Saturday is the true 150th anniversary of the first thoroughbred races held in Saratoga Springs. There was a parade last night and today is the Grade 1 $750,000 Whitney Handicap.
Also a new exhibit in Albany focuses on the Irishman who's credited with starting it all. The exhibit, titled "The Irish and Horse Racing: John Morrissey,'' recently opened at the Irish American Heritage Museum in downtown Albany. It tells the story of the Irish-born Morrissey, who was raised in Troy and went on to become a Tammany Hall enforcer, prizefighter, gambling hall owner and politician. He opened a casino in Saratoga, then launched the resort spa's first racing season on Aug. 3, 1863. Under his guidance, Saratoga grew into the nation's top racing venue after the Civil War.
NYRA SERIES OF EVENTS: Saturday, August 3
6 to 10:30 a.m. The Whitney Viewing Stand will open to the public for morning training. Overlooking the Oklahoma Training Track, the Whitney Viewing Stand offers the public the opportunity to view the morning workouts at Oklahoma for the first time in more than a decade. The viewing stand is named in honor of one of thoroughbred racing’s most prominent families and dedicated patrons, the Whitneys.
10 a.m. Celebratory music will greet fans as they enter the Clubhouse and Union Avenue entrances.
10:30 a.m. (Gates Open) Fans in attendance Saturday will receive a free commemorative Saratoga Sesquicentennial poster designed by equine cartoonist Pierre E. “Peb” Bellocq. The poster features legendary figures from the past 150 years at Saratoga and is free with paid admission, while supplies last.
11:30 a.m. Award-winning a cappella women’s chorus Saratoga Soundtrack of Saratoga Springs will perform a special rendition of the National Anthem in the winner’s circle.
2:30 p.m. Congressman Paul Tonko will present an official proclamation in honor of the 150th anniversary following the day’s fourth race in the winner’s circle.
3:00 p.m. The Preservation League of New York State will present The New York Racing Association with a commemorative plaque in honor of the 150th anniversary following the day’s fifth race in the winner’s circle.
3:35 p.m. The day’s sixth race will be named the Saratoga Sesquicentennial in honor of the 150th anniversary celebration. Jockeys participating in the race will wear commemorative red and white “holder caps” to honor the era in which the first meet was held.
Following the sixth race, The New York Racing Association will receive an official proclamation from the office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declaring August 3, 2013, as Saratoga Race Course Sesquicentennial Day.
City of Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson will also deliver an official proclamation in honor of the 150th anniversary.
3:40 p.m. A special ceremony in the winner’s circle will include a formal cutting of the specially designed cake from Buddy Valastro of Carlo’s Bakery, the setting for the popular television series “Cake Boss.” The cake, designed to replicate the historic track, is 4-by-4 feet and nearly two feet high. Saratoga Soundtrack will also return for a special rendition of “Happy Birthday”.
5:35 p.m. The first participant in the $15,000 win wager contest - Kevin Brockley of Gansevoort, NY - will place his wager with a mutuel clerk in the winner’s circle. The contest is sponsored by Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson, honorary chairs of the Saratoga 150 Committee.
5:45 p.m. For the first time in the history of the Whitney Invitational Handicap, a special custom-designed horse blanket, made of Marylou Whitney pink roses, and a new permanent, sterling silver, three-handled chalice trophy will commemorate the historic Grade 1 race.
Floral Designer to Assemble Inaugural Horse Blanket of Marylou Whitney Roses for Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap.