Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Saratoga's Oklahoma Training Track in the Fall

The 2009 Thoroughbed race meet is only a memory now in beautiful Saratoga Springs, New York, as the chill of fall descends on the spa town. Flocks of geese squawk overhead as they make their way south for the winter and simultaneously signal the end of summer. But the last hardy horsemen remain on the backstretch, training their horses on the historic Oklahoma Training Track.

Oklahoma Training Track Saratoga Racetrack
The Oklahoma Track, which is about 1/3 mile from the main course across Union Avenue, was actually the original track used for racing from 1863 until 1909, when the current grandstand and main track were opened. Oklahoma may seem like an odd name for a track in upper New York State, but legend has it that one day long ago someone complained that the training track was so far away from the main track that it might as well be in Oklahoma, and the name stuck.

If you had been at this same spot just a two months ago, you could have seen the great Rachel Alexandra breeze 5 furlongs in a bullet 1:00.37 with exercise rider Dominic Terry aboard on a foggy Monday morning as she prepared for the Travers Stakes. If you stood along the rail, you likely would have rubbed elbows with trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Calvin Borel as they looked on.

But now only about 400 horses remain at Saratoga, many of whom will be heading for Aqueduct, Florida, or even California when Saratoga closes down for the winter in a few weeks. In the meantime, horses and humans alike are enjoying the brisk fall mornings, understandably reluctant to let go of another season.


Judy said...

Ok. So now I'm even more homesick to be there. I should just move there, but I'd miss horse racing the rest of the year. And I'd miss you know who. Looks like you're having a great time. How's the simulcast meeting going?

Unknown said...

I am so glad you came during the fall Mary, it is the very best time of the year here, I can think of no better thing to do than to go riding on a cool crisp fall day on a tennesee walker :) or to sit at the track watching the horses train and school :) have fun and if you ever come to Maine we will treat you to the trotters and dinner :)

Anonymous said...

"The Oklahoma Track, which is about 1/3 mile from the main course across Union Avenue, was actually the original track used for racing from 1863 until 1909" This track was never used as the race course !! In 1863 the track was NEXT to Oklahoma (barely left in tact-- you might have driven over it as it is 30 feet from the Union Ave. enterance). In 1864 racing was moved across the street to where is now.

Jeanne said...

Oklahoma was installed as a training track at the time that Whitney and his partners bought the property in 1900 or 01. The Horse Haven track was used for one year but was old in 1863, as it had been a harness track. In 1864 racing moved across the street, but the track was 1 mile and was set at a different angle to Union and Nelson Avenues. For the first 20 or so years there, the grandstand was just a big wooden building with bench seating. The clubhouse was a big Victorian style house. The grandstand was replaced in the 1880's by the peaked roof building we now know, except it was much smaller. It was cut apart and moved and extended when Whitney and partners moved the track to it's current location/position. The old clubhouse lasted until 1928.
1929 saw the new clubhouse beat the stock market bust by a few months. It has been expanded somewhat, but it remains very much as it was then.
As an aside, a grass course was installed in 1001 and actually used for flat races from time to time until 1910. The Alabama was even run on grass in about 1904.

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