Whitney Diaries: Destination Spa City

The Life

The Saratoga Race Course meeting is the proverbial Christmas in summer to me: I wait all year long for it, can’t sleep the night before, and then find myself yearning for it the second it’s over. So when I woke up this morning, I basically levitated out of bed with excitement and think I managed to get showered, dressed and out of my apartment within 15 minutes of my alarm going off. Needless to say, I’d been packed for about a week.

There’s something about Spa City that lends itself to a preternatural excitement; although Saratoga is – for most of the year, at least - a bucolic university town nestled in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, for six weeks every summer it becomes the horse racing hub of the world, where top-class Thoroughbreds gather to strut their stuff in front of crowds that can include royalty, socialites and celebrities.

My journey to Saratoga began with a stop by City Bakery to pick up a yummy houseguest present. I’m sofa surfing this weekend to keep expenses down, and what better way to say “thanks for having me!” than 30 of the most delicious cookies in Manhattan? Then, I boogied my way to Penn Station to hop a train to the Spa. If you ever take a notion, this is my favorite way to get to Saratoga: not only is the trip on Amtrak easy, relaxing, and chock-full of free Internet, but it’s also an incredibly scenic voyage. My pro tip: sit on the left-hand side of the car on the way up and you’ll be afforded breathtaking views of the Hudson River throughout the ride.

Not bad, right?

I was so excited to get to racetrack that I went straight from the train station to the Spa; when I arrived at about 2 p.m., the joint was already jumping, filled with fans who were there to spend a fantastic afternoon at one of the world’s most beautiful race courses.

I decided to head out to the backyard area at Saratoga first; this is a fantastic place to hang out if you come to the track with a lot of friends or just want a low-key day; you can bring your own food and drinks (within reason; be sure to check out the New York Racing Association’s guidelines here under the “Coolers” section.) You can also visit the Big Red Spring, which is one of the many mineral water outlets around Saratoga that lends the town the nickname of “The Spa.” You can try the water if you like; but I recommend bringing one of your more gullible friends with you and then videoing them tasting the water. It has an … interesting flavor. An interesting flavor that lingers. 

I love taking in the general atmosphere of the backyard. There really is something for everyone there, from food trucks to wagering windows to beer stands and even play areas for kids. It’s basically heaven.

If you’re spending a few days at Saratoga, I suggest heading over to the Carousel Restaurant area, where there are several restaurants to choose from. I am very partial to Hattie’s Fried Chicken, but I am now very intrigued by the Montreal Poutine stand. Fries + gravy + cheese curds = happy Penelope.

With all of my wandering around, the day slipped away from me as they tend to do at Saratoga; before I knew it, the last race was behind me and it was time to head to my friends’ house to say hello and get some rest.

Thank you so much for joining me, and I’ll be back tomorrow with all of the action from Whitney Handicap day here at Saratoga!

Tune in to Fox Sports 1 on Aug. 10 for the Saratoga Special Stakes
and on Aug. 17 for the Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes.

The on-air duties will be handled by Greg Wolf, Richard Migliore, Andy Serling, Simon Bray, and Alyssa Ali. In conjunction with the broadcast, Racing 101's Joe Kristufek will be hosting a live fan TweetUP - @ABRLive #TJC Tour - beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

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