If Walt Disney had ever built a racetrack, it would have been Saratoga.
A Magic Kingdom of horses, a slave to tradition, where one feels that every lick of paint has been analyzed and every pebble has been aesthetically placed, Saratoga appears a time capsule to the glory days of the Sport of Kings. True to its architectural past, it is a Victorian enclave where racing horses has been the way of life since, I was told repeatedly, 1864.
The only thing Saratoga was missing was background music, perfectly pitched themed tunes, maybe Prohibition-era Jazz, gently wafting from faux-stone speakers on the many gravel horse-paths and sidewalks. Then this truly would have been a walk right down the middle of Main Street U.S.A., Belle Epoque horse-racing style.
And Saratoga was quiet at night – too quiet – and walks under its tree-lined horsepaths at night would have benefited from soft music. But then you’d hear in the background, jarring you from reverie, the insistent thump-thump-thump of a loud sound system. That would be the Horseshoe, across the street from the backside gate. That would be a loud, nightly party. Because horsepeople, evidently, like to party.
We got away from the noise at the aptly named Oklahoma track. I don’t know why it’s called Oklahoma – feel free to enlighten me! – but if it because it is remote and rustic, works for me. Across the street from the turn for home, manned by security guards who stop traffic for horses headed to the main track, this collection of single shed-row barns, neatly placed in rows next to a training track of its own, is a little Thoroughbred fairy tale of flower gardens, decorated walls, and raked, raked, raked again gravel.