I’m just going to come out and say it: the Harness Track at Saratoga is an absolute hidden gem here in the Capital Region. We all know the thoroughbred track across the street gets all the attention during the summer, but I think that’s just because nearly not enough people know that the harness track happens at nighttime, post-track, and it doesn’t end after Labor Day. Yeah, you can go almost all year long.
We were lucky enough to get the behind-the-scenes experience during our visit, which allowed me to ride around the track with a pro, check out the paddock area (which is zero percent what you’d expect after seeing the one filled with fresh flowers, manicured lawns and fancy people at the other track), drive in the starting gate pickup truck and witness a live race get going, and of course go a couple buttons deep with some workers and fans.
While we were filming this video, I was getting pretty hyped about how awesome this place was, especially since prior to going, I didn’t know a damn thing about it. The people I spoke with were so genuinely excited for us to be there and talk to them because they’re passionate about harness racing and hope the sport can continue on. It’s no surprise that the sport is well, a little under-supported compared to the thoroughbred track, and part of that is because a lot of the people involved today are second or third generation. Meaning, if their children don’t get into the sport next, the future isn’t looking so bright.
But, the reality is, harness racing is accessible to the common man, and going to a race is actually a lot of fun. I was told the horses aren’t nearly as expensive to buy, so if you’re an animal lover looking to be hands on in the sport, you can work your way up quickly and without a lot of cash. Owners are allowed to help train and care for their horses, and the racing part of it isn’t nearly as harmful for the horse’s health long term, so you get a lot of bang for your buck in that sense.
And from a fan’s perspective, the admission is free, the odds are a little better, and even though there’s not as much money going into the sport overall, you can still win a decent amount. Especially if you consider you didn’t pay to get in and the beer is a lot more affordable.
The harness track has one of its most exciting weekends of racing coming up this Saturday, September 21 (Siri, play “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire, please) called the New York Sire Stakes. And after watching this video, if I did my job correctly, you’re going to want to go to the harness track and see what’s so cool about it for yourself. Oh, and did I mention it’s attached to the Saratoga Casino?
Check out the latest 2BD Original Video below and consider spending a night going a few buttons deep at the harness track and let us know what you think!