Saratoga Springs

Sure bet: Travers Stakes is a day of fun

Picnics, racing and partying part of the plan
Maryrose Behan, left, and Carole Flannigan, both of Saratoga, converse in their box seat in the Clubhouse Friday.
Maryrose Behan, left, and Carole Flannigan, both of Saratoga, converse in their box seat in the Clubhouse Friday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Some people come for tradition.

Others visit for birthday, wedding and college parties.

Still others show up to watch thoroughbreds saddle and sprint.

Fans and horses will be at Saratoga Race Course Saturday for the 150th running of the Travers Stakes — Saratoga’s signature race and the Capital Region’s largest summer picnic of the year.

It will be a day of long shots, big shots, tank tops and pop tops. People will dress as jockeys or wear horse masks. “It’s the excitement, the vibes, the people,” said Sheila McIntyre of Saratoga Springs, at the 2016 Travers. “It’s all about being here,” said Blair Ettles of New York City, at the 2010 event.

Track fans already have received a tip from the National Weather Service in Albany, and it’s a sure thing. Cooler and less humid conditions are expected for the weekend, with a high temperature Saturday in the mid-70s.

Heavy thunderstorms that this summer have vexed Saratoga Springs and other parts of the Capital Region are not in the mix.

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“We’ve had such a busy, active stretch of weather with all the thunderstorms seeming every day, we’re finally going to get a break,” said Joe Villani, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany. “We have dry conditions, there will be some periods of clouds here and there, but definitely no precipitation.”

“No precipitation” are the key words.

“No chance of precipitation Saturday or Sunday, which is pretty amazing,” Villani said. “That’s what we have in the forecast.”

There are 12 other sure things people should consider for their Travers weekend:

* TIME HAS COME TODAY: Bring a wristwatch or cellphone, because fans should know key time slots. The race course will open at 7 a.m. for people who step quickly — no running allowed — to reserve picnic tables. First post on the 13-race card is 11:35 a.m. The Travers Stakes, race 11, will begin at 5:44 p.m. The finale will start at 6:54 p.m.

* BRING GREEN: Investments require capital, and bettors will have plenty of choices during 13 races. They will have only two choices at the gate: On Saturday, general admission for the Travers is $15. Clubhouse admission is $25.

* CHILL OUT: It’s still summer, so people must remain hydrated. That means a cooler full of cold water, lemonade, soft drinks, probably beer. The rules say plastic or aluminum containers — no glass containers are allowed on track grounds. Sandwiches, fruit, salads and chips are other options for portable ice houses.

* SUNRISE: Skin doctors hate to see people in the sun for multiple hours. A wide-brimmed hat or ball cap will offer some protection against the sun. Sunscreen is also a good idea.

* POSE: Just about everyone has a smartphone, so just about everyone has a camera. There are plenty of places for possible pix, such as boxes full of impatiens, the paddock and the Big Red Spring.

* SPRINGTIME: As long as you’re taking photos at the Big Red, grab a cup of the famous naturally carbonated mineral water. Hang in there for just a few sips — this stuff is good for you.

* SOCKS ‘N SHOES: You may be walking the course grounds for a while, making bets and watching people, so lace up comfortable gear.

* CONSULT THE EXPERTS: Bring your Daily Gazette to the track, and bring race advice from longtime Saratoga writers Mike MacAdam and Bill Heller.

* THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT: Make time to listen to some of the musicians, and watch some of the dancers, who will perform in the picnic area.

* SAUSAGE AND PEP: Chicken salad sandwiches are fine, but nothing smells better in the great outdoors than onions and peppers on a grill, ready to smother an Italian-style sausage in a fresh roll.

* STAR POWER: People sitting at picnic tables will watch many races on race course television sets. Break the routine and visit the paddock or the final stretch, and watch professionals on the job.

* DESIGNATED: An afternoon of celebrations should end with an early evening ride home with a designated driver or a transportation network like Uber or Lyft.

There are other tips for Travers weekend, away from the race course.

Restaurants will be busy when the races conclude, but tables won’t be impossible to find.

“I think it’s going to be fantastic, we know what to expect,” said John Capelli, executive chef at the Olde Bryan Inn. “The population is already swelling, just driving into work today, it took be twice the time to normally get to work, no exaggeration at all.”

Capelli said Travers night is not a night to dread for the city’s chefs and servers.

“It’s kind of like a hidden secret in the restaurant business,” he said. “Travers is great, but it’s not as busy as you would think. Basically, there are a lot of people who do home parties, catering, watching it at their houses, get together, kind of like a Super Bowl mentality. We actually were busier on the Alabama [stakes race for fillies] than we are on the Travers.”

More from Travers Stakes:

Capelli said Travers night is not like New Year’s Eve. “The perception is that it’s crazy because so many people are in town,” he said. “It’s nice and steady and we are definitely looking forward to it.”

The Olde Bryan can seat about 160. Diners are seated on a first-come, first-served basis on Fridays and Saturdays.

After dinner, people can consider other diversions for their weekends.

* Saratoga Casino Hotel will be open for gaming and racing entertainment.

* The Spa City Farmers Market is held Sundays on the front lawn of the Lincoln Baths Building, 65 South Broadway, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Sixty-five vendors will sell goods.

Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected] 



Categories: News, Saratoga County

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