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Posts Tagged ‘horse racing’

  1. Horse Museums

    March 11, 2015 by saratogasam

    Where to Find America’s Horse Museums


    By Doug Gelbert



    In 1788 a British thoroughbred stallion named Messenger arrived in Philadelphia. This unheralded immigrant soon began a breeding career that launched the sport of standardbred racing in America. When Messenger died in 1808 he was buried with full military honors.

    Horses were our first sports heroes. Eager crowds approaching 100,000 would gather to watch fabled horses race in the 1800’s. Today, our equine athletes are no less revered. More American museums celebrate horse competitions than any other sport.

    The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York (Union Avenue and Ludlow Streets, Saratoga Springs 12866, 518/584-0400) is a thoroughbred racing shrine. Inside the brick building across from the Saratoga Race Course the Museum winds in a racing oval around a central courtyard. Gracing the courtyard is a statue of Triple Crown winner Secretariat. On the front lawn sits an eighth pole that was on Belmont Racetrack when Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by a remarkable 31 lengths in 1973.

    Inside the Museum, entered through an actual starting gate, the highlight is the extensive Hall of Fame honoring horses, jockeys and trainers on black, brown and green plaques in illuminated booths. Fans can summon information on their favorite inductees or any of America’s 130 racetracks from computerized video monitors in the booths. A wide screen movie theater, featuring Race America plays inside the Hall of Fame.

    The history of thoroughbred racing is traced through galleries of equine paintings and photographs. A skeleton of a horse in extended action helps explain how a 1500-pound thoroughbred with impossibly fragile ankles is a perfect motion machine, accelerating to 42 mph in just over 2 seconds. The race track atmosphere is recreated in a simulated paddock area and jockey’s changing room.

    Across town, tucked into the back grounds of the Saratoga Raceway sits a rustic dark green wooden building with a green and red striped roof. With its wide porch and landscaped front yard it could easily be the local garden center. In fact it is The Saratoga Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame (352 Jefferson Street, Saratoga Springs 12866, 518/587-4210), a little gem of a sports museum devoted to harness racing in Saratoga Springs which dates to 1847, 16 years before the beginning of the more celebrated thoroughbred racing in Saratoga.

    Harness racing equipment, photographs and exhibits abound as tributes to the horses and horsemen that have raced in Saratoga. A large side room features a collection of antique sulkies including two cutters from the 1800’s with blades instead of wheels, which were used for winter racing on ice. Each visitor to the Hall of Fame receives a free pass to the harness races at Saratoga Raceway. You are encouraged to sit on the Horseshoe Bench before leaving the Museum to test your luck at the races.

    The Hall of Fame of the Trotter in Goshen, New York (240 Main Street, Goshen, 10924, 914/294-6330) is in the famous Tudor-style Good Time Stable in the center of town. Inside the Museum the atmosphere of the stable, built in 1913, remains. Stalls have been fashioned into exhibition rooms and hay chutes transformed into miniature stages for statues and trophies. Behind the Museum is Historic Track, the first sporting site in America to be designated a Registered National Landmark.

    Exhibits in the Original Stall Area tell the stories of legendary horses including Hambletonian who sired over 1300 foals and to whom all trotters can trace their lineage. A fun exhibit portrays the extent that horse racing has permeated our everyday language. Terms such as start from scratch, flog a dead horse, champing at the bit, and hold your horses are just a few sayings originating in the equine world. Also on display are weathervanes from the 1800s which borrowed heavily on the trotting horse.

    The Living Hall of Fame of the Trotter is among the most attractive of horse museum exhibits. Each living member is honored with a colorful 12′ clay statuette in life-like surroundings exhibited in a plexi-glass case. Upon their passing, Hall of Famers automatically become enshrined in the adjacent Peter D. Haughton Room of Immortals.

    In a large side gallery hang many of the nearly 200 trotting prints by Currier & Ives collected by The Trotting Horse Museum. In the back of the museum the Historic Track clubhouse has been re-created, providing a glimpse of turn-of-the century elegance. Upstairs, the Sulky Loft sports a collection of sulkies, wagons, and sleighs dating back more than 100 years which demonstrate the evolution of the sport. Also on hand is the first mobile starting gate, welded to the back of a Ford Model-T, which solved the problem of how to fairly start a harness race.

    The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington (I-75 and Iron Works Pike, Lexington, 606/233-4303) is actually several museums. The International Museum of the Horse chronicles all breeds of horses as you travel on a circular ramp past exhibits and artifacts. The exceptionally colorful American Saddle Horse Museum depicts the world of the American Saddlebred. Dazzling dioramas explore the elegant saga of the quintessential American show horse. An innovative exhibit puts you in the saddle of such champions as Imperator, Skywatch and Wing Commander. The Museum also houses the United Professional Horsemen’s Association Hall of Fame.

    In a corner of the Park is the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame with exhibits and artwork on polo ponies. A display of polo clothes shows how the sport gave the world the button-down shirt, introduced by Brooks Brothers in 1900. Also on the grounds is The Man O’War Monument, burial site of the great racehorse.

    Down I-64 under the familiar twin spires of Churchill Downs in Louisville is the beautiful white Kentucky Derby Museum (700 Central Avenue, Louisville, 40201 502/637-1111) where every day is Derby Day. The order and winning silks of every Kentucky Derby comprise the Time-Line around the first floor Great Hall. The boots, not shoes, worn by first Derby winner Aristedes in 1875 are on display. Other unique artifacts from Derby history include an 1896 silk purse awarded Kingman.

    In the center of The Great Hall a life-size statue of the current Derby winner and rider stand inside a replica of the Churchill Downs Winners Circle before a tote board lit with final results. Embroidered blankets of Triple Crown winners hang from the two-story ceiling. A 360-degree multi-image presentation shown with 96 projectors on a 225-foot screen around The Great Hall unveils the drama of Kentucky Derby Day. The film is updated each year to honor the current Derby champion.

    Many computerized hands-on exhibits bring horse racing alive. In Time Machine Theater videos of 65 Derbies are available at the touch of the screen. Place Your Bets is a computerized race that demonstrates how placing bets change the odds of a horse race. Derby Trivia is a computer test of your Kentucky horse racing knowledge. Horse Talk teaches you the language of the backstretch . Would-be jockeys can pick up a saddle and weigh-in for a race. Hundreds of artifacts capture the magic of the Kentucky Derby. There are trademark mint julep cups and winner’s blanket woven with 600 roses. Guided walking tours of the Churchill Downs track are included in the Museum admission.

    In Amarillo, Texas three galleries at the American Quarter Horse Horse Heritage Center & Museum (2601 I-40 East, Amarillo, 806/376-5181) celebrate this supreme equine athlete. An Orientation Theater acquaints newcomers to this fabulous horse. The Museum contains photographs, artifacts and videotapes of historic horses, colorful people, and landmark events associated with the quarter horse. A special collaborative exhibit with the Smithsonian Institution traces the impact of the horse on American life. Live quarter horse demonstrations are periodically scheduled for the adjacent outdoor arena.

    Is there one true American sport? Upon leaving the action-packed ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum (Colorado Springs, Colorado 80919, 719/528-4763) you would be hard pressed to name another sport as wholly American as rodeo. Rodeo, which evolved from everyday Western work chores into sport, is a totally American experience. Your precisely orchestrated semi-guided tour takes you through two video presentations and past a stunning collection of cowboy gear.

    In the Hall of Champions the stock is honored along with the cowboys. During the summer months a champion bronco lives in the backyard stable area. After his retirement the Hall of Fame bucking bronco Descent made his home in the stable area. You were thus able to meet a living Hall-of-Famer at the site of his enshrinement, something not possible at any other sports museum.

    These museums are only the largest of America’s horse museums. There are others honoring different breeds and local horse communities. Whatever your equestrian passion there is an exciting museum for the horselover to enjoy.

    I am the author of over 20 books, 8 on hiking with your dog, including the widely praised The Canine Hiker’s Bible. As publisher of Cruden Bay Books, we produce the innovative A Bark In The Park series of canine hiking books found at During the warm months I lead canine hikes as tour leader for tours, leading packs of dogs and humans on day and overnight trips. My lead dog is Katie, a German Shepherd-Border Collie mix, who has hiked in all of the Lower 48 states and is on a quest to swim in all the great waters of North America

     #horsemuseums  #secretariat

  2. Tails

    March 7, 2015 by saratogasam

    Tails – And We’re Off !

    Saratoga Suckers. It’s NOT A Sucker Bet !

    Welcome to the new and improved Saratoga Suckers.

    Your home for Horse Racing Rants and Raves

    Since 2004.

    Yes. This is our official blog.

    The Starting Gate

    It is now post time. The horses are on the track.

    The premier web site for horse racing aficionados is up and running.

    So sit back and enjoy the commentary.

    Odds-on this site will morph into something you can call home.

    Not to mention…’s FREE !

    Get in on the conversation and……..

    May The Horse Be With You !

    email us at:

    A Wee Bit About Us

    We Want YOUR STORY !

    Saratoga Suckers

    The Funny Cide of Saratoga Springs, NY and it’s Horse Racing legacy !

    Saratoga Suckers’s Profile


  3. Old Smoke

    March 15, 2014 by saratogasam

    Old Smoke Just Got No Respect

    John Morrissey in Saratoga Springs 

    John Morrissey aka Old Smoke

    John Morrissy – Old Smoke


    It is one of the ironic facts of high society life that superior imagination will never, in the final analysis, gain equal footing with superior reserves of inherited cash.

    By Kenneth Salzmann

    However much acclaim, or money, the artists, sportsmen and entrepreneurs who provide amusement for the very rich may accumulate in life, when the Blue Book goes to press there can be no mistaking just who is holding all the face cards.

    For some, that is a painful, stubbornly resisted lesson. John Morrissey, for one, never really did learn it. As much as any other person, Morrissey built the framework for modern Saratoga Springs, introducing both horse racing and casino gambling to the Spa City. Neither did he neglect to mind his own interests, amassing a personal fortune and pursuing a successful, if somewhat suspect, political career in the service of New York City’s Tammany Hall machine. But for all his money, for his seat in the United States House of Representatives (and later in the New York State Senate), and for his pivotal
    role in the development of Saratoga’s principal summer attractions, Morrissey never was able to gain what was finally his fondest goal—acceptance into the finest social circles for his beloved wife, Susie, if not for himself.

    The best people, after all, had only to look at John Morrissey’s more-than-tainted background to see that he was only in the Club House because he owned it. Morrissey, the son of Irish immigrants, had grown up in Troy during the 1830s and 40s and largely on the streets. Schooled principally in such pursuits as street-fighting and hustling, he did not learn how to read or write until his nineteenth year. But he had by that time already developed his more basic skills to an exceptional degree, earning a reputation as a very
    tough young man and, on several occasions, attracting the attention of local law enforcement officials over matters ranging from assault and battery to assault with intent to kill.

    From Troy, Morrissey moved on to New York City where he went to work for Tammany Hall as leader of that organization’s Dead Rabbit Gang, a band of toughs charged with keeping a careful eye on New York voting trends. In the spirit of the day’s politics, he and his colleagues were charged by the bosses with re-educating dissident voters whenever necessary by beating them to within an inch of their lives. It would appear that the young Trojan excelled at his work, because his rise through Tammany ranks was rapid.

    At the same time, he was able to use those talents to pursue an athletic career, taking time out from politics to become the heavyweight boxing champion of the United States. In the unrelenting and illegal version of the sport that was then practiced, fighters punched and grappled, bare-knuckled, to the finish, and each round ended not by a bell but by a decisive knock-down.

    Morrissey secured the championship in 1853 in a still-legendary 37-round brawl with title-holder Yankee Sullivan at Boston Corners, New York, near the Massachusetts line. It was a fight he probably lost by most measures, but one he won on a technicality in the midst of mayhem. “Old Smoke,” as he was nicknamed after a barroom fight landed him on top of smoldering coals and convinced his audience he was impervious to pain, continued to fight until 1859.

    With all that, Morrissey was still in his thirties when he was elected to a term in Congress representing Tammany turf. The Congressional Record indicates that the Irish pugilist contributed little to the turbulent political landscape of the 1860s, however. He is perhaps best remembered, in terms of that chapter in his career, for his offer in the course of a heated debate on the floor of the House to “lick any man in Congress.” By that time,
    though, John Morrissey had established himself, and distinguished himself, in other pursuits as well.

    Beginning with a small gambling house in New York City, he had developed a growing gambling empire. About the same time that much of the nation was focused on the outbreak of the Civil War, Morrissey was casting his sights north to the already thriving resort of Saratoga, where he was determined to offer games of chance to the Spa’s prosperous, bathing vacationers.

    His first casino there proved to be a formidable temptation for the well-heeled summer folk. It was followed in short order by the town’s first race track and, before the end of the decade, by the much grander Club House, which for many years set the pace for Saratoga gaming emporia, to be surpassed only by the Canfield Casino.

    At about the same time, John and Susie Morrissey, settling into middle age, found themselves as strongly attracted to the forms and functions of society life as were the socialites to the track and Club House. Some of Mr. Morrissey’s rougher edges had already been polished away and his facile Irish charm went a long way to hide the others. For her part, Mrs. Morrissey was of gentler birth and possessed in abundance whatever social skills her husband lacked.

    Still, time and again, the couple was ostracized by the very society that turned to them for amusement each summer. When they went looking to purchase a suitable estate in Morrissey’s native Troy, a sparkling center of industrial wealth, they found that none among the city’s elite would sell to them at any price. (In retaliation, they built a soap factory between the Hudson River and the fashionable neighborhood they aspired to, causing the gentle river breezes to turn acrid.) When invitations went out, the Morrisseys—common if very rich gamblers—were repeatedly snubbed. As it turned out, it was not
    until John Morrissey’s death in 1878, when he was only 47 years old, that the society to which he had contributed so much paused to notice what were after all the remarkable accomplishments of the once impoverished and illiterate child of immigrants. The New York Times eulogized him at length while the flag at City Hall flew at half-mast, and 19,000 Trojans who would not have their native son as their neighbor in life marched somberly behind his coffin as the springtime rains fell.

    Copyright 2006 by Kenneth A. Salzmann

     #oldsmoke  #johnmorrissey  #clubhouse  #tammany  #canfieldcasino #deadrabbitgame  #pugilist