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.