Saratoga Races

Recognized as the oldest sporting venue in America, Saratoga Springs thoroughbred racing had its start on August 3, 1863, when Irish-American boxer, New York gang member, and gaming impresario John Morrissey (later a Tammany Hall Democratic congressman) organized a four-day thoroughbred race meeting at the old Saratoga Trotting Course on Union Avenue. The meet brought more than 15,000 to the track from across the country, including millionaires, political figures, gentlemen, and fashionable women, who watched the races from their carriages. The meet was so successful that Morrissey and a group of investors formed the Saratoga Association, purchased land across the street from the Trotting Course, and constructed the Saratoga Race Course, which still stands today as one of the oldest race courses in America.

The Travers Stakes, one of the top racing events for three-year-old thoroughbreds, holds the distinction of being the very first race ever run at Saratoga Race Course on its opening day, August 2, 1864. Named after the first president of the Saratoga Association, William R. Travers, the first edition of the race was won by his own horse Kentucky, which he co-owned with John Hunter and George Osgood.

Except for a few years in 1911 and 1912, and again from 1943 to 1945, the race course has held thoroughbred races annually. From a five-day meeting in 1864, the racing season has grown to six weeks, running from July through Labor Day weekend.

The iconic Man o’ War Cup  has been presented to the victor of the Travers Stakes annually since the early twentieth century. Modeled after a trophy presented to racing legend Man o’ War after defeating the first Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton, in a match race held at Kenilworth Park in Windsor, Ontario, this Tiffany & Company replica serves as a reminder of racing greatness and Man o’ War’s own Travers Stakes victory in 1920.

Magnifying Glass
Man o’ War Cup, Travers Stakes, Won by Lights Up
Tiffany & Company, New York City
1950
Sterling silver, gilt
Magnifying Glass
Race Course – Saratoga
c. 1867
Color relief print on paper
Courtesy of Private Collection