Here, for the first time, is the story of how America's first national resort gave birth to, then nurtured, its first national sport, introducing the country to a parade of champions and their spectacular supporting characters. To experience this adventure is to see why the Saratoga Race Course, America's oldest major sports facility remains one of its most beloved and most successful. They're Off! is as much a social history as it is sports history. Edward Hotaling opens with a little-known visit by the first famous tourist, George Washington, who tried to buy the place he called "the Saratoga Springs." Soon the pursuit of happiness at our original vacationland helped redefine America. Even at the height of the Civil War, the country's first organized sport was launched on a national scale.
The first thoroughbred race in the U.S. was held at Saratoga Springs in 1847, and the first national thoroughbred race took place there during the Civil War, when the upstate New York town began to establish itself as the country's prime resort. Throughout the Gilded Age, Saratoga lured Astors, Vanderbilts, Belmonts and other millionaires and became known for its huge and lavish hotels, its gambling houses and, very incidentally, its restorative waters. Its 42-day season was short, but it still lured the top horses for flat and harness racing and even steeplechasing. Among the great mounts that raced there for the Travers Stakes, begun in 1864, or the Saratoga Cup, started a year later, were Longfellow, probably the best thoroughbred of the 19th century, Man o' War, who suffered his only loss there, Whirlaway and Secretariat. Saratoga's two-legged visitors included presidents and gangsters, writers and movie stars. Television director and scriptwriter Hotaling tells its exciting story well, and the 95 illustrations are worthy of the text. (Aug.)
Built in 1864 as the nation's first horse racing facility, Saratoga (New York) race course is one of the sport's hallowed sites. Each summer, many of the finest thoroughbreds compete there in a setting steeped with history and social splendor. Hotaling, a television writer and producer, uses an extensive array of resources to document the track's history and highlight many of its memorable races, fabled equines, and human stars. Simultaneously, he details the development and social history of Saratoga the resort, historically a magnet for the wealthy and famous. Important inclusions are frequent references to the roles of African Americans and women both on and off the track. There is a vast amount of detail here, supported by an expansive notes and bibliography section. The narrative style makes for fluid reading, and the breadth of material makes the book a useful resource for a number of topics. A solid recommendation for academic and public libraries.-David Van de Streek, Pennsylvania State Univ. Libs., York
As much social history as sports history, this is an account of how America's first national resort, Saratoga Springs, gave birth to and nurtured its first national sport and in the process had significant impact on American cultural life. Fine b&w photographs, etchings, and drawings illustrate the text. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)