By ALLAN CARTER, Historian, National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
The period of prosperity enjoyed by Saratoga Race Course from the mid 1970s through the 1980s continued its momentum into the 1990s. In order to capitalize on this popularity, in 1991 the New York Racing Association extended the 24-day meet —which had been the norm since 1946 — to 30 days. In 1994 the season was expanded to 34 days, and in 1997 it was extended once again, this time to 36 days.
Several horses who would later be inducted into the Hall of Fame played a large part in the track's success:
•Go for Wand won the 1990 Test and Alabama, and later that same year was buried in Saratoga's infield after her fatal breakdown during the running of the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
•Sky Beauty won the 1992 Adirondack, the 1993 Alabama, and 1994 Go for Wand.
•Lonesome Glory, who was a five-time winner of the Eclipse Award for steeplechasers, won the 1995 A.P, Smithwick and New York Turf Writers' Handicaps.
•Holy Bull won what was perhaps the most memorable race at Saratoga during the 1990s when he barely managed to hold off the onrushing Concern to win the 1994 Travers.
•Silverbulletday won the 1999 Alabama by nine lengths.
•Although he will never be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Fourstardave, the "Sultan of Saratoga," won the 1990 and 1991 Daryl's Joy, the 1991 West Point Handicap, a 1992 open company allowance race, a 1993 handicap, and a 1994 open company allowance race. Combined with victories in 1987, 1988, and 1989, the popular New York-bred gelding accounted for at least one win in eight consecutive seasons at Saratoga, a record that most likely will never be broken.
Other champions who distinguished themselves at Saratoga during the last decade of the 20th century were Favorite Trick, who won the 1997 Saratoga Special and Hopeful and 1998 Jim Dandy before finishing fifth, only two lengths from the winner, in the King's Bishop; Dehere, who won the 1993 Saratoga Special, Sanford and Hopeful; and Heavenly Prize, who started her Saratoga career by finishing third on a sloppy track in the 1994 Test, but made amends by winning the Alabama two weeks later and the 1995 Go for Wand, and John A. Morris Handicap.
Memorable races at Saratoga in the 1990s included Victory Gallop's win by a nose over Behrens in the 1999 Whitney, Hidden Lake's victory over a stubborn Flat Fleet Feet in the 1997 Go for Wand, and the win by Coronado's Quest by a nose over Victory Gallop, who in turn beat Raffie's Majesty by another nose, in the 1998 Travers.
Angel Cordero, Jr., who etched his name permanently in Saratoga Race Course history by winning 13 Saratoga riding titles, retired after the 1992 season. Chris Antley succeeded Cordero as the leading jockey in 1990, followed by Mike Smith (1991-1993), Jerry Bailey (1994-1997, 1999), and John Velazquez (1998).