Saratoga Opens Season With Annual Open House

Edited from a NYRA release

With Funny Cide and Seabiscuit conspiring to provide an Oscar-like buzz as the curtain prepares to rise on another dramatic season at Saratoga Race Course, the Spa will kick off its legendary summer meet with its 23rd Annual Open House on Sunday, July 20, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sponsored by the New York Racing Association, the Spa's Open House is free to the public.

Prior to Open House, Special Olympics New York will hold its first ever Miles for Medals walk at the Spa, as participants march across the beautiful and historic grounds of Saratoga Race Course to raise money for some very special athletes. The 5-kilometer walk kicks off at 9:30 a.m. at the Clubhouse entrance on Wright Street.

Coming just three days before Saratoga swings open the gates on its 135th season, the open house will feature a family-friendly array of activities, highlighted by the traditional Newman E. Wait Jr. Trials. Inaugurated by NYRA back in 1982, the Trials are named in honor of Newman E. Wait, Jr., a former member of the NYRA Board of Trustees. Along with the Wait Trials, the afternoon will include several steeplechase races. Post time is noon, with races every half hour (all are non-wagering).

While "mind bets" will rule the day, some of the area's premier handicappers will offer tips for experts and novices alike that'll come in handy when the meet gets underway on Wednesday, July 23. Handicapping seminars will be offered four times throughout the afternoon at the Paddock Tent. Handicappers include: Brian Pochman of the Daily Racing Form (11:15 a.m.); Bill Taylor of the Saratogian's "Pink Sheet" (12:15 and 1:15 p.m.); and Nick Kling and Tom Amello from the Record's "Track Facts" (2:15 p.m.).

Not even the best of handicappers could have predicted the success Seabiscuit would achieve in a stellar racing career that, in many ways, began in the summer of 1936, when owner Charles Howard purchased the colt for $7,500 in a private box at Saratoga Race Course. As part of open house, the Wilton Rotary will be selling 1,500 limited edition Seabiscuit prints, by artist Karin Vollkommer, for $38. The prints are expected to be in high demand just five days before the "Seabiscuit" motion picture premiers in theaters nationwide.

For those too young to handicap, open house will include plenty of children-centered events and shows. The Backyard Circus will allow kids to see the circus and be the circus as they don whimsical costumes to create a unique display at 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. Also, "The World's Best Female Magician," Belinda Sinclair, will amaze children with her unique and hilarious magic act at 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. And Captain Jack 's comical juggling will round things out at noon, 2 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Other activities for children include pony rides by Ponies for Hire, a petting zoo, caricature artists, an inflatable laser maze, giant bounces, a 9-hole mini golf course, and dozens of lovable clowns.

The sound of children's laughter will reverberate with the sound of music as open house features an eclectic mix of some of the area's top performers: The Hi-Flyers will have fans groovin' with a trifecta of Cajun, Country and Honky Tonk; the Leftovers will serve up a mix of popular oldies and classic rock; while The Storyville Stompers, a six-piece New Orleans traditional jazz band, will ring out the sounds of Dixieland.

Families can also enjoy a different kind of purebred racing as the cute and feisty dachshunds compete in the 6th Annual Dachshund Derby. Registration begins at 11 a.m. with the first race in the backyard getting underway at 11:30 a.m. Another family-friendly activity--the ever-popular backstretch tours, offering visitors a first-hand look at Saratoga behind the scenes. The tour includes a look at the barns area and a demonstration of how the starting gate works. Tours begin at 11 a.m. at the Clubhouse entrance.

Still hungering for more? Open house provides plenty of nourishment for racing fans, including burgers, hot dogs, sausage and peppers, popcorn, cotton candy, ice cream, and beverages. As part of NYRA's steadfast support of community organizations, all proceeds from food and beverage sales benefit more than a dozen area charities.

The 2003 racing season opens on Wednesday, July 23, and runs daily, except Tuesdays, through Labor Day, September 1. Post time is 1 p.m., except for Travers Day (Saturday, August 23) when post time is 12:30 p.m.

For more information about the Miles for Medals walk prior to open house to benefit Special Olympics New York, log on to Or call 518-388-0793 for an application. Special Olympics New York provides year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-style sports for children and adults with mental retardation, at no cost to the athletes or their families.

For more information about historic and elegant Saratoga Race Course, call (518) 584-6200 or log on to