So much has changed in Saratoga's century and a half of history and yet, so much remains the same. On Saturday, thousands came together to wish the old track on Union Avenue a happy 150th birthday. YNN's Matt Hunter reports.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY -- It was a celebration for the ages, complete with music, cake and enough fanfare to fill all 350 acres of the Spa's lush historic grounds.
"Saratoga is such a magnificent, beautiful place with all of the history, it is a horse racing lover's dream," said Michele Hope, who flew in from Atlanta for her second ever visit to Saratoga.
"We made a point to come up here, take time off from work, bring the family up. This is a family track, it doesn't get any better than this," said New Jersey resident Chuck DeRosa, who first visited Saratoga more than 40 years ago.
Even before the day's first race was run, it produced its first winners. Four years after they began dating, Ken Gates dropped to one knee and asked the woman of his dreams, Erin McGlynn, to spend the rest of their lives together.
"When I first met Erin, the first thing I said was 'I hope you like horse racing'" said Gates, who lives in Rockville Centre. "When I brought her up here the first time she loved it and we've been coming up here since we've been together."
"I'm a little shocked still!" McGlynn said moments after accepting Gates' winner's circle proposal. "It was great."
That a diamond would grace this grand anniversary seems fitting.
For a century and a half, Saratoga has meant so much to so many, but few would argue anyone's been more engrained in its fabric than the uniquely fabulous, Marylou Whitney.
"We all started back in the winter saying, ‘what are we going to do to mark this anniversary,’" said Whitney as she gazed over the track from her family's box seats. "I'm so happy it came out so well."
"She's beautiful inside as well as outside," said actress Susan Lucci, a longtime friend of Whitney's and her guest Saturday. "She's so generous and gracious and easy with it all, it's truly who she is, it's authentic."
It's lost on no one that the birthday falls on the same day of the 86th Whitney Handicap, a race that bears the prominent family's name. In what's been a yearly tradition, Whitney and her husband, John Hendrickson, presented the trophy to the winning connections.
It took nearly two years of planning but in the end thousands packed these hallowed grounds to be a part of something special and most importantly to wish a happy birthday to what many believe is the greatest living monument this sport has ever known.
"For the true racing fan, I would say Saratoga is probably number one for most anybody," Hope said.
"These are some of my happiest memories, summertime memories," Lucci said. "My husband and I love it here."
"I'm happy with everything," Whitney said. "I'm happy that I see all these wonderful faces here"