The 148th running of the Travers Stakes took place on August 26th, 2017 at none other than the beautiful Saratoga Race Course. Almost 50,000 of my closest friends and I graced the historic grounds where so many in years’ past had stood and witnessed an event like no other in the world; the Mid-Summer Derby, the best of the best competing against one another for a chance to etch their place in history.
Whether they were taking in the affairs of the day at the rail, in the picnic area, on the backstretch, in the grandstand, in the clubhouse, or at the top of the stretch, I knew there was a common motivation among every individual that adorned the track. I was curious to hear what some of my friends had to say about what brings them to Saratoga, especially on Travers Day, and why it is so special to them.
I gave them the opportunity to tell their stories, so I could share them with all of you…
This is “Santa.” He has been coming to Saratoga for about 30 years. He enjoys coming to the track because of the people he is surrounded by when here. “And, if I win, it was a good day.” People ask to take pictures with him all the time.
Warren is an avid horse racing fan, as you can tell by the attire he is sporting. Warren grew up outside of Saratoga and he loves the atmosphere and the people that the track brings. “Travers Day is such an exciting day. All of the best horses come here on this day to compete and there’s nothing else like it.”
Lisa caught my eye with her beautiful, big hat. I asked her what motivated her to get so dressed up for the day, and she said: "It's the Mid-Summer Derby! All of the TC winners are in this one race together today.. I love seeing so many people here and I simply just love every single thing about this day that happens once a year."
This is my dear friend, Sam the Bugler. He is very personable and loves talking to fans and playing his bugle for them at the track. I asked Sam why Saratoga is so special, and his response tells you everything you need to know about the kind of person he is: “The most beautiful people come here. That’s why I love it.”
You may remember Justin from my Millennials in Racing:Getting To Know Justin Sodano story. With his recent switch from harness to thoroughbred racing, Justin says he has never seen so many people show up for a horse race in his young life. “Even harness racing’s big days, like the Hambletonian, don’t attract a fraction of the people here today.. this is amazing.”
Meet John Velasquez
You may recognize this fine gentleman as none other than John Velasquez. I was fortunate enough to catch the Hall of Fame jockey on his way out of the track, as you can tell by the fact that he is out of his more commonly-worn silks. When I asked Johnny why he loves riding at Saratoga, he smiled at me and said, “Just look around at all of this…. this is why!”
Meet Amanda and Mike
Amanda and Mike Laderer are the owners of Laderer Racing Stables. When I asked them why they love running their horses at Saratoga, Mandy replied: “Saratoga is like Disney Land for horse owners. If your horse wins a race here, it’s like winning an Oscar. I want a win here!” Their horse, Candid Desire, finished a gutsy 3rd in the 4th race on the Travers Day undercard.
John has been coming to Saratoga Race Course for 5 years, but it was his first time in the paddock… ever...hence the broad smile. When I asked John why Saratoga is so special, his answer really stuck with me: “When you come to Saratoga, it just feels like you’re going back in time. It could be 2017 or 1870. Everything about it is incredible and Travers Day is the coolest event of the Summer.”
Meet Jim and Pat
While standing by the Jocks Room, I overheard Pat speaking about a restaurant they were heading to after the races. I began to talk to him about Saratoga and the surrounding area, and he introduced me to his friend, Jim. When asked why Saratoga is so great, they both had the same, simple response: “This is the most beautiful place on Earth; there is nothing else like it.”
This is Harry. It is his first summer working as a Production Assistant for NYRA TV. He is no stranger to the sport of horse racing, as he is the 3rd generation in his family to be involved in some capacity. Harry believes that Saratoga Race Course is so unique because “it is not in a big city; it’s up in the mountains of New York. It gives small-town fans the chance to see the best race horses in the world.”
Brad told me the reason he loves Saratoga is because of the atmosphere. He especially loves to be at the track on Travers Day because of all the different people you see and meet while watching the best of the best horses race against each other.
Cory lives walking distance from Saratoga Race Course (so jealous). He loves the amount of people that show up for big race days like the Travers. “I love people watching and this is a great place to do it.” We spoke for a few minutes about the more popular horses this year (Arrogate, Songbird, etc.), and he expressed that he was glad he could speak to someone who actually “knows” horse racing.
This is Tom. He has been coming to Saratoga Racecourse for over 40 years, and was in the winner’s circle for the first time just a few days ago. His Uncle introduced him to racing when he was 14. He loves Saratoga Race Course because of the tradition, atmosphere, and friendships built here. “Travers Day is exciting because of the bettors competing with each other to pick the winners.”