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Saratoga’s Grand Summer 2009
by Dick Healy

It was a long, snowy winter in Saratoga, New York. Some claiming the longest they’ve seen in many years. On this early April day, however, as I drive down tree-lined Union Avenue passing by the famous and oldest thoroughbred Race Course in the country, temperature is in the high 70s and not a remnant of winter remains.

For me, Saratoga’s Grand Summer season starts with the opening of the Oklahoma training track that got underway April 16. Oklahoma is where many major trainers prep thoroughbreds for stakes races. The site annually stables between 700 and 800 thoroughbreds at peak season. Oklahoma Track is across Union Avenue from the main Race Course where Saratoga’s 141st racing season will commence Wednesday, July 29 and run for six weeks through Labor Day, September 17.

A big part of the 2009 Saratoga racing season will features inductees into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. This year’s group includes trainers Bob Baffert and Janet Elliot, and jockey Eddie Maple. The Hall of Fame ceremony takes place on Aug 14 at 10:30 a. m. at the Fasig Tipton Sales Pavilion. Under new ownership, Fasig Tipton is currently expanding the walking ring and interior grounds adjacent to the Pavilion, to accommodate more visitors and upgrade handicap accessibility at the famous yearling sales site.

The New York City Ballet, in summer residency at Saratoga, will perform 20 ballets between opening night Tuesday, July 7 through Saturday night, August 18, with its annual Ballet Gala scheduled for July 11 that will feature George Balanchine’s “ Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.”

Many Ballet fans elect to dine at the Hall of Springs prior to evening performances. The historical setting, with buildings built during the depth of the Great Depression, among sprawling acres of State Park land, make for a memorial evening’s outing.

For a town of approximately 30,000 Saratoga has few equals when it comes to all-around summer entertainment. For example, Alex Baldwin will make an appearance at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center along with The Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of principal conductor and artistic director, Charles Dutoit. Baldwin will narrate Aaron Copeland’s “ Lincoln Portrait.”

Subsequent SPAC performances will feature artistic luminaries such as cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, virtuoso violinists, Joshua Bell, composer, Marvin Hamlisch, conductor, Erich Kunzel, and conductor, Jeff Tyzik.

Best of all, SPAC officials say ticket prices for the 2009 season, “ Have been frozen at last year’s levels.”

Lawn admissions for Orchestra begin at $18 and $31 for inside seating. Children 12 and under get free admission on the lawn.

I’ll be reporting on Saratoga summer happenings as the season progresses. The best dining choices, nightspots, polo matches, the social scene and, most importantly, events leading up to and during the Mid-Summer Derby “The Travers.”

More by Dick Healy




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