Twenty-one years ago, my buddy John and I hatched the plan of the century. As any self-respecting, part-time track-goers know, save for Whitney or Travers Day, the best afternoon to show up at the turnstiles is on a free giveaway day. Chances are, if you’ve seen somebody wearing a hat or T-shirt with “Saratoga Race Course” emblazoned on it, he or she got it, gratis, with admission for one.
That day, however, we wouldn’t just be entering as Will and John: Our idea was something along the lines of “attack of the clones.” We were hunting the season’s most coveted prize—its mythical porcelain beer stein, featuring hand-painted portraits of legendary Thoroughbreds on it—and the idea was to pay the few bucks it cost to get in, grab our steins, then go out the way we came in, turn back around and do this a few more times until we had a bagful each. We could have a racetrack-themed keg party, with steins taking the place of tired red Solo cups! Hawk them on eBay! Save them until they became rare collectors’ items! The possibilities were endless.
All these years later, it turns out that either the New York Racing Association (NYRA) was bugging our rollout meeting…or great minds think alike. NYRA is offering fans the opportunity to secure track giveaway items from yesteryear during a sale at Saratoga Race Course on Wednesday, September 1.
Starting at 11am, near the Clubhouse exchange across from the News 10 Pavilion, the giveaway items available for purchase will include the Angel Cordero, Jr. bobblehead; 2015 Saratoga cooler bag and long-sleeve T-shirt; 2016 Saratoga zip-up pullover; 2017 Saratoga wall clock; plus a selection of Saratoga umbrellas, tees, beach towels, hats and other collectible items from the past decade. Vintage and current items will be available for $10 and less, and while supplies last. Just like a garage sale, it’ll be a cash-only affair, and all sales will be final.
Want in for free? Fans who donate at least three nonperishable items to LifeWorks Community Action during their visit to the track tomorrow will receive a free Grandstand admission ticket for either Wednesday, September 1 or Thursday, September 2. The food drive collection will take place at the Community Outreach Booth near the Jockey Silks Room Porch from 11am-5pm. Suggested donation items include pasta, peanut butter, cereal, rice, soup and canned vegetables.
What happened to those beer steins? Yeah, so I still have mine, one sealed, one not. It pays tribute to Victory Gallop, Lemon Drop Kid, Beautiful Pleasure and Silverbulletday—and can be had for about $10 on eBay (I’m keeping mine). OK, so it didn’t net me the fortune I pictured it would at the time. But it’s a memory of a day I’ll never forget.