The Lowdown on Saratoga Harness Racing
Editor's Note (2/3/2021): The 79th season of live harness racing took place at Saratoga Casino Hotel in 2020 without fans in attendance. We will provide updates on the 2021 harness racing season as info is released.
The harness track has a 70+ year history in Saratoga, making it a younger sibling to the Saratoga Race Course, which dates back 150+ years. There are many more ways in which the two horse racing venues differ. Our goal here is to make those differences clear.
How long is the season for harness racing in Saratoga?
The racing season at the Saratoga harness track runs almost the entire year. The only month there's no harness racing is January, with harness racing starting up again in late February and running until mid-December. This is very different from Saratoga Race Course, where the racing season at Saratoga is only 40 days from mid-July through Labor Day.
When does the first race begin and the last one end?
Make sure to double check start times for each racing day at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Some days racing starts at 12:00 p.m., while other days racing starts at 7:15 p.m. There's about 20 minutes between each race.
What is the cost of admission?
Parking and admission are free. There are handicap accessible parking spaces in the parking lot, as well as ramps throughout the property. The casino also offers automatic doors for those patrons with special needs. Guests can enjoy complimentary coffee, tea, soda, juice, and water while they play on the gaming floor. Alcoholic beverages are available, but are not complimentary. Note: The harness track is currently not open to spectators.
Can children attend the harness races?
Children accompanied by an adult are allowed in the grandstand, lower clubhouse, outdoors on the track apron and in the mezzanine, where there is simulcast racing being broadcast. They are not allowed on the gaming floor of the casino. Note: The harness track is currently not open to spectators.
How do the casino and hotel figure into the harness track?
The Saratoga harness track is part of a large casino and 117-room hotel complex called Saratoga Casino Hotel. Harness track guests can watch live races outdoors at the rail, in the lower clubhouse, up in the grandstand, or while dining at Lucky Joe's. Hotel guests can also watch from their rooms. Note: The harness track is currently not open to spectators.
What are the facilities like at the harness track?
The harness track is part of a larger campus at the Saratoga Casino Hotel. The track is accessed at the eastern end of the property, and is connected to the casino, which has several floor areas devoted to video gaming.
The interior rooms at the track, casino, Vapor Night Club, bar areas, restaurants, and hotel are air-conditioned. There's a lot of room to roam and sample the different gaming, eating and people-watching action.
In addition to the Vapor Night Club, Saratoga Casino Hotel features Morton's, a top-tier steakhouse that serves premium steaks, pork chops, shrimp, lobster and a la carte side dishes. The bar at Morton's has a separate menu, with happy hour pricing for appetizers.
The viewing area for the harness track has an indoor section where there's betting windows, a bar area and tables. The outside seating close to the track rail has bench seating. The atmosphere is informal. Guests are free to bring their own food, including coolers. Note: The harness track is currently not open to spectators.
How do you place your bet?
In a typical year, the harness track offers teller-operated betting windows and self-service terminals. If you are using a teller-operated window, be sure to say the racetrack you wish to wager on, the race number, amount you wish to wager and what type of wager you want to make. Once you pay for your wager, you will receive the mutuel ticket(s) showing your wagers. Check your ticket prior to leaving the mutuel window.
Self-betting machines are also available throughout the gaming facility. These machines are easy to operate. Simply insert money, a betting voucher (purchased at a mutuel window) or a winning ticket and you're ready to bet. Be sure to remove your ticket when you have completed your wager.
Where can I place a bet on the harness race?
Note: The harness track is currently closed to spectators. Fans can wager remotely on the races through the online wagering platform, SaratogaBets.com, or on any other New York State approved online waging platform.
Saratoga Race Course vs. Saratoga Harness: Difference?
Saratoga Race Course on Union Avenue is where thoroughbred horses are raced during the annual summer meet. Jockeys sit on top of the horses racing at the flat track, which has dirt and turf courses.
At Saratoga Casino Hotel, the racing oval is a half of a mile around. It is dirt and home to harness racing and standardbred horses. This form of racing requires horses to maintain a certain gait, which is called a trot or a pace. Most North American harness racing is done in the pace gait. The drivers sit behind the horse in a two-wheeled carriage called a sulky.
Race horses at the Saratoga flat track start their race in a gate, which is released open once all the horses are settled. At the harness track, a motorized starting gate moves forward ahead of horses and their drivers already in motion. The gates then fold shut, the pace car leaves the track and then the harness race has started.
How do I get to the Harness Track?
From the South
Take I-87 North to Exit 13N toward Saratoga Springs. Go north on US-9 and turn right onto Crescent Avenue.
From the North
Take I-87 to Exit 14. At the fork in the ramp take a right, follow Union Avenue past the Saratoga Race Course, and then turn left onto Nelson Avenue. Turn right onto Crescent Avenue at the 4-way stop, and Saratoga Casino Hotel is just ahead!