It seems like we've been counting down the days to the 150th anniversary from the moment the Saratoga meet ended last summer. As Matt Hunter reports, with the historic milestone arriving Saturday, track officials have a host of activities planned to mark the occasion.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- It seems like we've been counting down the days to the 150th anniversary from the moment the Saratoga meet ended last summer. With the historic milestone arriving Saturday, track officials have a host of activities planned to mark the occasion.
"Growing up in Louisiana, you always hear about Saratoga and big racetracks and you always dream of winning big races,” said Jockey Brian Hernandez.
Brian Hernandez realized a boyhood dream last August when he and his colt, Fort Larned, won Saratoga's prestigious Whitney Handicap.
"Being able to step out on that track and hearing all those people walking from the paddock to the racetrack, it's one of the greatest feelings in all of horse racing,” said Hernandez.
One day before the duo attempts to defend its Whitney crown, Hernandez and his wife spent the afternoon across the street at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, taking in 150 years of Saratoga history.
"You want to see what those guys back in the early 30s and 20s did and how the successful they were and that's what this museum is for,” said Hernandez.
"You do feel like you were here in 1940 when you walk here, the experience, the charm of the track, the buzz that exists here and really the fans, the people around it,” said Rodnell Workman, NYRA VP and Chief Marketing Officer.
Saturday, of course, also marks the official 150th anniversary of Saratoga's first meet.
For months, NYRA officials have been planning a celebration worthy of the milestone.
"We're excited, we wanted to put on the best show possible for our fans and we're actually pretty confident we think we're going to achieve that. Saturday's going to be a special for the day for the track on a few levels,” said Workman.
The moment the gates open at 10 a.m., fans will receive a commemorative poster detailing Saratoga in all its glory. This year's Whitney winner will receive a new specially made trophy, while one lucky fan will get to place a free $15-thousand dollar bet on the race itself.
It all adds up to a fitting celebration from the nation's oldest and grandest sporting venue.
"Everybody in town has been talking about it. This is the first time I've been able to come and enjoy it really. It's been a lot of fun to be here for such a big event,” said Hernandez.
Of course, no birthday party is complete without cake. On Saturday, officials will blow out the candles on a special cake made by none other than TV's "Cake Boss," Buddy Valastro.