanks!
Part of the Oklahoma training facility is open to the public during training hours, but the backstretch of the main track isn’t. You’d need a license or other pass to get back there.
Thorofan often publishes a guide to saddle towels that is available in Saratoga and around the track; I didn’t find it online, but you could contact them to see if a 2015 version exists. And even an older one would have a lot of the saddle towels that you’ll see this year. — Teresa
It is very sad that the carousel has been “upgraded” to a sports bar and reserved tables. This was the only area of the track where you could sit (for no added charge) and be protected from the elements. Many older patrons sat here as it was close to both the betting windows and the track and you could bring your own food. Obviously NYRA smelled an area of the track where maximum profit was not being extracted and pounced but in the process have displaced many older patrons who will no longer be able to enjoy a day at the track.
I have to pick up tickets for the Grandstand at Will Call – I ordered them over the phone from Saratoga. On the map, there are a few different will call areas. Can I pick them up at any will call / gate? I was especially wondering if I can pick mine up at Gate D will call, or is that only for Clubhouse tickets? Thanks!
Ann: in general, grandstand seats are held at the main Union Avenue will call, while clubhouse seats are at the Wright St. entrance, but I’d advise checking with the ticket office directly to make sure that you go to the right place. Have a great visit — Teresa
Great website and info! Do you think that the reserved picnic tables are a good idea for someone coming out of town? I am thinking about getting one and forgoing the grandstand seats. I understand that they do not include admission and I wasn’t sure what my best option would be. I think I also read that the museum does an Oklahoma training track tour. I was going to see if you thought that may be a good idea as well.
Hi, Hillary — I think it depends on what you want your experience to be. The reserved picnic tables are right next to the paddock, and there are a couple of TVs there for watching the races. The tables are crammed in pretty tightly. The grandstand obviously offers a terrific view of the track, but you don’t have a table to spread your stuff out on. I sat in the backyard for years and loved it.
The Oklahoma training track tour is great. I did it about 10 years ago and loved it. Enjoy your visit! — Teresa
Our son in law and family will be here for The Travers this year – we have only lived here for 3 years and are hoping for some expert picnic table procuring advice. Do you have any idea when the crowd starts forming at the gate? On Travers Day I think I’ve read gates open at 7am, so would that mean everyone will have to go through the process of buying a ticket before taking off on the mad dash? Are there available tables at the top of the stretch? (have read groups can reserve there)
Thanks in advance – son in law is bound and determined to score a table and I just want to have as much helpful information as possible!
I believe that all reserved seating, including the 100 picnic tables in the backyard available to reserve, are sold out. You could check secondary market outlets like Stub Hub to see what’s there. It’s been a few years since I stood on line for a Travers day table, but we always got there around 4 am. If American Pharoah comes, I’d imagine that folks will be spending the night. And yes, you pay at the turnstile and then dash madly.
If none of those are attractive options, you can bring your own chairs and set up camp in available space, though that space will obviously become tighter the later it gets. Hope that helps! — Teresa
I’m considering a reserved backyard picnic table near the paddock. Are there restrooms nearby? We have a disabled person in our party with mobility issues. Thanks.
Hi, William. Unfortunately, there are not bathrooms terribly close to that area. Hope you can find a spot that works, & that you enjoy your day at the races. –Teresa
Hi there, was on hold with the track for 25 minutes before giving up! I bought general admission tickets– all that was left– and understand those are standing only. If we bring chairs, is that only for outside? Can we sit outside until the race begins? The “live chat” rep also confusingly said there were chairs throughout but not in the stands. I have no idea WHAT she meant which is why I was hoping to talk with someone at the track. Mom is 83, and I wouldn’t want her to ahve to stand for hours. I’d be happy to buy reserved seats but not for hundreds of dollars each.
What is our best strategy?
p.s. I was told you couldn’t bring folding chairs to the track but you seem to be saying otherwise… so maybe they “say” you can’t do it, but people do it? I REALLY don’t want Mom to have to stand for hours.
Hi, Gwen. You can bring your own chairs and set them up pretty much anywhere on the grounds except for within the building (and not in pathways, etc.). You can sit outside throughout the race day, and if you want to watch the race live, you can leave your chairs and walk up to the rail. That’s obviously more of a challenge on the more crowded days, but not impossible. I hope that helps. Enjoy your trip — Teresa
so you can sit outside in the chair, but not anywhere near the track? Am I understanding right? And there are some general seating benches on the apron? It would be great to be able to “reserve” a spot for Mom. We could go in at 7 and hang out in our lawn chairs and read books or whatever.
Am I understanding this right? Or by “in the building” do you mean inside, but it’s OK somewhere by the track? I’m sorry to be so puzzled!
Can regular people look the horses in the eyes in the paddock these days? I went to the Galway races two years ago and that was one of my favorite things. That, and the individual (but licensed) bookies, so you could figure out which odds you liked.
You can put chairs in the picnic area at the top of the stretch, or try to save a bench spot on the apron, but you can’t set up chairs on the apron. If you arrive early and save your spot on a bench with a blanket or some other marker, you will find that others will respect that and your seat will be waiting for you if you leave and come back. The same is true with chairs; go in, set them up, and come back later.
The room along the paddock rail has been greatly reduced, but there are still spots available for people to see the horses before the races.
THANKS! This is exactly what I wanted to know. Very helpful.
I’d like to do a piece on the race for my site, New York Irish Arts, but haven’t managed to get through to the press office yet. I’ll try again today. Wish there were a proper press email!
I guess we’d have to get there before 7 to get a place on a bench…
Hi Teresa, great site/service, thank you. We plan on going Wednesday or Thursday of Travers week, newbies, I see it’s unfortunately only one race each day, would Friday be a better experience with more races ? (No Saturday for us), thinking grandstand seating, we’re not early risers, would get there at 10 or 11, walk around and take it all in, is 12:30 the race time ?, we would enjoy everything post race too I assume. Also, if wed-thur, is it less crowded with respect to getting wagers in ?, and/or should we go for the mobile account thing ?, meaning is electronically better than long lines ? (I actually prefer old school but not at risk of stress or no action). Thanks again !
It depends on the day, Gwen. On weekdays, you probably don’t have to get there quite that early, especially Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. But it’s tough to say for sure. — Teresa
Hi, Ken — not sure what you mean about only one race each day? Post time is 1 pm. Mondays and Wednesdays are generally less crowded than the other days, but if you plan ahead, you don’t have to wait too long in line to bet–though of course, the fewer people at the track, the shorter the lines. I’m a big fan of mobile wagering, but when the track is crowded, both cell and wifi service can get overwhelmed and spotty. Best of luck and have fun! — Teresa
I have a picnic table reserved for the Travers so I am pretty excited. I am still trying to figure out based on the maps exactly where my table is and how hard it might be to even see a TV to watch the races!!
Hi, planning first trip to Saratoga for Travers Day this year. I have a clubhouse general admission ticket. Does this allow access to the grandstand area/grandstand apron and paddock viewing areas as well?
If so, how does one move back and forth between the clubhouse and grandstand areas? Are there wristbands, or wrist stamps, or do you just show your ticket to get back into the clubhouse area?
Clubhouse general admission gets you access to all of those areas. When you leave the clubhouse, you’ll get your hand stamped and show the stamp when you want to re-enter. Enjoy the trip!
Myself and 3 friends are lucky enough to have gotten access to the Alabama suite for the Travers. Could you give a brief explanation as to what we can expect for food, drinks, etc. Perhaps you can direct me to some photos.
Hi, Harold– I’m afraid I can’t. I’ve never been in any of those suites, but I imagine that you could contact NYRA for details. There are probably photos on the NYRA website. –Teresa
Notice when watching live racing on NYRA.com fans watching from backstretch. Any info on being able to do this?
Hi, Ed — the only people permitted on the backstretch are those licensed by the state Gaming Commission or with NYRA badges, or registered guests of those people. — Teresa
Hi- Is the Travers Bar still first-come-first-serve or is a reservation needed and if so, what’s it called now? I can’t find anything that references the Travers Bar. Also, none of the seating charts seem to show whether A or X is the row closest to the track/race – do you know as I’d like to purchase good seats for later in the meet during the week. Thanks very much – Anne
The Travers Bar had been closed for several years and is open again this year. It doesn’t have seating; it’s a walk-up bar.
This feature on the NYRA website should give you the information you’re looking for about seats.
Great forum, thank you for all the info. I want to make some dinner plans for after the races. Approximately what time do you think the races will end on Sunday September 4th? Post time that day is 12:30.
Hi, Linda. This far out, it’s hard to say what time the races will end–don’t know how many races there are or their placement. On many days, races end somewhere between 6 and 7. — Teresa
My friend passed away and he loved the track. It it possible to have a race in his honor.
All three NYRA tracks–Belmont, Aqueduct, and Saratoga–offer the chance to name a race in someone’s honor, with the cost varying by track and day. You can contact the New York Racing Association directly for more information. My condolences on the loss of your friend. — Teresa
Nice article you might want to check on the info about betting on tablet and phone—-I am an nyra bets account holder and I live in NJ—-so I can bet with my NYRA BETS swipe card at the windows —-but not with my phone that tells the mutual computer that I live in NJ
Hi, Joe. Unfortunate situation in NJ with the restricted wagering. I’m not familiar enough with NJ Bets to know whether it has a mobile app or website, or whether it restricts use outside of NJ–but if you can access it on a tablet or phone, you’d be able to bet that way at Saratoga.
Can you see the track from the Easy Goer carousel ?
Hi, Ray– No, you can’t.The Easy Goer is on the back side of the grandstand. There are plenty of TVs showing the races, but there’s no view of the track.
Teresa – great article and thanks so much for all the information. Question on seating – I see on certain Saturdays, the secondary market prices for tickets in the clubhouse seats are pretty expensive already. I plan on going for a G1 race this summer (Alabama Stakes) and want to know what to expect with a Clubhouse Seat ticket. Grandstand seating is almost sold out…I believe I read somewhere that seats aren’t even guaranteed with a ticket. Is that true? Are you at least guaranteed a spot in the row you purchase the ticket for? Is it worth buying this early in advance or what would be the harm in waiting until later/day of?
How many races in a typical day and what is the approximate last post on a typical day.?
Hi, Rene. On most days there are 10 races, and on weekends there are usually a dozen, occasionally more than that. Last post varies, but it’s not often earlier than 6pm and often it’s later than that.
Hi, Nick–I’m sorry that I never replied to this. Not all tickets include seats, because you can buy general admission to both the clubhouse and grandstand. The ticket sites should make clear which include seats and which don’t. If you buy a ticket with seating, you are guaranteed your seat. In general, for big days, you want to buy as early as you can, because the events can get sold out. Enjoy your time at the Spa!
Hi – I hope this site is still active since I can not find an answer to my question. The free parking area over by the barns and field below there used to have a free shuttle bus (an old school bus) that made a continuous circular drive to bring people to and from a drop off across the street from the Union St track entrance. Is that shuttle still there now in 2021? Thanks in advance to anyone who knows.