Officials Hope To See Justify Race At Saratoga
Three years ago, after American Pharoah became the first thoroughbred to win the Triple Crown in 37 years, a grassroots campaign was launched to bring the famed horse to Saratoga Race Course for the Travers. Pharoah’s run at the Mid-Summer Derby ended in a stunning defeat. But with a new Triple Crown champion Justify three years later, hopes are high in Saratoga Springs that he too will race at the Spa.
It wasn’t long after Justify’s victory at the Belmont Stakes that Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus started getting phone calls.
“It started right away on Saturday with some phone calls, emails, text messages,” said Shimkus.
They were from a variety of players all thinking the same thing: how do we get Justify to the Travers in August?
Three years ago, the Chamber partnered with local marketing company Fingerpaint to launch the #Pharoahtoga campaign to bring champion American Pharoah to town.
There were t-shirts, hats, you name it. The city was in on it too. The city council passed a resolution to welcome the horse trained by Bob Baffert. Baffert also happens to be Justify’s trainer.
Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said she wants to see a similar resolution this summer.
“Let’s get everybody together and pull out a warm welcome for Justify,” said Madigan.
New York Racing Association spokesman Pat McKenna said Saratoga Race Course always draws the best horses and teams for its summer meet, no matter what happens in the Triple Crown season.
“However, it’s always fantastic and certainly adds to the anticipation here as the racing world looks forward to the opening of the Spa on July 20th.”
The excitement for American Pharoah in 2015 led to a well-attended season. Before Travers day, thousands of fans turned out just to watch the horse’s morning warmups.
But with all the excitement surrounding Justify, McKenna said racing fans should remember that the most important thing is to do what’s best for the horse.
“That is absolutely the priority. It’s been a condensed and intense 112-day campaign for Justify, who, remember, did not race as a 2-year old,” said McKenna. “So they need to rightly take some time. He’s now back at Churchill Downs. He’ll then continue on to Santa Anita, which will be his home base. And then they’ll take some time and a much-needed breather and figure out what’s next.”
Baffert seemed to brush aside a notion that he shies away from bringing champions to Saratoga. After the win at Belmont, he told reporters there:
“Everybody thinks I'm so opposed to Saratoga, but I really do like it there."
With the racing meet more than a month away, Shimkus said things are already looking good for the Saratoga summer tourism season.
“I’m definitely hearing from the hotels across the city and across the county that there’s an uptick in sort of the pre-registration, pre-bookings for hotels for this summer. Everybody believes we’re going to have a strong summer. This year the economy’s good. So we have all these things in alignment,” said Shimkus.
It remains to be seen what the official hashtag will be.