Discover the history
Saratoga Casino and Raceway can trace its history back to June 26, 1941 when 4,048 patrons attended the first race program at what was then called Saratoga Harness.
Historically, Saratoga Harness is the third oldest harness track - the first ever specifically constructed for the purpose - in pari-mutuel harness racing. Only the now defunct Roosevelt Raceway at Westbury in Long Island, New York and Batavia Downs in Batavia, New York were already established as racecourses when harness racing began in Saratoga.
As Saratoga Harness grew and prospered, so did the sport of harness racing. In 1941, Saratoga Harness conducted 26 racing programs with racing fans wagering an average of $27,050 on each program. Each year the attendance and handle continued to grow as the popularity of harness racing increased. With the exception of 1943 when racing was cancelled because of World War II, racing at Saratoga Harness experienced unparalleled growth. Total handle grew from $9.5 million in 1950 to $17.2 million in 1960 to an even more impressive $45.7 million in 1970. The number of racing programs soared from 90 in 1950 to triple digits in 1960 and close to 200 in 1970.
As harness racing expanded, so did the facility. Renovations to the property were constantly made with major additions to the clubhouse and mezzanine area completed in 1965 along with an upgrade to the track's lighting.
The quality of racing improved mightily as Saratoga Harness attracted the top standardbreds in the country with Grand Circuit racing. Darn Safe became the first trotter to break the two minute mile mark on a half-mile track in 1957 with a 1:59.4 mile and Laverne Hanover became the first two-year-old to better the two minute mark with a sparkling 1:59.4 effort as Saratoga Harness became known as the world's fastest half mile track. Nevele Pride graced the Spa oval on September 6, 1969 and trotted a mile in 1:56.4, the fastest mile in history on a half mile track. Hall of Famer Stanley Dancer was in the sulky that afternoon and Nevele Pride's mark would stand the test of time until 1988 when Mack Lobell won a Breeders Crown event at Saratoga Harness in 1:56 for John Campbell.
Spectatorship continued to grow fast and furious at the world's fastest half mile track. Saratoga Harness celebrated its 30 th anniversary on June 30, 1971 as a record crowd of 14,200 turned out for the festivities.
Saratoga Harness continued to host Grand Circuit racing through the 70's as the top two and three-year-olds visited the Spa oval to take a crack at the large purses and the prestige of competing in a Grand Circuit race.
Overall attendance reached its zenith in 1970 as 730,283 fans attended 193 programs of racing while handle reached its highpoint in 1981 when $46,329,738 poured through the tote machines.
With the introduction of off-track betting in 1973, business at Saratoga Harness began to experience a decline. In response, winter harness racing was introduced in 1978 – thus extending the track's racing season to year round racing.
As attendance and handle continued to decline in the 80's and 90's, the track added the simulcasting of thoroughbred and harness racing on a daily basis. Saratoga Harness expanded the scope of its business in the 1990's to include hosting large concerts, auto shows and craft shows.
In 1998, Saratoga Harness changed its name to Saratoga Equine Sports Center. The name coincided with additional equine events that were featured at the 190 acre facility.
High goal polo was contested during August at The Lodge Field and the track hosted the New York State Barrel Racing Championships, the Classic Carriage Competition and local hunter and jumper shows.
In November of 2002, the New York State Legislature passed a bill allowing video gaming at New York State racetracks. The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors voted in February of 2003 to allow video gaming specifically at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway. Soon after, Saratoga Equine Sports Center became Saratoga Gaming and Raceway and was the first ‘racino' to open in New York State. The property welcomed over 10,000 guests on opening day, January 28, 2004.
Saratoga Gaming and Raceway opened a 45,000 square foot expansion on May 1, 2007 bringing the total number of gaming machines to 1700. Included in the recent expansion is a two-story, Vegas-style night club, Vapor, and the Garden Buffet with seating for over 400 that serves lunch and dinner.
Saratoga Gaming and Raceway celebrates its 7th year of operation in 2011. In conjunction with this celebration, Saratoga Gaming and Raceway announced the change of its name to Saratoga Casino and Raceway and the extension of hours beginning Monday, January 3.
Other food and beverage options at Saratoga Casino and Raceway include the casual dining restaurant in the gaming area, Lucky Joe's (new for 2011), three bars, a deli located in the mezzanine and Fortunes, a tiered dining room that seats approximately 350 guests and overlooks live harness racing.
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