Saratoga Race Course 2019: Celebrate Opening Week With Mariano Rivera Day, Annual Hat Contest

And they’re off! Yes, Saratoga Race Course opens this week. Get your fedoras and fancy, frilly hats ready because, in addition to all the Thoroughbred racing, there’s a lot to do at the track this week. First up, Opening Day on Thursday, July 11 will kick off with the traditional running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Schuylerville Stakes. Opening Day also marks the track’s first giveaway day of the season—if you’re a season pass or season ticket holder— with a free white cooling towel up for grabs (show up early because supplies are limited).

For Friday, July 12, the highest graded stakes that day is the Grade 3, $150,000 Forbidden Apple Stakes. The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce also invites patrons to Saratoga Race Course’s brand-new 1863 Club for a July Day Long Mixer. The event includes all-day access to the club’s food buffet and drinks selection, as well as a cash bar and access to betting machines. The July Day Long Mixer will also offer attendees the opportunity to meet-and-greet New York Racing Association’s (NYRA’s) new president and CEO, David O’Rourke. The NYRA exec won’t be the only big name at the track on Friday: New York Yankees legend (and soon-to-be inducted Hall of Famer) Mariano Rivera  will be on hand for Mariano Rivera Day, in which Rivera will be honored with a ceremony in the Winner’s Circle and will address the crowd. (Tickets can be purchased here.) From 12-1:30pm, a long sold-out private event will include a chance to meet and chat with Rivera as part of a luncheon in the paddock tent, which will also include a Q&A session, an auction and plenty of photo opportunities.

Saturday, July 13 will be the only day at the races during Opening Week to feature a coveted Grade 1 stakes race: the $500,000 Diana Stakes. Make sure to bring canned goods and nonperishable goods—along with your wine coolers and six-packs—as The Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council (EOC) will be at the track all day for its annual Saratoga Food Drive. Racing patrons who donate at least three non-perishable goods to EOC’s outreach booth will be entered in a raffle to win some great prizes, including free tickets to the 150th running of the Runhappy Travers on Saturday, August 24. Also on Saturday, American Idol finalist and local rising star Madison VanDenburg will be part of the Opening Weekend festivities. The pop artist will show off her impressive vocal chops to racing fans at several live performances from Saratoga Race Course’s Don Julio Stage.

Lastly, at least for Opening Week that is, Sunday, July 14 will feature the $100,000 Coronation Cup, as well as the track’s second giveaway day: Show up early and get a free Saratoga Picnic Cooler. (What better way to wheel in your food and beverage of choice?) In addition to the cooler giveaway, Sunday marks the 28th Annual Hat Contest, where anyone donning a creative, whimsical headpiece who registers, starting at noon under the Grandstand, can be in the running for a chance to win. The contests will take place following the second, third and fourth races of the day. And may the best hat win!

Not exactly a horse person? There’s plenty of other events going on this week. Feast your eyes on saratoga living‘s hand-curated entertainment calendar below, now including picks from Saratoga County, the Capital Region, Hudson, Rhinebeck and select events in New York City.


Take part in one of Camp Saratoga’s 5K Trail Fun Runs in Wilton (July 8)


As part of the annual Skidmore Jazz Institute, the Slyvia Cuenca Quintet will be performing at Skidmore’s Arthur Zankel Music Center (July 9)

Proctors’ summer schedule is packed with great music documentaries, including The Quiet One, which tells the story of the life of Rolling Stones founding member Bill Wyman (July 9)

Hear David Babinet, Opera Star, deliver a diverse repertoire of music including Broadway, Yiddish and Israeli melodies at Saratoga Chabad in Saratoga Springs (July 9)


Attend the reception and author signing of The Travers: 150 Years of Saratoga’s Greatest Race by local authors Brien Bouyea (also saratoga living’s Sports Editor) and Michael Veitch at the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga (July 10)

The 26th Annual Newton Plaza Siro’s Cup at Siro’s in Saratoga is honoring award-winning jockeys Irad Jr. and Jose Ortiz. (July 10)

The Sembrich Studio in Bolton Landing presents World Music Wednesdays with The Fretless Ensemble, a unique mix of traditional Celtic and Canadian music (July 10)


For one night only at the Spa Little Theater in Saratoga, Opera Saratoga is performing Mozart and Salieri, a classic tale of music rivalry between two real-life composers (July 11)

Enjoy “Hope on the Hudson,” a night of short films from writer/filmmaker Jon Bowermaster’s Hope on the Hudson series at the Linda in Albany (July 11)

Country music star Luke Bryan brings his Sunset Repeat Tour to SPAC in Saratoga (July 11)

The New York Summer Writers Institute presents a free reading featuring novelist Mary Gaitskill and poet Vijay Seshadri at Skidmore College (July 11)

Pick up some baklava and much more at the 10th Adirondack Greek Festival at St. George Church in South Glens Falls (July 11-13)

There’ll be food and laughs aplenty at the Lake George Dinner Theater’s spoof of The Hound of the Baskervilles at the Holiday Inn Resort in Lake George Village (July 11-August 31)


One of Saratoga’s favorites, the Dave Matthews Band, returns to SPAC for two nights of performances (July 12-13)

Thanks to Brides Across America, active military members, first responders and veterans will be able to shop from a selection of designer dresses at Lily Saratoga and take one home for free (July 12)

Light up the Night celebrates Albany Medical’s Department of Emergency Medicine with gourmet food, live music and fireworks at dusk (July 12)

The Spa City’s own powerhouse band Ten Most Wanted is coming to Putnam Place in Saratoga (July 12)

This year’s Rock the Dock Music Festival rocks out at the Lake George Steamboat Company in Lake George Village (July 12)

Multiplatinum-selling ’90s band Smash Mouth is headlining Schenectady County’s free SummerNight concert in Downtown Schenectady (July 12)

The Afro-Latino Fest kicks off two days of great music and vendors at Albee Square in Brooklyn (July 12-13)

Superstar Jennifer Lopez celebrates her birthday with her It’s My Party Tour at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan (July 12-13)

Catch some colorful hot air balloons, exhilarating helicopter rides and more at the 28th Annual Hot-Air Balloon Festival at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck (July 12-14)

Support local artists and craftspeople by visiting the Artisan Trails in Washington County at various locations throughout Washington County (July 12-14)


Get ready to stuff yourself silly at the 12th Annual Troy Pig Out BBQ at Troy’s Riverfront Park (July 13)

Saratoga Bridges’ annual The White Party Gala will be held at Saratoga National Golf Club (July 13)

The 9th Annual BMW Vintage at Saratoga brings the best classic BMWs to the Saratoga Automobile Museum (July 13)

Enjoy a combination music festival and carnival with The Greatest Day Ever at the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn (July 13)

Shop a wide selection of handcrafted items, antiques and collectibles at the Craft and Antique Fair at the Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa (July 13)

Come to Gavin Park in Wilton for Wilton ParkFest 2019 to enjoy free entertainment, rides and fireworks at dusk (July 13)

Lace up your jogging shoes for the 22nd Annual Silks & Satins 5K starting at Fasig-Tipton in Saratoga Springs (July 13)

The Golf for a Cause Tournament to Benefit Gateway House of Peace will be held at Brookhaven Golf Course in Porter Corners (July 13, rain date on July 14)

Don’t miss Hudson NY Shorts, a mixed genre short film festival, at Time & Space Limited in Hudson (July 13)

Enjoy a night of Dinner and Dancing at Doc’s restaurant and the Park Theater in Glens Falls (July 13)


Saratoga’s Summer Strolls is offering a walking tour of the historic Victorian and Craftsman houses on Fifth and Madison Avenue (July 14)

The Tedeschi Trucks Band is stopping by SPAC in Saratoga as part of its Wheels of Soul tour (July 14)

Take part in a three-hour East Village Prohibition Pub Crawl starting at Scheib’s Place in Manhattan (July 14)

Congregation Shaara Tfille in Saratoga will give a screening of the funny and warmhearted film, Dough & Delectables (July 14)

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