Updated 05/10/2012 05:41 PM
Plans unveiled for Saratoga Race Course's 150th anniversary
It's a party 150 years in the making and it all centers around the "summer place to be." Our Matt Hunter has more on next year's five month long celebration of historic Saratoga Race Course.
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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – "I feel like I've been here [Saratoga] 150 years!” joked Marylou Whitney, who will turn 87 this December.
With famed socialite Marylou Whitney leading the call to the post, the Spa City is gearing up for a grand celebration.
Next year, the community will celebrate the 150th anniversary of historic Saratoga Race Course, the nation's oldest active sporting venue.
"We'll do anything we can to help this race track,” said Whitney, who along wither husband, John Hendrickson, has been named an honorary co-chair of the celebration. “I love this race track, I think it's the greatest race track in the world."
Plans for the five month long "Saratoga 150" celebration, which kicks off next May, were unveiled at a track-side press conference Thursday morning.
Sponsors have already chipped in more than $100,000. Through sales of commemorative pins, clothing and memorabilia, the community will be asked to raise the rest.
"We've got a full five months of actives for the whole family and the vast majority is going to be free of charge," said Joe Dalton, the former CEO of the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce and coordinator of the “Saratoga 150” celebration.
In addition to a "Hooves of Fame Walk" honoring the greatest horses to ever cross the wire at Saratoga, plans include giving one lucky fan each Saturday , starting on Whitney Handicap Day, the chance to place a free $15,000 bet on the day's feature race.
The$75,000 for that promotion was contributed by the "Queen of the Spa" herself and her husband.
While the mood at Thursday's press conference was festive, the recent headlines around New York racing have nothing to cheer about.
Despite the recent ousting of NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward, many here believe the sport will still thrive in Saratoga.
"In years past there have been questions about the continuation of Saratoga racing and it's always been here and always will be here," Dalton said.
"As long as I'm alive and Marylou is alive, we're going to fight make sure it's always going to be fine,” Hendrickson said. “There will be some problems, but we're going to be ok."