The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame manages to share the excitement of thoroughbred racing, while simultaneously documenting the history of racing in America and lauding the achievements of the horses, trainers and jockeys who make a day at the races such a thrill.
This Museum epitomizes Saratoga Springs and its changing fortunes in more ways than one. Founded by passionate horse-lovers in 1950, it occupied a tiny room in Canfield Casino for a handful of years. In 1955, with support from patrons, the city and the Saratoga Racing Association, the museum relocated to its current, airy and light-filled building across the street from the Race Course itself. Since then, it has been gussied up, gilded and expanded, and this year, it will introduce its biggest renovation yet.
Like Saratoga Springs itself—newly flush in recent decades from nouveau tech cash, a resurgence of old money and the good old-fashioned desire for the good life at a reasonable price—the Museum has become a world-class place that not only meets but exceeds the bar set by other national institutions dedicated to the art and science of racing.
And like many newly refurbished Saratoga institutions, there are a handful of passionate supporters who can be credited with its current glory. The $20 million renovation was spearheaded by John Hendrickson, the museum president, and its coffers were padded by the Whitney family, longtime friends and benefactors of racing.
The exhibits document the history of thoroughbred racing from the 18th century onward. Neophytes as well as racing aficionados will find a lot to study and love, from information on the Hall of Fame horses, jockeys and trainers, to the gorgeous and awe-inspiring fine art renditions of horses by equine master painters and sculptors.
The Women in Racing exhibition, unveiled in 2019, is the highly acclaimed culmination of many years spent documenting the profound yet often unsung role that women have played in the sport.
For visitors eager—but not quite talented enough to hit the turf— the Ready to Ride! Thoroughbred Racing Simulator is an irresistible way to try one’s ability to hit the finish line.
For children and young-at-heart adults, the HorsePlay! Gallery is a delight, with its costumes to try on, life-sized plush horses to “groom,” play areas and a plethora of horse-themed toys and books to choose from.
The main attraction, however, is the new Hall of Fame theater, created by Donna Lawrence Productions, whose numerous credits also include work at the White House Visitor Center, the New York Historical Society and the Kentucky Derby Museum. Here you will be virtually transported into the incredible experiences associated with the sport of thoroughbred racing. At the conclusion of this thrilling 360° cinematic experience, visitors can explore at their leisure interactive plaques highlighting many of the members of the Official National Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame.
Events + Programming
Visitors can take advantage of several types of tours, from guided tours of the Museum itself, to walking tours of the famed Oklahoma Training Track (May through October). Legendary race caller Tom Durkin leads guided Museum tours on most days during the racing season. The Museum also sponsors tours of local breeding farms.
The Museum hosts several annual events during racing season, including the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the nearby Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion (open to the public) and the Annual Museum Ball (invitation only). Visit www.racingmuseum.org for more details.
Don’t miss the gorgeous eye-catching display of colorful jockey statues lining the front entrance of the Museum. Also don’t miss the Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Courtyard, featuring a John Skeaping bronze of Secretariat, more jockey statues and personalized bricks purchased by Museum supporters.
Kathleen Willcox lives in Saratoga Springs with her husband and twins. She writes about the culture and politics of food and wine as well as travel and lifestyle; her work regularly appears in Wine Enthusiast, SevenFifty Daily and Edible Capital District.