As 2022 meets dawn, Saratoga experiences change, but retains mystique and grandeur – The Daily Gazette

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Every year, you can walk the grounds of Saratoga Racetrack shortly before its annual Thoroughbred Meet and feel like they’re building the place from scratch.

The squeak of electric saws, the click of nail guns.

Workers in neon orange and green and yellow.

Then, a week later, it is replaced by the cry of the punters, the snapping of a whip.

Workers can wear the same colors, but now they’re shiny, puffy jockey silks, not sweat-stained construction t-shirts.

And then you remember that this place has been around since 1863 (well, 1864, if we’re getting technical), and its inherent character supersedes current modernization efforts and will stand up to new designs on customers’ money.

Saratoga’s 154th meet begins Thursday, with 40 days of live racing through Labor Day, Sept. 5.

As always, the New York Racing Association took advantage of the offseason to improve and modify certain aspects of the track.

As always, Saratoga Racetrack can still comfortably count on its ability to give people what they want most: the best summer races in the country and a place steeped in history to watch them.

Here’s a look at what fans can expect from the 2022 encounter:

NEWS

By far the most notable changes to the track are doubles, one for customers and one for riders.

The Post Bar, which was placed next to the paddock in an enclosure which has included Shake Shack for around 12 years, has been dismantled and replaced with a permanent two-storey structure which will continue to be a central open-air bar on the ground floor. ground floor, but will offer the Paddock Suite on the second floor.

The air-conditioned Paddock Suite will include a living room and outdoor balcony and is available by reservation only, with rental packages sold to groups on a full or partial basis.

Saratoga’s other significant modification is also air-conditioned and available only by reservation, but these qualities are the responsibility of Mother Nature and the race office respectively.

For the first time since 1992, Saratoga will feature one-mile dirt races on the main track, courtesy of the Wilson Chute, a new section of track that integrates with the clubhouse bend and provides a flowing layout at the mile distance .

Fans attending opening day will get the first glimpse, as NYRA has organized a one-mile race for 3-year-old fillies named Wilton.

EVENTS

Because it’s Saratoga, the race won’t be the only one to attract attention, unlike 1863, when the first encounter was across Union Avenue, after which John Morrissey led the effort in 1864 to build the mile-and-an-eighth track and grandstand seen today (since modified, of course).

All that mattered back then was racing.

Along with the variety of traditional on-track events, like the popular hat contest, NYRA has added a “Stars at the Spa” series that will feature former New York Knick Charles Oakley (July 24), “Real Housewives of New Jersey”. Teresa Giudice (July 31) and former New York Yankee Bernie Williams (September 4) take to the track to greet fans — well, those paying $200 each for a limited number of reserved seats in the new Paddock Suite.

If you are excluded from this, there is a backup plan: the first 200 who pre-purchase a $40 ticket can participate in a photo/autograph session later in the afternoon.

On a cheaper note, there will be three days of merchandise giveaways, when fans will receive a coupon with paid admission to redeem for a free Saratoga blanket (July 29), a long-sleeved t-shirt (August 19), and a umbrella (September 2). ).

Not far from the field, the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion, two blocks down East Avenue from the track, will once again host two events (also free!) that are deeply rooted in the sport and offer insight into the start and of the end of the whole situation. race.

On August 8 and 9, Fasig-Tipton will hold its Saratoga Select Yearling Sale, an auction of young horses that can fetch seven-figure purchase prices and become the stars of tomorrow.

The Pavilion will also be the venue for a celebration of yesterday’s stars.

The annual National Racing Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on August 5 and the 2021 class will include mares Beholder and Tepin in the contemporary class.

If you follow the races in Saratoga, you know that much of Tepin’s Hall of Fame resume was written here, which brings us to…

THE RACE!

Ginny DePasquale, the tireless longtime manager of Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, informed a photo-seeking reporter on Saturday morning that Life Is Good is “anti-social.”

“Good luck getting his head out of the stall,” she said before moving on to her myriad other responsibilities.

Life is good is going to have to get out of there at some point, and when it does, Saratoga fans will get a first-hand look at one of 2022’s Horse of the Year favorites.

It’s not unusual.

Eight of the last 16 Horse of the Year winners have won at Saratoga this season, including Knicks Go last year, Gun Runner, Wise Dan (twice), Havre de Grace, Rachel Alexandra, Curlin and Invasor.

This list does not include American Pharoah, who won the Triple Crown and Horse of the Year in 2015 but was upset by Keen Ice in the Travers at Saratoga.

Filly Havre de Grace raced against colts to win the Woodward in her 2011 Horse of the Year season. It echoed – well, duplicated, anyway – the feat of Rachel Alexandra in 2009, when Rachel, a 3-year-old filly, raced against older colts and won to “lift the rafters!” at the old Spa, as track announcer Tom Durkin called it.

Life Is Good is set to take place in the Whitney on August 6, and when it does, Saratoga fans will remember – once again – what life is like here.

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