Off To The Races: Our Guide To Saratoga
Saratoga in style. Jockey Angel Cordero Jr. with socialite Marylou Whitney, 1988. Image courtesy of Getty Images.
As the oldest sporting venue in America, the Saratoga Race Course has been marked by its equestrian flair–for 150 years there have been bets won and lost by American presidents and socialites, upsets at the hands of two-year-old fillies, and plenty of sartorial gambles. This year’s meet is perhaps the most impressive feat of all–with 71 stakes worth $20.8 million in total purses and 40 days of signature Saratoga style, we’re ready to head off to the races. Read more below.
The JMcLaughlin Pop-Up
Visit us at our pop-up located on the ground floor of the 1863 Club and shop our new collection.
Be sure to visit us throughout the seven week Saratoga Season as we pop up at John Morrissey’s historic luxury 1863 Club, starting on Thursday July 13th 2023 - Monday September 4. We have a curated selection of new styles for women and men perfect for the races and beyond. Our Pop-Up Shop will be open Wednesday - Sunday during the season.
We are located on the ground floor of the 1863 Club, near guest services. This space is open to the public. We look forward to joining you at the race track.
Edward Riley Bradley and Elizabeth Altemus Whitney examining a racing form at Saratoga, 1942. Image courtesy of Getty Images.
The History of Saratoga
Made famous by its mineral baths and proximity to New York City, Saratoga Springs, New York was the summer home of wealthy Northerners looking to escape the heat of New York City and Boston.
On August 3, 1863, just a month after the Battle of Gettysburg, John Morrissey–gambler, casino owner, ex-boxing champion, and future congressman–staged Saratoga’s first thoroughbred meet at the old dirt track on Union Ave, later known as Horse Haven. Over 5,000 people came to watch and wager on eight races over a four day period. After the success of the initial meet, John enlisted friends John Hunter, Leonard Jerome, and William Travers to form the Saratoga Racing Association where they purchased 125 acres of land on the other side of Union Ave, building an all new grandstand wherein Saratoga Race Course was born, making it the oldest sporting venue in America.
“Secretariat returns as the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years but is upset by Onion in the Whitney.” Saratoga Race Course, 1973. Image courtesy of The New York Times.
Today’s summer meet is 40 days long, beginning Thursday July 13 and running until Monday September 4 with Mondays and Tuesdays being “Dark” no racing days.
The large crowd drawing events are Whitney Day–a trio of Grade 1 events held on Saturday August 5–and Travers Day–the third-ranked race for American three-year-olds behind the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes–which will be held on Saturday August 26. The meet is held on the main course, which is 1 ⅛ mile of dirt, while the turf course is 1 mile and the steeplechase course is ⅞ mile.
Where To Stay
Located at the heart of Saratoga Springs, The Adelphi Hotel is the town’s grand dame. It was opened in 1877 and considered the lap of luxury for well-heeled vacationers–from prominent politicians to the movers and shakers of the day–becoming the hub of Saratoga society. One of Adelphi’s first guests was John Morrissey–founder of the thoroughbred Saratoga Race Course and close friend of one of the wealthiest men in the country–Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt–who would frequent Saratoga for the races. Today, it is still considered the hub of Saratoga society, featuring 79 condominiums, rooms and suites, a spa, and three restaurants.
Where To Eat An Al Fresco Dinner
A summer special–a two pound hard shell lobster with “seafood stuffing made up of Gruyère, bread crumbs, clams, shrimp, sea bass and more lobster. Served with asparagus and crushed black truffle beurre monte.” Courtesy of @15church.
Opened in a restored historic residential building in the heart of Saratoga Springs, 15 Church fuses exotic and elegant cuisine in an atmosphere that is as unexpected as it is timeless. Thomas Burke and Paul McCullough collaborated to create a dining experience that is artful and of course delicious. With the highest quality ingredients–the seafood is flown in daily–15 Church is a cornerstone of Saratoga cuisine. We highly recommend sitting on the patio for an al fresco dinner and ordering half a dozen oysters–chef’s choice–to start followed by the tuna tartare tacos–honolulu tuna is drizzled with sriracha aioli and avocado mousse and sprinkled with barrel-aged soy, scallion radish, fresno chili, and cilantro.
Where To Grab A Signature Saratoga Cocktail
Located at 24 Caroline Street, Hamlet & Ghost was originally a feed and grain store in the 1870s. During Prohibition, it became a hardware store–an alleged facade to the gambling within. Today, it honors “the historical role of the bar or tavern as a central community gathering spot.”
Although not technically on the menu, Saratoga’s signature cocktail is a must-try, especially during race season. The Saratoga Sunset is Hamlet & Ghost’s take on the race track’s traditional sip. Instead of vodka, they recommend a citrusy gin and instead of orange and cranberry they recommend passion fruit.
How To Make A Saratoga Sunrise Courtesy of America’s Best Racing
¾ cup of orange juice
2 oz vodka
Splash of grenadine
Garnish with an orange slice & cherry
Combine orange juice, vodka, and grenadine in a glass filled with ice. Let the grenadine settle at the bottom and garnish with orange slice and cherry. Enjoy.
How To Make Hamlet & Ghost’s Saratoga Sunset Courtesy of Saratoga Living
1.5 oz Black Button Citrus Gin
(or another floral/citrus gin)
0.75 oz fresh lemon
0.5 oz passion fruit liqueur
0.25 oz simple syrup
0.25 oz Maraschino liqueur
In a shaker tin, lightly muddle six mint leaves. Add gin, lemon, Maraschino, passion fruit liqueur, simple syrup. Add ice, shake. Strain into a tall glass filled with crushed ice. Add six or seven dashes of Peychaud’s bitters. Garnish with fresh mint. Enjoy.
Where To Satisfy Your Saratoga Sweet Tooth
Rooted in the French culinary tradition, Mrs. London’s Bakery is a boutique bakery and cafe that serves an extensive menu of breakfast pastries, breads, desserts, drinks, and savory lunches made from scratch using the highest quality, locally sourced ingredients. Many people come to Saratoga just to visit Mrs. London's bakery–it’s known internationally, with features on the CBS morning show, The New York Times, and Food & Wine Magazine.
We recommend trying the Cinnamon Meltaway–glazed danish dough rolled in brown sugar and cinnamon–with a cup of iced coffee on your way to the racecourse.
Saratoga style through the decades. Image courtesy of Saratoga Springs Historical Museum via Times Union.