|Saratogian Ad Director Barbara Fignar at an early breakfast|
Friday at Saratoga Race Course, where you can watch horses
work out and enjoy a meal. You can just go right to rail or
sit in the boxes without eating, too.
The New York Racing Association has done a good job this
season enhancing the track-goers’ experience at Saratoga Race Course, with such
things as better TVs in the picnic areas and a friendly, helpful demeanor from
But understanding what’s what and how to get there is still
something of a mystery, as I was reminded recently when talking to new newsroom
staffers and first-time track visitors.
So here’s a quick primer.
When you go to the track you have two choices: Grandstand admission
for $5, or clubhouse for $8 ($10 and $15 on Travers Day); kids 12 and younger
Grandstand is basically general admission (and should be
called that, for clarity’s sake). It gives you access to most everywhere on the
grounds, from right up to the rail at the races, to half the seating areas, to
the huge backyard with all the picnic tables and the paddock area where they
saddle up the horses.
Clubhouse admission gets you up to the rail closer to the
finish line, to about half the seating areas, and to the reserved dining just
past the finish line.
Neither admission gives you a seat in the stands.
The long area of covered seats is actually divided into two
areas, called the grandstand and the clubhouse. The difference: the grandstand section
is accessible with grandstand/general admission and the sections are in the
second half. Meanwhile, the clubhouse area is basically divided into two
sections: the regular pull-down seats with sections in the first half of the
alphabet and the “boxes” with five wooden chairs that are sold in advance for
thousands or doled out as needed by NYRA to horse owners, politicians or
celebrities. The dress code for the regular pull-down seats is casual, whether
in the grandstand or clubhouse areas; the clubhouse boxes are where men and
women are best-dressed by regulation.
To get one of those seats, you purchase them well before the
season begins through a NYRA lottery system or you buy from what’s available on
a given day, as explained at nyra.com.
There are lots of benches around, and picnic tables, and
people generally respect bench spaces that are informally reserved with a Pink
Sheet or other newspaper. People also bring folding chairs.
I picked up a nice map of the grounds at the track
information booth last weekend. For an out-of-town colleague coming to the
track with her two kids for the first time next week, I recommend watching the
horses circling and getting saddled in the paddock area, looking at the
brightly colored jockey uniforms through the windows of the Jockey Silks Room,
watching races from the grandstand, maybe catching a race at the rail if they
can get up to the fence, and enjoying the musicians at the Gazebo Stage, where
last Sunday Big Medicine was playing to an appreciate crowd when I wandered by.