What: Experience a day or weekend at iconic Saratoga Race Course
Where: 267 Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs, NY, 12866
When: July 11 through Sept. 2, 2019
How to get there: "From New York City you drive north for about 175 miles, turn left on Union Avenue and go back 100 years." - Directions to Saratoga Race Course by legendary sportswriter Red Smith
Why you should visit: Thoroughbred racing has no finer setting than historic Saratoga Race Course, named one of the world’s top 10 venues of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated. From July 11 through Labor Day, many of the sport’s top owners, trainers, jockeys, and horses, along with hundreds of thousands of passionate and devoted fans gather in Saratoga Springs for one of the premier summer Thoroughbred racing meets in the country. First held in 1863, the Saratoga boutique 40-day race meet regularly draws more than 20,000 passionate racing fans to the track each day. Nestled near the Adirondack Mountains, Saratoga Springs is equidistant (three hours away) from New York, Boston, and Montreal, Canada – making it an ideal summer getaway destination.
Every summer, the past comes alive in the historic grandstand as fans experience not only the best in racing, but the unmatched ambience and charm of historic Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Already famous for its mineral baths, Saratoga held its first Thoroughbred meet just a month after the Battle of Gettysburg. Staged by gambler, casino owner, ex-boxing champion and future Congressman John “Old Smoke” Morrissey and beginning on Aug. 3, 1863, the four-day meet drew thousands of locals and tourists who saw Lizzie W. defeat Captain Moore in the best-of-three series of races.
Emboldened by the success of that first meet, Morrissey promptly enlisted his friends John R. Hunter, William Travers, and Leonard Jerome to form the Saratoga Association. Its first responsibility was the construction of a new, permanent grandstand on the current site of Saratoga Race Course. Across the street, the “old course” became the barn area known as Horse Haven, with the vestiges of the original track still encircling the stables.
Nowadays, the population of Saratoga Springs triples to 75,000 or more when the Thoroughbreds return each summer, with those who come for the races discovering the area’s amazing breadth of history and culture. With more than 1,000 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, Saratoga Springs was honored with the first American Heritage Magazine “Great American Place” award and the National Trust for Historic Places’ “Great American Main Street” award. Moreover, Walking Magazine cited it as one of America’s “Most Walkable Cities.”
Saratoga Springs is home to the National Museum of Racing, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the National Museum of Dance, Skidmore College, and many art galleries. Resplendent in Victorian architecture, it also boasts Yaddo Rose Gardens, the Little Theatre at SPAC, the Saratoga Music Hall, and the Foundation for Baroque Music. Nearby, Saratoga Battlefield in Stillwater is dedicated to “The Turning Point of the American Revolution,” while Ulysses S. Grant’s Cottage at Mt. McGregor is where the bankrupt former president and Civil War hero wrote his memoirs and restored his family’s fortune.
Saratoga Race Course is the setting of a scene early on in the Ian Fleming James Bond novel “Diamonds Are Forever,” where the mob he is trying to infiltrate attempt to use a fixed race to pay him for a job. The track also is the setting of Sherwood Anderson's short story "I Want to Know Why." Carly Simon also makes a reference to Saratoga in her 1972 No. 1 hit "You're So Vain," singing "I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won."
Saratoga’s motto is “Health, history and horses.” We invite you to plan a visit to historic Saratoga Race Course this summer where you can step back in time and enjoy firsthand the excitement, beauty, passion, and tradition of America’s best Thoroughbred racing.
As you contemplate your summer travel plans, we leave you with the eloquent words of the late and legendary sports and turf writer Joe Palmer: “Saratoga represents a reaffirmation of racing as enjoyment, of the original forces which first called it into being. You come away feeling that, well, there is going to be a good deal of concrete and gravel in your horoscope for a goodish while, but afterward there will be Saratoga again, with its shaded paddocks…I rather think that the charm of Saratoga is that it represents to those to whom racing is a way of life, something to which they may at need return. It is, of course, the oldest track in America, and its ways are old-fashioned ways. After 11 months of new-fashioned ways, it is as restful as old slippers, as quiet as real joy.”
Executive producer - Michael Madden
Directed and edited by - Samuel Centore
Produced by - Lynn McMartin and Gene Fischer
Director of Photography - Mika Altskan
Assistant camera - William Burris
Assistant editor - Matthew Campbell
Color by - Elias Nousiopoulos
Segue Instrumental Music - Daniel Lauricella and Nicholas Avella
Written and performed by - Danio Saratak and Nico
“The Wind” Performed by - Jeannie Blake, written by Jean Buechs
Michael Madden is the managing partner of BlackEagle Partners, a private equity firm with offices in New York, Florida, and Michigan. He has been a racing fan since he started going to Fort Erie Racetrack with his father at 10 years old. His passion for Thoroughbred racing has evolved over 40 years into ownership and breeding through Curragh Stables. A few years ago, Mike had the idea of making a film which would showcase his love for the game through the lens of the Saratoga Racecourse experience. In the film, he and his team have tried to capture not only the thrill of racing, but also the unique environment of Saratoga and the people who make things happen there.
Samuel Centore is an award-winning documentary filmmaker from Syracuse, N.Y. He currently works as a VFX producer and short form content creator based out of New York.
Lynn McMartin is a member of BlackEagle and Mike Madden’s partner. She is a human resource executive and has been a Thoroughbred racing fan for many years. Growing up in Vermont, Lynn has always been around horses and shares Mike’s passion for showcasing the Saratoga experience in the film “40 Days in Saratoga.”
Mika Altskan is a director of photography based in Brooklyn, N.Y., shooting independent feature films, shorts, documentaries, and commercials.