Timeline: 1890-1899



By MIKE KANE, racing historian and contributing editor for Saratoga Living magazine

While it was the Gay 90s elsewhere, the final decade of the 19th century was the darkest period for racing in Saratoga Springs.

Under the ownership of the notorious Gottfried Walbaum, the quality of competition slipped badly, prominent races like the Travers and Alabama were not run in some years and the track was closed in 1896. A good barometer of the decline of racing is that only two future Hall of Fame horses, Henry of Navarre and Hamburg, won races at Saratoga after Walbaum gained control prior to the 1892 season.

Walbaum operated gambling houses in New York City and was a principal in the Hudson County Jockey Club, which ran the infamous Guttenburg track that conducted winter racing in Bergen County, N.J. In 1891, Walbaum and associates purchased Saratoga Race Course from Edward Spencer, who also ran the gambling house now known as the Canfield Casino. Among the changes the Walbaum group introduced was moving the first post time from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., which infuriated hotel owners, and a controversial betting area for women.

Newspapers reported dissatisfaction with Walbaum's management of the track and there were allegations of races being fixed. In 1894, the newly formed Jockey Club and the horsemen in New York sought assurances from the Saratoga group that it would adhere to the same standards that were in place at New York City tracks. Walbaum agreed and a 30-day meeting was held. By the next year, with anti-gambling sentiment growing, betting prohibited at the race course, and the racing product continuing to deteriorate, business was so bad at the track that the season was shortened from 40 to 28 days. The situation was so dire that The New York Times reported on Aug. 11 that racing would not be held in 1896.

The Saratoga Association cancelled the season in January because of a dispute with the Jockey Club over the number of exclusive August dates it received. Rather than compete with the Coney Island Jockey Club track for horses and attention after Friday, Aug. 14, the Saratoga Association announced it would not conduct racing. Its statement said: "The dates allotted give to us only 11 racing days in August without conflict. This leaves the association no other alternative other than to cancel the meeting or to sustain a heavy loss."

Racing returned on July 28, 1897 and a 22-day meeting was held. Walbaum operated the track for the remainder of the decade, but Saratoga racing had clearly lost its luster.

 July 29, 1890

Kingston finishes second to Los Angeles in the Excelsior. His 89 career wins is still a record, and he was only out of the money four times in 132 starts.


July 25, 1892

Saratoga Race Course opens under the ownership of Gottfried Waldbaum.



Trolley service begins making travel within Saratoga Springs much faster than by horse and buggy.



Convention Hall opens on Broadway. This building could sit 5,000 people and held many conventions, political rallies, and sporting events before it's destruction by fire in 1965.


Photo circa 1907.


Catholic Church for French-Canadians opens.


The Trask mansion at Yaddo is re-built after a fire that destroyed their home.


 July 23, 1894

Henry of Navarre wins the Travers.  A champion at three and four, he is best known for beating the great Domino four times.



First motor car in town.


Richard Canfield acquires sole ownership of the Saratoga Clubhouse from Albert Spencer and Charles Reed. This makes the way for Canfield's expansion of the clubhouse and installation of the Italian Gardens in Congress Park.



Springs are tapped to make carbonic acid gas for soda fountains. The soda fountain industry nearly depleted all of the mineral springs. Companies pumped out mass amounts of water, dumped it and collected the carbonic gas for sale. 


Photo from the 1870s of High Rock Spring and the Seltzer Springs Bottling House.


Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show visits Saratoga Springs. Saratoga was a favorite stop over for many themed shows including the circus. 



Saratoga Hospital opens on Division Street.



First Floral Fete held. These festivals focused around a massive floral parade. Residents decorated vehicles, wagons and bicycles and marched down Broadway in festive affair. 



First Jewish boarding house opens. Saratoga Springs was not without predjuce and racism. Some hotels restricted Jews from staying there prompting the establishment of Jewish boarding houses opening on the east side of the city.



Saratoga Race Course is closed for financial reasons.


 July 28, 1897

Hamburg wins the Flash. A son of Hanover, as a 2-year-old he won stakes carrying from 129 to 135 pounds.



Polo was officially started in Saratoga Springs in 1898 when William Collins Whitney established The Saratoga Polo Club.  In 2004 Saratoga Springs’ residents Jim Rossi and Mike Bucci purchased the Saratoga Polo Club and the tradition of polo in Saratoga continues to this day.


Photo displayed circa 1910.