Even though it’s still cold and snowy in some parts of the country, it won’t be long before summer is here and that means two of the premier horse racing meets at Del Mar near San Diego, California and Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York. Handicappers always eagerly anticipate the start of both meets, especially at Saratoga where large field sizes have made New York horse betting very popular and big prices occur with great frequency at the famous track that has been operating since 1863.
Let’s take a look at the basics for each meet.
The Del Mar meet kicks off on July 17 and runs through September 2 and features a robust stakes schedule. The highlight of the meet is always the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic around the middle of August. Notable winners in recent years include Accelerate, California Chrome, Beholder and Shared Belief, and going back in history horses like Best Pal, Lava Man and Bertrando have captured the race. You’ll also want to catch the other Grade 1 races on the Del Mar schedule, including the Del Mar Oaks, Bing Crosby Stakes and Clement L. Hirsch Stakes to name just a few.
Moving east to Saratoga, there will be a new schedule this year as the track will race Wednesday through Sunday, dropping the Monday racing that has generally occurred in the past. That should mean even bigger field sizes at the meet that will start a bit earlier this year on July 11 and run through September 2. Just like Del Mar, Saratoga has some signature races that you will not want to miss. The historic Travers Stakes, which offers a $1.25 million purse, is set for August 24 with a card of races that is truly spectacular and includes five other Grade 1 races – the Sword Dancer, Personal Ensign, H. Allen Jerkins Memorial, Ballerina and Forego. August 3 is also a huge day with the Grade 1 Whitney and Grade 1 Test Stakes, and don’t forget that Saratoga also features steeplechase racing and you can catch the New York Turf Writers Steeplechase on August 22.
One tip for both tracks is to get your tickets and hotel reservations well in advance, as both tend to sell out, especially for the big days of the meet. While both tracks can be pretty crowded on weekends, try taking in a weekday card that will allow you more space to roam around and check out everything both tracks have to offer.
Good luck this summer!