Racing fans, horsepeople and the crustiest of bettors are anticipating the beginning of the prestigious Saratoga meeting this Friday, July 12. The ‘Spa’ is horse heaven with a magical ambience including tall trees, picnic areas, and the historical old grandstand.

Opened in 1863, it is often considered to be the oldest major sporting venue of any kind in the U.S. It is the fourth-oldest racetrack after Pleasanton Fairgrounds Racetrack (1858), Freehold Raceway (1854) and Fair Grounds Race Course (1852).

The Saratoga meet originally lasted only four days and has been lengthened gradually since that time. From 1962 to 1990, the meet lasted four weeks and began in late July or early August. In 2010, the meet expanded to 40 racing days, with races held five days per week. It lasts from mid-July through Labor Day in early September.

Winning a race during the Saratoga meeting is a dream for any owner, trainer, jockey, groom and the like. It’s ultra special when a Canadian horse and his people can invade the big names and come out a winner.

Some may remember the great Overskate, owned and bred by Jack Stafford, taking the off-the-turf Bernard Baruch in 1979, his seventh straight win at the time. Yes, it does tend to rain a lot at the Spa.

In 1982, Runaway Groom upset the winners of all three Triple Crown race winners in the Travers Stakes. In 2009, Careless Jewel, while not Canadian-bred, stunned her rivals in the Grade 1 Alabama, winning by 11 lengths for the Canadian team of Donver Stable, Josie Carroll and jockey Robert Landry.

Jambalaya and Mr Havercamp are other stakes winners from Ontario at the Spa.

This year’s meeting, hopefully, will be much better than last year’s when a rash of breakdowns just about wiped racing off the map, at least from the public eye. Studies on 14 horse deaths at last year’s meeting (racing and training) did not uncover any definitive answers but did not rule out heavy rain during the meet.

Canadian-breds are right in the thick of the action on the opening weekend.

Canada’s darling, MOIRA, makes her 2024 debut in the Diana Stakes (G1) one of the most prestigious races for fillies and mares on the grass. It’s an ambitious spot to be sure, as in Saturday’s race she has to meet DIDIA (Arg), who just won the Grade 1 New York Handicap, Whitebeam, winner of last year’s Diana, and CHILI FLAG (Fr), winner of the Grade 1 Just a Game on June 7. Just to name a few.

Oh and trainer Chad Brown has five entered in the race and he’s won seven of the last editions of the Diana.

But in 1985, plucky bay LAKE COUNTRY, bred by E.P. Taylor, won the Diana to become the only Canuck-bred to win the 1 1/8 mile turf event. She raced for local owners Prowse and McIntosh and trainer Donnie Walker. Jeff Fell rode.

Moira has worked extensively at Woodbine to prepare for her return, including a bullet five-eighths in 59.80 seconds over the Tapeta on June 29 before a half-mile move in 50.20 Saturday.

“I think this is a bigger, stronger version of her right now. Physically, this is the best she’s looked. She’s matured from four to five and she’s worked very well heading into this race,” said Attard. “Going nine furlongs against Grade 1 company, coming off of a seven-month layoff is not going to be easy, but she’s a good horse and I think she deserves a chance.”

Moira [post 1, Tyler Gaffalione], was a last-out third in the ten-furlong Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita after achieving that result traveling the same distance in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor in October at Woodbine Racetrack.

The five-year-old Ontario-bred daughter of Ghostzapper, who is owned by Lanni Bloodstock, Madaket Stables, and SF Racing, boasts a storied resume that also features Woodbine’s 2022 Queen’s Plate against males and Woodbine Oaks en route to 2022 Canadian Horse of the Year honors.

Another Ontario-bred in the field is RyZan Sun Racing and Madaket Stables’ dual Grade 3-winner Mission of Joy [post 3, John Velazquez], who looks to improve upon a close third in the Just a Game for conditioner Graham Motion.


On Friday, Canadian-bred three-year-old fillies DAZZLING MOVE and DANCING DUCHESS are in stakes events. The former is in the $135,000 Wilton Stakes at 1 mile on the dirt for Sonata Stable. Bred by Jesse Korona of Toronto, Dazzling Move had been expected to compete in the Woodbine Oaks on July 20 but will stay on dirt.

Dancing Duchess, bred by Mitch Kursner, tries the Coronation Cup at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf, worth $150,000. The Mark Casse trainee recently won the Alywow Stakes.