Saratoga Race Course

From Academic Kids

Saratoga Race Course is a famous horse-racing track in Saratoga Springs, New York. It opened in 1863.

Since 1864 the track -- nicknamed the Spa -- has been the site of the Travers Stakes, the oldest major thoroughbred horse race in the United States, which is the main event of the annual summer race meeting at Saratoga. The Saratoga meet originally consisted of only four weeks but was subsequently lengthened to five weeks, and today a six-week meeting is observed, with Labor Day now being the last day of racing. In 1943, 1944 and 1945, racing was not held at Saratoga due to travel restrictions brought on by World War II; in those years, the stakes races that would have been run at Saratoga were contested at Belmont Park instead.

As is the case with the other two tracks operated by the New York Racing Association - Aqueduct and Belmont Park - there are three separate courses at Saratoga: a main (dirt) track, which, like that at Aqueduct, has a 1 1/8 mile (1,811 m) circumference; an outer turf course (known officially as the Mellon Turf Course, in honor of the Mellon family, whose members include former United States Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon and has a long history of involvement with horse racing), which is 1 mile plus 98 feet long; and an inner turf course, the circumference of which is 26 feet (7.9 m) shorter than 7½ furlongs (1,509 m). Steeplechase races are also run at Saratoga and may take place on either of the aforementioned turf courses, depending on the distance of the race.

A former distinctive feature of Saratoga's dirt track was the Wilson Mile chute, which branched off from the clubhouse (first) turn at a 90 degree angle. After the 1971 meeting, its use was suspended; following a brief resumption during the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was dismantled, leaving no distance available for dirt races between 7 furlongs and 1 1/8 miles (1,408 and 1,811 m). A similarly-designed chute is still in use at Ellis Park, a racetrack in Kentucky, and is the only such chute of its kind that can be found at any North American track today.

Saratoga Race Course has two well-known nicknames -- the Spa, and the "Graveyard of Favorites" for the upsets that have occurred there.

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