The summer is all about Saratoga. I know that the other coast has some great racing happening where the surf meets the turf, but the best racing happens in up-state New York.
Every year the best trainers in the nation ship their best horses to the summer meet known as The Spa. These trainers include 5 time Eclipse winning trainer Todd Pletcher, single season record holder Steve Asmussen and 2 time Eclipse Award winning, Hall of Fame Trainer Bill Mott. To round out the lineup is the likes of Linda Rice, Kenny McPeek, Mike Maker, Dale Romans…ok, there are just way too many to name. With trainers of this caliber shipping in, how can the Spa NOT be the place for racing in the summer?
How about the jockey colony you ask? Well let me begin by saying that the jockeys that flock to Saratoga every year come from all over to compete at Saratoga. Amongst them is the ESPY Award winning and 2 time Eclipse winning jock John Velazquez, Eclipse award winning jockey Ramon Dominguez and three time Derby winning jockey Kent Desormeaux. This is just the tip of the iceberg; the rest of the jockey colony consists of people such as Robby Albarado, Julien Leparoux and Javier Castellano to name a few.
How about the caliber of horses that have raced at Saratoga? The Spa has seen the likes of Triple Crown winner Affirmed, Dubai World Cup winner and Horse of the Year Curlin, Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer Holy Bull and so on and so on. Oh and the ladies like The Spa too; The Spa played host to 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, VERY possible Horse of the Year Havre de Grace or Blind Luck and 2 year old and 3 year old Champion Filly Ruffian off the top of my head.
Since it is all about racing, here is an idea of what sets Saratoga apart from every other track in the nation. The races offered at Saratoga include over 50 stakes races. Yes I counted correctly, FIFTY stakes races which include 35 graded stakes out of which 16 are grade 1. Not that this should weight your decision, but it is my opinion that the best race of the year was run there in 2010.
The racing at Saratoga is some of the best, the trainers are the best and the jockey colony is the most competitive of almost any race meet…but if that isn’t enough for you how about the fact that Saratoga is not only the oldest racetrack, but it is also the oldest organized sporting venue in the United States. Not impressed yet, ok, how about the fact that it is host to the oldest major thoroughbred race in the history of the U.S, the Travers Stakes. This favorite past-time of ours is rich in tradition and history and nowhere else are you going to feel that than at The Spa. Wait; still want more history, no problem. The Spa is where our greatest (arguably) hero lost his only race. This is the place where you can place your bet AGAINST a dead on favorite and cash your ticket. This is the track dubbed the “Graveyard of Champions” and for good reason. Not only did Man o’ War suffer his only loss here, but the great Secretariat lost on this track and so did Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox. Oh and did I happen to mention that Saratoga Springs is the site of the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame.
All that being said, I could probably sum up the reason racing at Saratoga crushes the west coast equivalent…variety! That’s right, if all of the above reasons just were not enough for you how about the simple fact that you want a one of a kind experience and let’s face it…Del Mar is not it. Whatever you see at Del Mar, you have seen happen at Santa Anita and Hollywood already this year. The Battle of the Exes may be the most exciting race of the meet; I know I will be watching! |
Angie, I am not going to argue that Del Mar has the better racing of the two. We all know that Saratoga has the highest overall quality of any meet in America, but … Del Mar is one of the better meets racing quality wise, and there's a lot more to this discussion than just the horses.
Two words … Bob Baffert. And just in case you don't think Baffert is the best trainer in all of America, I will add Jerry Hollendorfer, John Sadler, John Shirreffs, Mike Mitchell, Doug O'Neill, Carla Gaines, Mike Puype, Richard Mandella, Peter Miller, etc … The trainer colony at Del Mar takes a back seat to no one.
That's a solid list, but how about Mike Smith, Joe Talamo, Joel Rosario, Martin Garcia, Garrett Gomez, Christian Santiago Reyes, Rafael Bejarano, David Flores, Chantal Sutherland, Patrick Valenzuela, Alonso Quinonez, and Victor Espinoza? Like I said with the trainers … this bunch takes a back seat to no one.
If you drop the history card on me, I am going to have to trump that with a little recent history … Ever hear of a little horse named Zenyatta? She was a regular down where the surf meets the turf. They've also hosted a few other pretty good ones like: Tiznow, Cigar, Point Given, Silver Charm, Free House, Midnight Lute, Ferdinand, Stardom Bound, Vindication, A.P. Indy, Kotashaan, Flawlessly, Best Pal, Lookin at Lucky, Bertrando, Halfbridled, and Lava Man. Let's just say it's the summer place to play for any good horse west of the Mississippi.
Over 50? Nice, Angie. I can't beat that, but I can come pretty close … Del Mar has 42 stakes scheduled for 2011, 20 of which are graded, including 8 that are grade 1. What about million dollar races? The Pacific Classic gives Del Mar just as many as 'toga, at one to one. Did I mention there is more to the racetrack experience than just the horses.
So ... what you are telling me is that Saratoga is old? I agree. Nothing against Saratoga, and all of it's history, but Del Mar is fresh and alive. Sure it has some history too, all the way back to 1937 when Bing Crosby collected tickets at the turnstile. Bing and his Hollywood pals created Del Mar as the ultimate summer place to hang out, have fun, and watch great racing, and those simple goals are as true now as ever. Movie stars and swimming pools, err, make that the Pacific Ocean … it's right across the street! It's where all the beautiful people come to see and be seen, and not in an old, crowded facility, but rather in a spacious grounds with new and comfortable amenities. Whether you are in the infield (you can't do that at 'Toga), the grandstand, or watching down at the rail, life is assuredly good at Del Mar.
In conclusion, I'll ask the reader where they would rather be … in suburban Albany, or suburban San Diego? In the heat and humidity of the Northeast, or in the greatest summer climate known to man? It's been great debating this with you, Angie, but I gotta go … I'm headed to the beach, and after that a few fish tacos, and a cocktail overlooking the Pacific!