Timeline: 1940-1949



By TERESA GENARO, founder of Brooklynbackstretch.com and turf writer for The Saratogian

Though the decade saw four Triple Crown winners (Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault, and Citation), only one of them came to Saratoga. And when he did, he accomplished something no other horse has before, or since.

Whirlaway first came to Saratoga as a 2-year-old in 1940, winning the Saratoga Special and the Hopeful, while finishing second in the United States Hotel and Grand Union Hotel Stakes. As a 3-year-old, he added the Saranac and the Travers, becoming the only horse in history to win the Triple Crown and Saratoga’s Midsummer Derby.

The decade began with the remodeling of the 1928 clubhouse, which included the introduction of the wrought iron Beaux Art detailing that has since come to characterize Saratoga Race Course.

The first pari-mutuel betting machines, installed at approximately 300 betting windows, arrived in 1940. Several years later, the extension of the betting ring, on the second floor of the clubhouse, was completed.

No racing was conducted from 1943-45 because of World War II, and when it resumed, Stymie came to Saratoga and won the Saratoga Cup in a walkover, three weeks after winning the Whitney Handicap.

The decade saw the founding of one Saratoga institution, the harness track, across Nelson Avenue from the Race Course in 1941, and the destruction of another, when the United States Hotel was taken down in 1945.

The land on which the Sanford Stud Farm’s private stables sat, across Nelson Avenue on the grounds of what is now the harness track, was conveyed to the Saratoga Association, becoming part of the property of Saratoga Race Course. A decade of change in the nation and the world, the 1940s saw change touch Saratoga, too, in the form of architectural and technological improvements. As the post-war years were ebullient and prosperous for the country, so too was the end of the decade at Saratoga characterized by optimism for the future.

July 29, 1940

Pari-Mutuel betting is introduced at Saratoga


 August 3, 1940

Eight Thirty finishes third to Sickle T. in the Saratoga Handicap after winning the Wilson four days earlier.


 August 27, 1940

Challedon, Horse of the Year in 1939 and 1940, wins the Whitney.


 August 31, 1940

Whirlaway wins the Hopeful after winning the Saratoga Special and finishing second to Attention in the United States Hotel and second to New World in the Grand Union Hotel.


Actual photo of Whirlaway at Naragansett.

July 28, 1941

The daily double is introduced at Saratoga.


 August 16, 1941

Whirlaway wins the Travers, becoming the first, and only, Triple Crown winner to do so; ten days earlier he had won the Saranac Handicap.

Whirlaway was the only horse in history to win the Triple Crown and Saratoga’s Midsummer Derby. Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

August 30, 1941

Devil Diver wins the Hopeful after winning the Sanford and finishing third to 1942 Kentucky Derby winner Shut Out in the Grand Union Hotel.



Saratoga Harness Track Opens. 



August 28, 1942

Elkridge finishes second to Iron Shot in the Saratoga Steeplechase Handicap after winning the North American Steeplechase Handicap and finishing second to Invader in the Beverwyck Steeplechase Handicap. He raced for eleven years, and was named champion steeplechaser in 1942 and 1946.



The Saratoga meet is held at Belmont due to World War II travel restrictions.


United States Hotel is razed. By the 1940’s tourism had changed drastically in Saratoga Springs. Large hotels like the United States were designed to accommodate long term visitors. WWII affected the city. Racing was canceled 1943-1945. The lack of guests ended the hotel’s rein and it was torn down in 1946, leaving a large void downtown.


 August 5, 1946

Racing returns to Saratoga; Gallorette finishes second and Stymie fifth to Pavot in the Wilson. In 1955 a poll of trainers named Gallorette the best filly/mare in American history.


August 10, 1946

Stymie, who was claimed for $1500 by trainer Hirsch Jacobs and went on to become the first Thoroughbred to win $900,000, wins the Whitney.


 August 16, 1946

Elkridge wins the North American Steeplechase Handicap.


 August 31, 1946

Stymie wins the Saratoga Cup in a walkover after winning the Whitney and finishing second to King Dorsett , and Gallorette third, to King Dorsett in the Delaware Purse.


 August 23, 1947

Gallorette finishes second to Rico Monte in the Saratoga Handicap after winning the Wilson and finishing second, and Stymie third, to Rico Monte in the Whitney.


 August 21, 1948

Gallorette finishes fifth to Loyal Legion in the Saratoga Handicap after winning her second Wilson and the Whitney. 


 August 27, 1948

Elkridge finishes third to Tourist List in the Saratoga Steeplechase Handicap after winning the Shillelah Steeplechase and the North American Steeplechase Handicap.



Saratoga Battlefield becomes National Park. The Battlefield first became a State Park in 1927. In 1938 the federal government acquired the land and ten years later it opened as a Saratoga national Historical Park. The site present tour road and museum were constructed in the 1960’s.


 August 16, 1949

Bed o’ Roses, a champion at two and four, finishes fourth to Sunday Evening in the Spinaway after finishing sixth to Striking in the Schuylerville.