Thanks to the encouragement from two gentlemen with whom I spoke during Preakness Week around the Pimlico Stakes barn and my fellow horse racing friend Phil Baldyga, I was able to fulfill my Father’s Day promise by accompanying my 84 year old Dad and horse racing mentor, Mike Quill, on a day trip to Saratoga Springs, NY on Wednesday, July 29th for Opening Day at Saratoga Race Course.
The trip to Saratoga via Albany thanks to Southwest airlines was both Mike’s and my maiden voyage to “The Spa” as Saratoga has been affectionately called by horse players across the country. Even though we missed our scheduled 6:50am flight out of BWI that morning, due to an accident at 5:15am which shut down southbound I-95 for nearly an hour, thankfully we were able to take the next available flight at 8:10am, getting us into Albany at 9:20am. Phil awaited our arrival with his rental car to chauffeur us to “The Spa” and then back to the airport after the races in time to catch the last flight back to BWI.
The setting around Saratoga makes one feel as if you have walked onto the set of “Seabiscuit”. Aside from the betting machines and video screens showing the races, everything about Saratoga is old school horse racing. That is the charm of this grand old track, attracting 25,000 patrons DAILY during Saratoga’s annual 36-day Summer meet. Yes… that’s 25,000 horse racing fans, unlike what occurs daily at other tracks across the country or even on Preakness Day where you’d be hard pressed to fine 25,000 horse racing fans among the 80,000-100,000 in attendance. So what’s the attraction?
Phil, who was making his 23rd consecutive pilgrimage to “The Spa” summed it up best saying, “…it’s a festival. It’s the way horse racing should be…the entire town of Saratoga Springs, NY goes nuts over horse racing when Saratoga is open”. Until you experience it as my Dad and I did for the first time, not even the most passionate horse player (that would be me) cannot appreciate the lasting affect a day at Saratoga will have on you.
The most amazing and refreshing sight that day was the vast number of 20-something men and women holding a program or Daily Racing Form instead of their favorite alcoholic beverage, a sight seldom seen at Pimlico on the 3rd Saturday of May. Maybe there is hope for the future of thoroughbred horse racing?!
So next June, when you’re debating on what to give your Dad (or your tell your son or daughter what you’d like) for Father’s Day, consider a trip to Saratoga…
… Southwest airfare from BWI to Albany, $49 each way
… Rental car to drive from Albany to Saratoga Springs and back, $89
… Admission and Race Program, $6.50
… Memories of spending the day at the best track in the country with your Dad, PRICELESS!
Share the thrill of thoroughbred horse racing with someone you love or just a friend.