Scan the box seats at the Saratoga Race Course carefully and you can sometimes pick out a few faces that are more readily seen on television, the ball field or the silver screen.
Not surprisingly, the sport of kings often draws a court of the affluent when the racing meet gravitates to Saratoga Springs each summer. Some are thoroughbred owners or aficionados, while others return each year for excitement that roars through the grandstand and the pounding finish of each race.
1. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Let’s just say if you don’t know who he is, you probably should. The crown prince of Dubai is among an elite few at the track who can claim a royal birthright. His highness is also the prime minister and vice president of the United Arab Emirates. He presides over a fortune that dwarfs the gross domestic product of the world’s smaller nations. And in his leisure time, the Sheikh likes to watch the ponies. His highness owns the Stonerside Stable on Nelson Avenue and regularly invests millions at the Fasig-Tipton sales. Just his appearance at the sales this year was said to boost confidence among bidders. If you do spot this mobile economic powerhouse, perhaps it’s best to stay close by. After all, money tends to travel from source to sink.
2. Toby Keith
There’s a good chance that big guy with the five o’clock shadow, 10-gallon hat and a deep southern drawl sidled up to the rail at the finish line is the contemporary country singer and songwriter. Keith is scheduled to play at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center next week and is known to have an affinity for horse racing. In fact, he owns Dream Walkin’ Farms, which has a number of steeds appearing at the track during this year’s meet. Just if you spot him and his friends raising glasses of whiskey, you might not want to wager on his horses, especially if they smell of beer.
3. Bill Parcells
Like the large game fish he’s nicknamed after, the Big Tuna likes to migrate between the north and the south each year. The man who coached the New York Giants to a pair of Super Bowl victories resides in the Spa City for five months out of the year and can often be seen in the box seats during the six-week racing meet. Parcells is said to have an affinity for New York-bred horses and can sometimes be spotted purusing the annual Fasig-Tipton sales for a good deal.
4. Bobby Flay and Stephanie March
The Food Network chef who did everything in his power to put celebrity before his title has been a veritable fixture in the Spa City during the meet. In fact, encounters with Flay have become so commonplace that some locals don’t consider it anything out of the ordinary for the season. He regularly dines at Hattie’s Restaurant downtown and was vanquished by restaurant owner Jasper Alexander during a trackside battle to decide which chef had the better fried poultry several years ago. Flay’s loss was later aired on the Food Network, but he took it all in stride. Television buffs disinterested in Flay may take more interest in his betrothed, “Law & Order” star Stephanie March, a blond bombshell in her own right. And not to be judgmental or anything, but she’s a little easier on the eye than Flay.
5. Rachael Ray
The Capital Region watched as the bubbly Glens Falls native transformed herself from a local celebrity chef to a nationally syndicated talk show diva over the course of a decade. Today, she hostsprograms on the Food Network, is preparing for the seventh season of her daytime talk show and is pumping out books at a clip of nearly one per year. But when she gets a chance, she returns to her home in Lake Luzerne, which is a short 30-minute jaunt from the front gates of the track. Don’t be surprised to see her smiling from the grandstand.
6. Kevin Dillon and Kevin Connolly
If you can’t find the stars of the HBO series “Entourage” at the race course, just look toward Siro’s Restaurant on Lincoln Avenue. The duo was part of a group of investors who took over the landmark eatery in 2010. The investment was apparently lucrative enough that they also chipped in to open a second Siro’s location in Manhattan with star New York Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera, another celebrity who will be making an appearance at the track. Rivera will have the third race today named in his honor and will appear in the winner’s circle to present the trophy to the victorious jockey.
7. Susan Lucci
This daytime soap star wrapped up more than three decades portraying the headstrong character Erica Kane on ABC’s “All My Children” last year. Not that her job ever stopped her from visiting the track. Lucci is a close friend of Mary Lou Whitney, the queen of Saratoga’s socialites.
8. David Cassidy
The former teen idol might not cause the stir he once did during the 1970s, but he’s still a draw whenever he inevitably turns out at the races. There’s almost always a fan from back in the day ready to ask to shake hands or pose for a picture. But Cassidy is more than a nostalgia act at the racecourse. He’s a seasonal Spa City resident and a horse owner who bought his first thoroughbred at the Fasig-Tipton sales during the 1980s.
The Grammy-winning trio of Patrick Monahan, Jimmy Stafford and Scott Underwood had a banner year in the Spa City in 2011. They headlined with Maroon 5 during a well-attended SPAC concert and had their hits serve as the soundtrack during the filming of the citywide Lip Dub video sponsored by the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce. The online video has since gone viral, garnering more than 65,000 views. And perhaps the recent local notoriety will convince Underwood — a native of Saratoga Springs with family still living in the city — to swing by the races sometime after Train kicks off the Labor Day weekend with a show at Tanglewood in nearby Massachusetts.
10. Bo Derek
Pardon the cliché, but it only makes sense that the actress probably best known for her sensual role in the 1979 film “10” be listed there among the top celebrities you might find at the track. But there’s more to Derek now than just a pretty face. She’s a well-regarded equine advocate and a member of the California Horse Racing Board. Though she’s long-since ditched the corn rows she popularized starring next to Dudley Moore, Derek has won repeated acclaim for her work protecting horses from slaughter and now has an honor in her name that is now given annually at the Equine Advocates Awards Dinner and Charity Auction.