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Breeders' Cup 2017

Del Mar vs Saratoga - Point/Counterpoint

Del Mar vs Saratoga - Point/Counterpoint
It's the ultimate East vs West debate - Saratoga or Del Mar? HRN bloggers Angela D'Amico, Race Talk's Girl Next Door, and Zipse At The Track's titular hero, Brian Zipse, lay it all out over which is the Meet with the Most!

Del Mar
Race Talk with the Girl Next Door
Zipse At The Track

Angela D'Amico:

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!

Brian Zipse:

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!



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Older Comments about Del Mar vs Saratoga - Point/Counterpoint...

Quality of racing aside, Saratoga is way rich in history and racing tradition to make a comparison with Del Mar. My first impression of Del Mar was that it was, in one word, small. Gulfstream Park, since its renovation, reminds me of Del Mar. That's a more reasonable comparison.
in my opinion Saratoga is the best .
I have never been to the races in Del Mar but spent many summers surfing the beaches. Its a great town. But for me Saratoga is like going home to the North Shore of Oahu and surfing the best waves in the world. So Saratoga it is for me and that is why Im here now. I'd love to go to Del Mar for the races one day but its not a priority. I like to fly over Cali on my way to Oahu :)
Well I have never been to DelMar but Saratoga is great.... I have gone every year for the past 12 years....When I hit CA soon, then I will get back to you.. Really, horse racing is horse racing... The animals make the day.. but the history of Saratoga is cool
del mar and the setting along with the weather, jockeys, trainers, takes a back seat to no one. nothing like the 9th race in front of a pacific sunset. and, for all the east coasters that think that cali racing is going away soon!......NOT!!! we are healthy and having fun in the sun without the humidity.
West coast racing could probably survive without Del Mar but East coast racing without the Spa? As Donnie Brasco would say....forget about it!
The average age for the race goer for each meet is really startling. Del Mar attracts a much younger crowd (20-35) whereas Saratoga (35-50) attracts more wealthier people. Saratoga has the history, but Del Mar has the beach, the Pacific Ocean, the Beach Boys and surfing.
It just depends what "floats your boat". They don't called it the Spa for nothing. Hot and steamy. Lot of trees. Barbecue smoke everywhere. Older men with white shirts and red bow ties showing where to sit. Lots of middle age and older people. Or where the "turf meets the surf". Lots of skin, tan and coconut oil in the air. Way too many gorgeous people. Lots of lawn chairs and sunglasses. Margaritas, Coronas, and Dos Equises galore. The salt air from the Pacific is great and so are the seagulls.
Been to Saratoga in '09. It was a great atmosphere, but Del Mar is the place to be in the summer.
I've only been to Saratoga so I can't really say which I prefer but I do know Saratoga has an amazing atmosphere.
I think the tiebreaker would be if either came up in a song. Answer: Saratoga, as Carly Simon said in 'You're So Vain', "You went up to Saratoga, and your horse naturally won."
I am getting a little hammered about the weather and all I can say is that I am not talking about where would be a better place to swim or BBQ, we are debating who has better racing. LOL
Angie, how can you say Del Mar is not a one of its kind experience? Comparing it to the same thing as Santa Anita and Hollywood? You can't be serious. Have you been to all three? Del Mar is THE one of its kind experience. All the other points made by both are valid. I'll add that we don't have nasty weather that can decimate cards at Del Mar. So Cal is best!
  • RaTalk_Girl · I should have specified that better, I was really just talking about the trainers/jockeys and the standings. I think with Saratoga, you get the best of NY mixed in with the best of Kentucky, throw in a dash of Florida and so on. Del Mar seems to be Santa Anita and Hollywood again....Joel Rosario or Bejarano. · 2286 days ago
This Del Mar Saratoga debate is great. Thoroughbred racing at its mystical best. The Pacific ocean & the "Sport of Kings" takes a gracious "bow" to the history of Saratoga & the wonderous spas that surround it. If Saratoga is the daily poll winner, it should be a tepid favorite. Their both fantastic race meets.
I think it's about racing not a vacation destination. Hell the majority of action will probably be seen via simulcast anyway. Saratoga hands down!
Saratoga is great, but I think Brian wins this one. Give me the beach the great weather of Del Mar.
Thanks, Andy. It was a lot of fun ... I'm just a little worried that Angie got the best of me ... this time!

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