The grandeur of Saratoga and its racing grounds are legendary. The unique charm of Saratoga is the history that presides over the track itself, and part of its allure is the stylistic ambiance of its architecture.
Saratoga Race Course is the oldest continuously-operating Thoroughbred racetrack in the country. Stakes races, such as the Travers (an annual event since 1864), are world famous. Individuals connected with the operation read like a Who’s Who: Jerome, Vanderbilt, Whitney, Astor, etc. Despite renovations, the track buildings retain their Victorian architectural character, and constitute an important site in the history of Thoroughbred racing in the United States.
The Race Course property has a wealth of Victorian structures, including the turreted grandstand, and many horse barns dating from 1864. For example, Clare Court, a small, bucolic plot in the backstretch, is the oldest group of barns. These barns housed great Thoroughbred champions including Citation. This enclave was the “summer camp” for the horses of early racing luminaries — Vanderbilt, Astor, Whitney and others. New construction on the site has, for the most part, been designed to blend with the old.
In total, the Saratoga Race Course comprises 350 acres and one race track; one large workout track; a smaller workout track; dozen of stables; facilities for jockeys; blacksmith shops; living quarters for the manager; dormitories and a recreation center for workers; the grandstand, including the Clubhouse; and paddock. There are over 200 structures on the property. Of these the finest is the Grandstand building, which includes the Clubhouse and its renowned turreted roof.
A comparison could be made between Saratoga Race Course and other Thoroughbred race tracks, like Churchill Downs in Kentucky, but Saratoga is unique in its design and in the retention of so much of its original material and traditions. For example, even though modern video technology displays information about races, horses and jockey changes throughout the facility, the infield’s original manually-operated jockey weight change boards remain and are still used every day. The original big brass bell in the winner’s circle still signals the time for the jockeys to mount their horses in the paddock. It is the charm of the setting, in concert with these beloved racing traditions that sets Saratoga Race Course apart as the Queen of American Thoroughbred racing.