What Is Your Favorite Summer Track?
Even though summer doesn't technically start until the solstice on June 20, it starts to feel like summer on Memorial Day. Whether they run for a shorter boutique meet or all summer long, some tracks just make you feel like it's summer even when you look at a picture of them in the middle of January.
What's your favorite summer racetrack?
From Oaks Day until the end of September, Chicagoans in Derby hats and blue jeans alike flock to Arlington Park. Though its current facility, with its soaring roof and its iconic statue of John Henry and The Bart, has only been open since 1989, racing has existed in Arlington Heights since a cold October afternoon in 1927. The meet reaches its crescendo in mid-August with a trio of Grade 1 turf races, the only Grade 1 races on the Chicago circuit: the Mister. D. (formerly known as the Arlington Million), the Beverly D., and the Bruce D. (formerly known as the Secretariat).
Though Del Mar now runs a November meet as well, after the closure of Hollywood Park, the summer season remains its most iconic. From 1937, when Bing Crosby greeted the first fan who entered the elegant Spanish Colonial Revival-style facility, Del Mar has been the place for fast horses and Hollywood glamour. The meet runs from mid-July through Labor Day weekend. Though it features stakes races in all divisions that draw top horses from all over the country, it reaches its climax with the Pacific Classic (G1), perennially one of the most important preps for the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).
The focal point of horse racing in the Pacific Northwest, Emerald Downs has a meet that runs from the middle of May through late September. The suburban Seattle track has a close-knit community of horsemen and fans. Emerald's traditions include charming drawings of each stakes winner at the Quarter Chute Cafe, where the winner's connections also treat everyone to a cup of coffee there for a day! The most eagerly-awaited race of the Emerald meet is the Longacres Mile (G3), a race that began at Longacres Racetrack, Washington's former home for summer horse racing.
As long as Kentucky has existed, the commonwealth has been synonymous with horse racing. And, Kentucky's track from late June through Labor Day is Ellis Park, known affectionately as the "Pea Patch" as a nod to soybean crops grown in the infield. Ellis is coming up on a century of racing, with both harness and Thoroughbred meets in 1922. The track has experienced a renaissance over the last decade, thanks to rising purses from Instant Racing in Kentucky. The flagship race of the Ellis meet is the Groupie Doll (G3), named after the two-time champion female sprinter who won twice at Ellis in 2011, including the race now named after her.
If you're on the East Coast, the red and white awnings of Saratoga mean summer. Nestled in upstate New York, near the Adirondacks, historic Saratoga is a perfect place to escape from the worst of the summer heat and enjoy some top-class horse racing. Perhaps the flagship race of the meet is the Travers (G1) for three-year-old dirt horses. But with other top-notch races like the Whitney (G1), Diana (G1), Fourstardave (G1), and now the transferred Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), Saratoga features the best of racing from mid-July through Labor Day weekend every year.
What is your favorite summer racetrack?
Looking back at last week's poll? We introduced you to five recent broodmares who were stars both on the track and in the breeding shed, and asked who you thought was the best.
Two of them got the vast majority of your votes. Urban Sea, dam of such excellent horses as Galileo and Sea the Stars, took 55% of the vote. An honorable mention goes to the Illinois-bred Lady Shirl, who got 36% of your votes!