The dean of Saratoga Springs racing is expecting people to stop and stare this summer as they walk into the Nelson Avenue entrance at the Saratoga Race Course.
Distracting guests at the track will be 30 engraved stones making up the new Hoofprints Walk of Fame, which pays homage to the most accomplished horses at Saratoga. The new attraction was unveiled Friday, just one week before the start of this season’s meet.
“There’s probably going to be some human traffic jams,” predicted turf writer Michael Veitch, who helped choose the inaugural class of horses.
Placement of the stones, which are engraved with the horse’s hoofprint, name, accomplishments at Saratoga, trainer, owner and jockey, were placed based on a random drawing ceremony held in March.
The first class of inductees includes some familiar names, like Affirmed, Alydar, Go for Wand, Man o’ War, Native Dancer, Secretariat, War Admiral and Whirlaway.
Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus was proud to have another permanent attraction in Saratoga Springs that stems from the Saratoga 150 celebration, which is a recognition of 150 years since the start of racing at Saratoga. He said events like Bettor’s Ball on Aug. 17 or the Floral Fete on Aug. 2 will be fun, but the viewing stand at the Oklahoma training track, the commemorative starting gate and the hoofprints will be enjoyed in future summers and continue to attract tourists.
He added, “150 years from now people will be talking about these hoofprints.”
The brains behind the Walk of Fame was John Hendrickson, husband of philanthropist and socialite Marylou Whitney. In remarks before Friday’s unveiling, he said the horses being honored made the Saratoga Race Course into the “soul of racing.”
Because of the course’s history and prestige, Veitch added, “There aren’t too many tracks around the country where this can be done.”
This initial class of 30 isn’t the end, either. Veitch said a standing committee at the National Racing Museum will add at least one new horse a year, including a steeplechase horse one day, he hopes. Previously he said that at least 50 more horses deserve consideration for the Walk of Fame.
Additional horses on the Walk of Fame include Beldame, Chief’s Crown, Discovery, Duke of Magenta, Easy Goer, Eight Thirty, Emperor of Norfolk, Equipoise, Exterminator, Regret, Sky Beauty and Tom Fool.
This project is a collaboration between the Saratoga 150 Committee, the New York Racing Association and the racing museum.
The next major celebration for Saratoga 150 is a Floral Fete promenade and Congress Park ice cream social Aug. 2. There will be a parade down Broadway led by Whitney and Hendrickson in a carriage decorated with pink roses and then at the Canfield Casino, people will be treated to ice cream donated by Stewart’s Shops.
Learn more about the Saratoga 150 and upcoming events at www.saratoga150.com.