Saratoga Race Course is back for 2019, and this year’s meet is nearly eight weeks of summer fun. If you’re planning a trip to upstate New York for some of the most competitive horse racing on the planet, here’s how to make the most of a general admission ticket. I’ll even put a map at the bottom of this piece with markers corresponding to my recommendations so you’ll know where to go.
1. At least once, go to the track to watch morning workouts.
If you can, get up early and go watch morning workouts at least once. It’s completely free, and there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts at the track so you can grab a coffee. Set yourself up in the box seats – again, it’s free – and relax as you watch the best horses in the world go through their morning routines.
2. Pose in front of the iconic clubhouse entrance fountain before you even go in the gates.
One of the most iconic places at the track is right outside the gates to the clubhouse, so be sure to stop by the fountain to take in the scene. The jockeys’ silks change each year to commemorate the biggest winners of the season, so you’ll get a different view each summer!
3. Watch at least one race from the top of the stretch.
It’s a bit of a hike, but if you walk all the way to the top of the stretch – that’s the area where the turn for home changes to the race to the finish line – you’ll be treated to one of the best views in horse racing. Plus, there’s a bar and betting there, so you’ll have the opportunity to play the ponies and have a refreshment!
4. Find King Tut.
There are a couple of police horses (and their humans, of course) who patrol the racetrack at Saratoga, the most famous of whom is King Tut. The gentle giant is unmistakable, and he’s become a fan favorite over the years. You’ll catch him strolling around the grounds, so give him a pat and pose for a photo! He’s a sweetie, I promise.
5. Check out the vendor village.
If you’re looking for the perfect souvenir from your stay at Saratoga, look no further than the vendor village in Saratoga’s huge backyard. From clothing to photos, paintings to jewelry and everything in between, there’s something for everyone here.
6. Meet a jockey.
Ever wanted to meet a jockey in person? Saratoga lets you do that! It’s one of the only sporting venues I can think of where the athletes walk right through the crowd, so feel free to grab an autograph from a Hall of Famer while you’re in town.
7. Line the horse path to watch the Thoroughbreds head to the track.
Just like getting up close to the jockeys, Saratoga also lets fans interact with the equine athletes. While you can’t pet the horses, you can get really close to them by lining the path that takes the horses to and from the track. It’s an incredible experience that really lets you get a sense of the size and power of the Thoroughbreds, and I highly recommend it.
8. Take a drink from the Big Red Spring.
Saratoga’s know colloquially as the Spa because of the mineral water in the area; drink in that history by taking a sip from the Big Red Spring right at the track. The taste is … well, you won’t forget it, I can promise you that!
9. Check out the meet’s leaderboard.
One of the coolest things about Saratoga is that they post photos of their leaderboard publicly; it’s also right next to the colors room where all the owners’ silks (the “jerseys” that the jockeys wear for each race) are kept, so you can see both at the same time.
10. Hit up the apron to watch a race.
There’s nothing like cheering on the horses and jockeys right next to the action as they battle to the finish line, so head down to the track apron (horse racing’s weird term for the area that abuts the racetrack) to watch a race. There are even benches for you to relax on at no charge, so it’s a great place to rest up and soak in a beautiful summer day. Plus, if you time it right, some longer races on the dirt will start right in front of you, which is incredibly exciting.
11. Check out the saddling paddock.
Saratoga is famous for having one of the most beautiful paddocks in horse racing, so find the time to watch the Thoroughbreds prepare for their races while their trainers, owners, and jockeys talk strategy. It’s incredibly gorgeous!
12. Grab a bench in the backyard.
One of the best places to make your home base on a GA ticket is the backyard at Saratoga –picnic tables abound underneath the towering trees, and they’re all yours at no extra cost. Just plan on getting to the races a little early, since they’re incredibly popular! The backyard area is so much fun, and you can even bring in your own food and beverages. Just be sure to follow the track’s guidelines carefully – you can see their policies and prohibited items list right here.
13. Enjoy a ditty from Reggie’s Red Hot Feet Warmers.
One of the most charming parts of Saratoga is the band that roves around the track playing ragtime hits, Reggie’s Red Hot Feet Warmers. You’ll stumble upon them – sometimes accompanied by swing dancers! – and fall in love. You can usually find them near the betting windows next to the paddock, but they pop up all over the track!