Saratoga Springs is known for the horses, but in this upstate New York city, horse racing is not only a business or a hobby - it's a lifestyle.
Lizzie W. was the first horse to cross the finish line when theSaratoga Race Track opened in 1864. For the early well-to-do who came for the mineral waters and spa treatments, to the diverse and vibrant following that it enjoys today, horse racing continues to be a Saratoga tradition, a lifestyle, and a passion. Today, thoroughbred partnerships offer a gateway to the world of horse racing in Saratoga Springs and the taste of the thoroughbred owner's way of life grounded in a history that began almost 150 years ago.
Always a colorful sport, horse racing has helped provide Saratoga with a long history of interesting "characters". The Canfield Casino, a gambling establishment built in 1870, quickly became a highly popular destination for the gambling greats. The Casino had a High Stakes Room where only the most elite and well-heeled gamblers were permitted to play. (No women, or course, and absolutely no locals permitted!) It was rumored that certain participants wagered up to $500,000 in a single day.
With that kind of money changing hands the hotels were full, the spas were bustling with patrons, and Saratoga horse racing continued to flourish! When it came to buying or betting on a racehorse, minimum investment was beyond the reach of most. During the 1890's, Saratoga was a bustling, progressive city. Patrons and visitors enjoyed music, food and entertainment, racing, mineral spas, fashion and gambling. As the city continued to prosper, Bing Crosby, Sophie Tucker, and John Philip Sousa performed in the glittering hotels in town. Diamond Jim Brady, Lillian Russell, and the beautiful Lillian Langtry frequented the Saratoga Springs social scene. The Vanderbilts, the Whitneys and the Rockefellers were among the social elite who made Saratoga their summer playground.
Anti-gambling pressures eventually caused the Canfield Casino to close, and it was sold to the city in 1911. As the 1920's brought prohibition and the 1930's brought the Great Depression, Saratoga began to attract a far less desirable type of patron, until racing was suspended for three years as during WWII. The fortunes of Saratoga Springs continued to wane until it's spectacular rebirth.
The Saratoga Performing Arts Center opened to much fanfare in the late 1960's as the new summer home of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York City Ballet. Hotels were renovated, neighborhoods began to flourish, and summer racing season brought a new generation of racing fans to the streets, restaurants, and shops of Saratoga.
Throughout its history, during times both prosperous and lean, Saratoga has seen the finest horses in the world cross the finish line at Saratoga Race Track: Man o' War, Kelso, Secretariat, Affirmed and of course, the much-loved Funny Cide. Today, thoroughbred racing partnerships provide a way for lovers of the sport to participate in the excitement and thrills of racing, without the extensive costs typically associated with owning a racehorse.