Timeline: 1920-1929



By ALLAN CARTER, Historian, National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame

Saratoga Race Course enjoyed a period of great prosperity in the 1920s. A record number of spectators thronged to the track, and the Saratoga Association stimulated this popularity by adding more trees, flowers, and shrubbery, and creating a new lake in the infield.

Future Hall of Famers Man o’ War and Sir Barton established themselves as the two best horses in the country in 1920 at the Spa. The 3-year-old Man o’ War, who earlier in the year won the Preakness and Belmont, won the Miller and Travers. Sir Barton, meanwhile, a 4-year-old who became racing’s first Triple Crown winner the year before, won the Saratoga Handicap and Merchants’ and Citizens’ Handicap in 1920.

Another star on the Saratoga scene was the popular gelding Exterminator. The future Hall of Famer took the Saratoga Cup in 1920, and In 1921 and 1922 he took over as the star of Saratoga, winning the 1921 Merchants’ and Citizens’ Handicap, and a second Saratoga Cup in a walkover. In 1922, Exterminator, known as “Old Bones” to his many fans, ended his career at Saratoga by winning his third straight Saratoga Cup of the decade, and fourth overall.

After several upgrades had been made to the track, there was an increase in attendance during this decade. In 1927, to better serve the increase of crowds, the Saratoga Association hired LaFarge, Warren and Clark to design a new clubhouse. In 1928, the existing Clubhouse was demolished and replaced with a new, larger clubhouse, the one that people see today. The three-story Clubhouse provided better views of the track, improved kitchen and bathroom facilities, and direct access to the Grandstand.

Although there were no other outstanding horses to star at the Spa for the remaining years of the Roaring Twenties, in 1929 a pair of 2-year-olds were warming up for their appearance in the historic 1930 Travers, future Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox and the horse that would be his nemesis, Jim Dandy.

The final year of the decade also saw the deaths of a number of people who had figured prominently in Saratoga’s history: Hall of Fame trainers James Rowe, Sr., Sam Hildreth, and John Madden; Mars Cassidy, who was instrumental in popularizing the starting gate; and Richard T. Wilson, who had encouraged William C. Whitney to buy the moribund Saratoga Race Course from Gottfried Walbaum, and later served as its president.

 August 21, 1920

Man o’ War wins the Travers after winning the Miller two weeks earlier.


August 28, 1920

Sir Barton wins the Merchants’ and Citizens’ Handicap after winning the Saratoga Handicap.


August 31, 1920

Grey Lag, who was 3-year-old male champion and Horse of the Year in 1921, finishes tenth to Leonardo in the Hopeful; Exterminator wins the Saratoga Cup after finishing second to Sir Barton in the Saratoga Handicap and second to Gnome in the Champlain Handicap.


August 31, 1921

Exterminator wins his second Saratoga Cup in a walkover after winning the Merchants’ and Citizens’ Handicap four days earlier.

August 17, 1918 Exterminator, the winner of that year’s Kentucky Derby, finishes fourth in the Travers. Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

  August 31, 1922

Exterminator wins the Saratoga Cup.



 Skidmore College was chartered.


August 10, 1923

Racing cancelled in respect for the recently deceased President Warren G. Harding.



First African-American business opens on Congress St.

 August 12, 1924

Princess Doreen, who was successful against both males and females, often while carrying top weight, finishes second to Priscilla Ruley in the Alabama.


August 26, 1924

Sarazen wins the Huron Handicap after winning the Saranac Handicap three weeks earlier. Named for the famous golfer, he was champion at three and four. Even as a 2-year-old he was ten for ten with four stakes wins.


 July 30, 1926

Princess Doreen wins the Saratoga Handicap; Sarazen finishes fifth.


 August 4, 1926

Sarazen finishes ninth and last to Single Foot in the Delaware Handicap.


 August 21, 1926

Princess Doreen finishes fourth to Flagstaff in the Merchants’ and Citizens’ Handicap.


August 24, 1926

Crusader wins the Huron Handicap after finishing fourth to Mars in the Travers. A son of Man o’ War, he was champion 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year in 1926.


 August 28, 1926

Princess Doreen finishes fourth to Espino in the Saratoga Cup.



In 1900 Spencer and Katrina Trask founded the Corporation of Yaddo to provide a retreat for artists, musicians and writers. Yaddo opened in 1926.


August 1, 1927

Sarazen finishes fourth to Pompey in the Inaugural Handicap.


 September 1, 1928

Blue Larkspur, the champion 3-year old male of 1929, finishes second to Jack High in the Hopeful; Reigh Count, a winner in both England and the United States, wins the Saratoga Cup.


August 3, 1929

Gallant Fox, Triple Crown winner of 1930, finishes second to Caruso in the United States Hotel after winning the first race of his career, the Flash, five days earlier.


 August 16, 1929

Jolly Roger, one of the most popular steeplechase horses in the 1920’s who won five stakes in 1927, finishes fifth and last to Personality after falling in the Beverwyck Steeplechase Handicap.