The Guide to the Saratoga Meet
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The Guide to the Saratoga Meet

Saratoga Spings, New York plays a prominent role in the world of American thoroughbred racing and it is generally viewed as one of the most prestigious race meets on the planet.

Traditionally, the Saratoga meet begins in mid-July and concludes in early September. There are a disproportionate number of high-class stakes races unfolding nearly every day at Saratoga Racecourse and their feature contest is the Grade 1 Travers Stakes – which attracts the top American three-year-olds in a bid to earn their share of a $1,000,000 purse.

Saratoga Racecourse, colloquially known as “The Spa”, is considered to be the oldest organized sporting venue in America, having opened its doors in 1863 with the Travers Stakes being run for the first time in 1864. Early meetings at Saratoga were only four days long and has since been increased to over eight weeks of racing.

The track continues to attract the best in the world looking to prove their worth over dirt and turf. A rarity for American racecourses, Saratoga also hosts steeplechases over both of its turf surfaces.

Virtually every day of the Saratoga Summer Meeting boasts at least one graded contest and that means both inflated betting volumes and fixed-odds betting opportunities for punters in Europe.

A number of major European-facing bookmakers will offer up odds and markets on major Grade 1 events being held each year at Saratoga. With a number of these higher-profile contests being contested over the turf surfaces, it's not unheard of to see European runners outnumber American contenders in some fields.

Saratoga's Big Pari-Mutuel Pools

On the pari-mutuel side, exotic betting pools are especially inflated at Saratoga as it tends to be the preferred meet of many high-volume punters and syndicates operating in the United States.

The effects from the recent collapse of the New York State Off-Track Betting organization will be felt in the coming years but many expect volume to hold steady at Saratoga, if not improve. Large Pick 4 and Pick 6 pools are generally on offer each day at Saratoga with weekends tending to boast the biggest potential jackpot wagers.

The races at Saratoga tend to attract the top contenders as the only other major meets happening during the Saratoga season are Del Mar in San Diego and Woodbine in nearby Toronto, Canada. In fact, the Woodbine-to-Saratoga handicapping angle has proven lucrative in the past – as has the Saratoga-to-Woodbine angle.

Popular Races

The Grade 1 Travers Stakes is referred to as the “Summer Derby” and always attracts the top three-year-olds who are still running after the chase for the Triple Crown ends following the Belmont Stakes.

The Travers is one of the oldest American races and a win in the Travers usually sets up a lucrative stud career. Popular American sires like Bernardini, Medaglia D'Oro, Lemon Drop Kid, Holy Bull and Birdstone have all captured the Travers in recent years.

The Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes runs on Travers Day and is viewed as one of the major races for three-year-olds going 7f. The King's Bishop is considered a major prep for the Breeders' Cup. Pomeroy, Henny Hughes and Tale Of The Cat are notable winners.

The Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes is considered one of the major races for older fillies and mares on the east coast. Similar to the King's Bishop, the Ballerina is run prior to the Travers and is also run at a 7f distance.

The day after Travers Day, Saratoga racegoers are treated to the Personal Ensign stakes, named after an undefeated female that went on to be a prestigious broodmare. This Grade 1 handicap offers a $400,000 purse and is also a major prep for the Breeders' Cup.

Opening Day at Saratoga plays host to a pair of Grade 1 contests – the Whitney Handicap and the Test Stakes. The Test Stakes is a prestigious 7f contest for three-year-old fillies while the Whitney is considered a marquee fixture in the older handicap division. A win here offers an automatic qualification to the Breeders' Cup Classic – the de facto world championships of horse racing.

Another notable Grade 1 contest at the Saratoga meet is the Woodward Stakes – a major destination for older male horses. This famous race has been won by a literal who's-who of American racing superstars with Kelso, Forego, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Alysheba, Holy Bull and Cigar all capturing the race once. Kelso took the race twice while Frego captured it a record four times on the bounce.

Since the Breeders' Cup is run every year in North America during the month of November, a number of European, Asian and Middle Eastern connections will choose to ship their contenders to the United States with an eye on the prestigious Saratoga meet as their first race en route to the Breeders' Cup.

If you're looking to handicap during the Breeders' Cup, be sure to respect a good performance from a European shipper during the Saratoga meet as they will generally have been running against the best horses in that division state-side.

The races at Saratoga tend to attract the top contenders as the only other major meets happening during the Saratoga season are Del Mar in San Diego and Woodbine in nearby Toronto, Canada. In fact, the Woodbine-to-Saratoga handicapping angle has proven lucrative in the past – as has the Saratoga-to-Woodbine angle.

The Grade 1 Travers Stakes is referred to as the “Summer Derby” and always attracts the top three-year-olds who are still running after the chase for the Triple Crown ends following the Belmont Stakes. The Travers is one of the oldest American races and a win in the Travers usually sets up a lucrative stud career. Popular American sires like Bernardini, Medaglia D'Oro, Lemon Drop Kid, Holy Bull and Birdstone have all captured the Travers in recent years.

The Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes runs on Travers Day and is viewed as one of the major races for three-year-olds going 7f. The King's Bishop is considered a major prep for the Breeders' Cup. Pomeroy, Henny Hughes and Tale Of The Cat are notable winners.

The Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes is considered one of the major races for older fillies and mares on the east coast. Similar to the King's Bishop, the Ballerina is run prior to the Travers and is also run at a 7f distance.

The day after Travers Day, Saratoga racegoers are treated to the Personal Ensign stakes, named after an undefeated female that went on to be a prestigious broodmare. This Grade 1 handicap offers a $400,000 purse and is also a major prep for the Breeders' Cup.

Opening Day at Saratoga plays host to a pair of Grade 1 contests – the Whitney Handicap and the Test Stakes. The Test Stakes is a prestigious 7f contest for three-year-old fillies while the Whitney is considered a marquee fixture in the older handicap division. A win here offers an automatic qualification to the Breeders' Cup Classic – the de facto world championships of horse racing.

Another notable Grade 1 contest at the Saratoga meet is the Woodward Stakes – a major destination for older male horses. This famous race has been won by a literal who's-who of American racing superstars with Kelso, Forego, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Alysheba, Holy Bull and Cigar all capturing the race once. Kelso took the race twice while Frego captured it a record four times on the bounce.

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