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Old 07-13-2021, 10:37 AM   #1
Aerocraft67
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Advice for my first trip to Saratoga, Whitney day

Excited about my first trip to Saratoga and looking for tips on how to navigate a big day. Grabbed a single clubhouse seat for Whitney day. It's a day trip, driving about 3.5 hours each way from the west.

I've been to the Preakness twice and Belmont once (for Justify's win), so I'm somewhat familiar with big track days, but I had my plans more sorted for those.

Parking. I don't mind paying, walking, or shuttling to avoid traffic, but hard to tell when lots open, when they fill, when they just become inaccessible. I can arrive pretty early despite my commute.

Biding time. Assuming I can park early, where's a good place to hang out and handicap until the gates open? Where's a good spot to cool down and let the crowd thin out before heading home?

Wagering. What's the outlook for cellular or WiFi to bet on Whitney day? I'm guessing WiFi craps out before cellular mid-card, just when lines get prohibitively long at the windows. I'm a vertical player and do most of my betting reasonably close to post time on my mobile. I've never used a terminal. But I do have a NYRA Bets account (it didn't help with mobility on Belmont day), and I can adjust.

Talking Horses. Shouldn't be hard to find on site, but wondering where I might take in the show to actually pay attention, take a few notes.

Those are the things I thought to ask about, but grateful for any general tips you have to enjoy a prime day at Saratoga.
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Old 07-13-2021, 10:47 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Aerocraft67 View Post
Wagering. What's the outlook for cellular or WiFi to bet on Whitney day? I'm guessing WiFi craps out before cellular mid-card, just when lines get prohibitively long at the windows. I'm a vertical player and do most of my betting reasonably close to post time on my mobile. I've never used a terminal. But I do have a NYRA Bets account (it didn't help with mobility on Belmont day), and I can adjust.
I've had mobile issues on large crowd days like the Whitney, Travers etc.. but it tends to be better or worse depending on where you are located in the track.

Normally I also do all my betting very late and mobile, but I have a NYRA account and can bet at the machines if I'm having trouble with mobile. You can usually find a bank of machines with only a few people in front of you, but you can't cut it too close to post time.
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Old 07-13-2021, 12:05 PM   #3
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Unless things have changed post(well, peri, let's get real) -pandemic the cheapest beer to be had is at the beer stand by the paddock. They give you a free beer koozie too.


Enjoy!
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Old 07-13-2021, 02:35 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Aerocraft67 View Post
Excited about my first trip to Saratoga and looking for tips on how to navigate a big day. Grabbed a single clubhouse seat for Whitney day. It's a day trip, driving about 3.5 hours each way from the west.

I've been to the Preakness twice and Belmont once (for Justify's win), so I'm somewhat familiar with big track days, but I had my plans more sorted for those.

Parking. I don't mind paying, walking, or shuttling to avoid traffic, but hard to tell when lots open, when they fill, when they just become inaccessible. I can arrive pretty early despite my commute.

Biding time. Assuming I can park early, where's a good place to hang out and handicap until the gates open? Where's a good spot to cool down and let the crowd thin out before heading home?

Wagering. What's the outlook for cellular or WiFi to bet on Whitney day? I'm guessing WiFi craps out before cellular mid-card, just when lines get prohibitively long at the windows. I'm a vertical player and do most of my betting reasonably close to post time on my mobile. I've never used a terminal. But I do have a NYRA Bets account (it didn't help with mobility on Belmont day), and I can adjust.

Talking Horses. Shouldn't be hard to find on site, but wondering where I might take in the show to actually pay attention, take a few notes.

Those are the things I thought to ask about, but grateful for any general tips you have to enjoy a prime day at Saratoga.
I'm not sure how much of this I can help you with, but....as far as parking, we have limited parking on the grounds depending on how early you get there. You can also park in the near vicinity in people's yards or other lots. I honestly have no idea what people charge. If you're really early, you could probably find a spot on a street relatively close for free, but once again, I don't drive up here so am not sure about this.

I feel like we open the gates at 11 but this information should be available on the website, nyra.com, to be sure. It might be a little earlier on weekends. I can't really tell you where to hang out beforehand, but if you're really early you could walk into town, which is less than a mile away. Everything is very close. Afterwards, we leave The Post, the area around Shake Shack open ( there is a big bar ), or you could go to a place like Siro's ( I think they're open this Summer ) or the Horseshoe, but they'll be pretty crowded.

I don't usually have a big problem with WiFi, even on big days, and I use it on my phone and/or iPad on the set. I feel like we put a lot into making sure it's working. Hopefully I'm not wrong about this:-)

As far as Talking Horses, I think we are starting at 11:35 as long as post is 1:05, which it is almost all days, though that is probably something I should be sure of. You can hang out by the studio tent, the flaps are open as long as it isn't raining, but I don't know how well you can hear it from there. A few people do seem to stand by the sides sometimes so maybe you can. However, you shouldn't have trouble finding a TV to watch it which probably works better. The studio is adjacent to the paddock and hard to miss.

Hopefully some of this helps. Feel free to stop by and say hi and let me know if there's anything reasonable I can help you with. That goes for anyone here.
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Old 07-13-2021, 03:21 PM   #5
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Hopefully some of this helps. Feel free to stop by and say hi and let me know if there's anything reasonable I can help you with. That goes for anyone here.
Super encouraging. Thank you kindly.
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Old 07-13-2021, 04:43 PM   #6
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Try to get a seat. It pays to have a reserved place to come back to.
Go see the silks room and the recently Hall of Fame display
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Old 07-13-2021, 06:04 PM   #7
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As an avid Saratoga fan, and someone who lived in nearby Clifton Park for seven years, I think your Saratoga experience is completely up to you and your preferences.

Parking: You can park in the NYRA lots and pay various amounts to be a range of closeness to the track. When I was in my 20s, I always got to Saratoga super early and found street parking and walked to the track. Now that I'm an old guy in my late 30s, I usually pay about $10 to park in someone's lawn for the shorter walk.

Bidding Time/Hanging Out: Saratoga is usually hot as hell in August for most of the meet. Obviously weather varies, but a real feel in the low to mid 90s should be your expectation for Whitney day. When I lived near the track I loved going in September because it was cooler. I am also very sensitive to the heat, so YMMV. As far as where to hang out, there are a number of premium seating options available, but these are probably selling very fast for Whitney day. I always liked to find a spot in the shade in the backyard and walk trackside for the post parade and race. There are also random benches and bucket chairs in the building that are first come first serve. The convention is that you can drop your stuff down (cooler, lawn chairs, table if you're getting fancy) and nobody will disturb it. A newspaper conventionally saves your spot for one of the non-reserved chairs or bench areas. Be careful not to sit on the benches near the racing office and the really old tote board - I got into an unfortunate and regrettable argument with a horseman long ago by making this mistake.

Again remembering that Saratoga is about your unique experience, I would recommend getting there somewhat early and finding a nice spot you like and setting down your camp. Remember you can bring food and beverages in, so no need to ever buy a beer or anything else unless you want to. Large coolers are not allowed in the building technically, but people bring smaller ones in and put them under/behind the aforementioned bench and chair areas. Breakfast at the track is also an amazing experience if they are still doing it due to COVID. You can get to Saratoga super early, reserve a spot on your way into breakfast by putting some stuff down, enjoy the ponies jogging and some commentary with breakfast, and then leave. You reenter a few hours later when the gates open and voila, your stuff is where you left it and you didn't have to run for a spot.

You should buy the Saratogian from one of the kids and get a pink sheet (ONE DOLLAR!, still, I hope) if only for the experience.

Wagering: Lines can get really long, especially close to post. I typically use NYRABets on my phone and have never had a problem with having good enough cell service to get a bet through. The machines in the building upstairs and around the betting carnival tents on the outskirts are less busy than the "main" bank of tellers and machines along the middle of the first floor of the building.

Talking Horses: has always been by the paddock. When I visited in 2019 Andy and Gabby were happy to chat with me for a few moments after the show. You really couldn't hear it very well from where fans can be, though.

Other Random Thoughts: You gotta try water from the big red spring. Try to go near the winner's circle and say hi/get your picture with Sam the Bugler. He also roves the grounds sometimes and serenades the crowds. He's delightful. If you or your kids if you have them want to get autographs, (again, pre COVID) you can, because the jockeys walk right from the track to the jock room. There's a red "jockey lane" on the pavement that is lined. Don't walk across/right after a race.

Just have a really, nice time and, as us Pittsburghers like to say, don't be a jagoff. 99.9% of my interactions at Saratoga have been great, and the few that haven't have probably been my fault. People are there to have a good time, relax, and spend a day at the track. It's one of my favorite places on earth.

Feel free to DM me if you have any questions. Enjoy!
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Old 07-13-2021, 06:27 PM   #8
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I forgot to mention that this video is a nice intro to Saratoga. It's 10 years old but a lot of the info is still valid/correct. And it's narrated by Tom Durkin himself!

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Old 07-13-2021, 10:00 PM   #9
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Use the west entrance and park 2 blocks away for about $6 or $7 in someone's yard. Stop and have a breakfast sandwich at the Trackside Grill. Bring your folding party chair through the grandstand entrance and stake your spot. Pay the $3 clubhouse exchange so you can go up the escalator and watch the race from the top of the stands. Your chair is safe where you leave it. Stop by the aforementioned grill and have a beer while the crush disperses. Have a great time!
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Old 07-14-2021, 04:35 PM   #10
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Lots of good advice on here so far, here’s my additional two cents:

As far as parking I always park on a private lawn on Union Ave about a block from the main entrance. They usually charge $10 for weekday race days, $15-$20 for weekends and special days. I normally make my day trips for weekday race cards only so the weekend prices are approximate.

After the races before I drive home, I always go to Carson’s Woodside Tavern in nearby Malta. Their food and drinks are really good with spectacular views of Saratoga Lake. It’s less than a 10 minute local drive from the track.

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Old 07-14-2021, 05:20 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Aerocraft67 View Post
Excited

Those are the things I thought to ask about, but grateful for any general tips you have to enjoy a prime day at Saratoga.
I can feel your excitement. Budget 90 minutes for walking. Walk all around, take it all in, be out back when the horses walk to paddock , watch the kids jump up on the fences. Walk it end to end once, then walk it in a circle.
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Old 07-14-2021, 05:23 PM   #12
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Try the red chowder - you won't regret it.
Ground floor, by one the doors trackside, just before the finish line.
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Old 07-14-2021, 06:06 PM   #13
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Try the red chowder - you won't regret it.
Ground floor, by one the doors trackside, just before the finish line.
I second that.
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Old 07-14-2021, 06:59 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Aerocraft67 View Post
Excited about my first trip to Saratoga and looking for tips on how to navigate a big day. Grabbed a single clubhouse seat for Whitney day. It's a day trip, driving about 3.5 hours each way from the west.

I've been to the Preakness twice and Belmont once (for Justify's win), so I'm somewhat familiar with big track days, but I had my plans more sorted for those.

Parking. I don't mind paying, walking, or shuttling to avoid traffic, but hard to tell when lots open, when they fill, when they just become inaccessible. I can arrive pretty early despite my commute.

Biding time. Assuming I can park early, where's a good place to hang out and handicap until the gates open? Where's a good spot to cool down and let the crowd thin out before heading home?

Wagering. What's the outlook for cellular or WiFi to bet on Whitney day? I'm guessing WiFi craps out before cellular mid-card, just when lines get prohibitively long at the windows. I'm a vertical player and do most of my betting reasonably close to post time on my mobile. I've never used a terminal. But I do have a NYRA Bets account (it didn't help with mobility on Belmont day), and I can adjust.

Talking Horses. Shouldn't be hard to find on site, but wondering where I might take in the show to actually pay attention, take a few notes.

Those are the things I thought to ask about, but grateful for any general tips you have to enjoy a prime day at Saratoga.
My two cents:

You have a seat- that is good since you are coming from a distance. I expect that day to be a madhouse if the weather is good.

Betting: When betting on track I prefer to use the NYRA betting card. No tickets to worry about and also sometimes the machines get jammed. When they do, the card still works. I can't tell you how many times I've walked up to a machine with a blinking red light that had no line, used the card and it worked.

Parking: I almost always use a house lot along Nelson Ave or the street immediately behind it (I believe it is Jackson) between Wright St (name of street by the Trackside Grill that leads to the Clubhouse gate) and the Horseshoe (Gridley St, which leads to the backstretch entrance by the 7F chute). My guess is the lots closest to Wright St will be $30-$40 that day. Closer to the Horseshoe more like $15-$20. I've never parked in a lot at someone's home before say 11am, but some may be going earlier than that. One option could be at the Oklahoma Track, but not sure when they let you in there.

Pre-Racing: Very much depends on how you define "early". I agree w/TLG's sentiments- downtown, Congress Park or even the Farmers' Market on High Rock Ave behind the Saratoga Hilton wouldn't be bad options to grab a bite/coffee, a bench and handicap. If I were in your shoes, I'd aim to get into town by about 9am and go to the Farmers' Market (I like the Country Corner Cafe on Church St but may be crowded and have a wait). Last time I went to the Farmers Market (2019) they had some stands with prepared foods, breakfast sandwiches, etc. You'd have the option of a very pleasant walk to and from the track if you so chose (I have done it from the Farmers' Market via East Ave past Oklahoma). If you are arriving closer to 10 and/or want to park once near the track the options are more limited. I'd probably have coffee/drink in hand before parking and sit in a portable chair someplace near the track to handicap before the gates open at 11. There aren't a ton of options near the track other than bars TLG alluded to. I used to grab breakfast at the Horseshoe, but last time I did that was at least 5 years ago https://www.thehorseshoeinn.com/menus/

Apre-racing: See TLG comments

Having a seat and presumably no cooler resolves 75% or more of the planning otherwise required if you are looking for a table/spot and have a cooler. I usually carry in but it is almost refreshing to go in with nothing but your PPs. You will have a great time (I plan to be there, too and hopefully that entire week of racing).
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Old 07-14-2021, 07:15 PM   #15
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RV parking

Is there anywhere to park an RV overnight? Can you park an RV in someone’s yard?
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