Suffice it to say that it’s another historic year for Saratoga Race Course. Saturday, August 24 will mark the 150th anniversary of the running of the Travers Stakes, which is not only the most high-profile race of the summer meet here in town, but was also the first-ever race held on the grounds that would become the Saratoga Race Course. In celebration of its running, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) will team up with the City of Saratoga Springs to offer a slate of different community activities and events throughout Downtown Saratoga Springs in the weeks leading up to the big race.
“Travers Day is always a highlight of the summer racing season and this year will be even more memorable as we mark the 150th anniversary of this historic race,” says NYRA CEO and President Dave O’Rourke. “We are excited to partner with the city and community to extend our celebration beyond the track gates and into downtown.”
That celebration will begin on Tuesday, July 30 when nearly two dozen “Travers 150” banners will go up along Broadway in Downtown Saratoga. Local businesses along the main strip will also compete in a Travers window-decorating contest, crafting creative Travers or racing-themed decorations in their storefronts and window displays. The top three window displays will be selected by a panel of judges from NYRA, the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association, and the winners will receive special recognition during the Travers post-position draw. Racing fans will also be able to take advantage of the celebration by entering to win a pair of Clubhouse reserved seats for the this year’s Travers Stakes. Enter-to-win forms are available at any of the businesses participating in the window-decorating contest. The deadline for these forms is Monday, August 19.
“There’s an energy Downtown, and everywhere in our city, during Travers Week that cannot be compared with anything else,” says Mayor Meg Kelly of Saratoga Springs. “The city’s longstanding and rich partnership with NYRA spent working to develop new ideas and programs has had an outstanding effect.”
In addition to the flags and window decorations, NYRA will also host a special meet-and-greet and autograph session with some of Saratoga Race Course’s top riders and jockeys on Tuesday, August 20. This event will also be held in Downtown Saratoga and feature some big names, such as Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, who holds the record for the most wins at the Travers Stakes (six!), which includes his 2018 win aboard Catholic Boy. Funds from the meet-and-greet will benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, which provides financial assistance to retired jockeys that have suffered severe on-track injuries.
Also known as the Midsummer Derby, the Travers Stakes is the oldest stakes race for 3-year-olds in the country. In fact, it’s the oldest major Thoroughbred race in America (older even than the big three: The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness Stakes and The Belmont Stakes). First held in the summer of 1864 (the race wasn’t run from 1896-1900 and 1911-1912), the Travers has grown into the highlight of the annual summer meet. This year, the race is even getting its own one-hour special on Fox Broadcast Network, as part of a newly negotiated and expanded broadcast deal between NYRA and Fox Sports.
Grandstand admission to Travers Day can be purchased via Ticketmaster or at the track’s NYRA Box Office. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 on the day of the event.