Tuesday, August 22, 2017

What to Wear Where: Off to the Races!

Webb Egerton with Brian Owens, whose horse just won!
by Karen Klopp & Hilary Dick

Continuing our summer tour of the Eastern Seaboard,
from Newport, I traveled to Watermill for The Hampton Cup while Hilary headed north to the races to be thoroughly entertained by Webb Egerton and her family.  Saratoga Springs, New York was founded on two principles — horse and health!

Know as “the Queen of the Spas, the town is home to the only naturally carbonated mineral springs east of the Rocky Mountains and has a rich history as a health resort since the 19th century. Aided by the arrival of the railroad, well-to-do summer guests would escape the heat and stream into the town to “take the cure.”  They were eager to follow their sophisticated European counterparts’ tradition of imbibing and bobbing in the bubbly. Ah, I long for those days before fitness was a virtue.
The Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York, ca. 1880. At the end of the 19th century, Saratoga Springs was a popular summer resort for East Coast society. And the Grand Union Hotel was, by far, the grandest hotel in Saratoga. In its day, it was the world's largest hostelry, covering seven acres of ground with 834 rooms, 12 miles of red carpeting and a solid square mile of marble tiling.
Gambling was a very popular pastime in the town, and its landmark Canfield’s Casino (now the Saratoga Springs History Museum) was referred to at the time as the “American Monte Carlo.” As public opinion turned against the gaming institutions, proprietors created private clubs to satisfy their wealthy clientele who needed entertainment between the races. But not all were welcome at these posh establishments, including locals, women and those not deemed worthy. Hmmmm.
After several seasons as the focus of political and religious scrutiny, public gambling was shut down in Saratoga. Guests resorted to private clubs while newspaper editorials complained “ ... crowds can do nothing but sit on hotel porches and gossip.” 
During its heyday the upstairs High Stakes Gambling Room at Canfield’s was where high-hats might drop a fortune. Today, the Saratoga Springs History Museum has recreated the gambling room’s original ambiance with much of the casino’s original furniture. Courtesy of Saratoga Springs History Museum.
Thankfully, the rich history of wagering on thoroughbreds continues today. Opened in 1863, Saratoga Race Track is among the earliest of race tracks in the country.  It has been a summer destination for many enthusiasts since its start.

Brooke Egerton, cub reporter and former What2WearWhere intern, interviewed some of the owners and regulars to discover the essence of the town. She began with her grandfather, Stanley Petter, who was emphatic when sharing with her that “Saratoga is a state of mind, it's like utopia. It has everything anybody would ever want; beautiful houses that are well maintained, the star battlefields (the battle of Saratoga was one of the first battle won by Washington), trees, grass, sweet corn, and did I mention the amazing horses? There are many tracks that are wonderful but no track has horses like Saratoga because it has the best quality of racing.”
Stanley Petter with Brooke and Avery Egerton
Fourth generation Hutchi Hancock chimed in, “I grew up coming here and my great grandfather started coming here so many years ago making the history of Saratoga very important to me. Getting to see the same people every year and having the community of Saratoga makes it special, as does the horses because they are so celebrated here and an important part of the culture in Saratoga.” 
Hutchi Hancock and Ben Kruger.
Her dad Arthur Hancock of Stone Farm concurred, “For me I've been coming here for sixty years and my great grandfather came up here to sell horses. It's a quaint country-like atmosphere with nice people and a lovely community with the best horses in the country.”
Arthur Hancock of Stone Farm.
Bill Farish, founder of Woodford Racing, wholeheartedly agrees. “Saratoga is geared towards big summer races and it's always been the best racing.  It is a place where a lot of two-year-olds make their debuts and it's exciting to see them race, being some of the best bred horses in the country.  It's the quality of racing Saratoga has  that sets it apart from others.”

Bill Farish, founder of Woodford Racing.
The pace quickens down the stretch in August with The Horse Sales, the Museum or Racing of Racing  Ball and the high-stakes Travers Cup on August 26. We were thrilled to catch up with Webb Egerton, horsewoman par excellence and an expert on the Saratoga racing and social scene.  She hosted Hilary on their whirlwind days of Reading Room, racing, and the raging and engaging horse auction.  They were privy to the ins and outs of the popular resort and Webb enthusiastically shared her where-to-gos, what-to-dos,  and most importantly, her what-to-wears.

Webb’s Saratoga Mornings:
In the morning people go see their horses work on the back stretch. People wear jeans or khakis, sweaters and light wind breakers. Most people wear running shoes or rubber Hunter Boots if it rains. Even Sheikh Mohammed wears jeans and running shoes around the sales and to see his horses train. For breakfast, you can wear your casual clothes to have breakfast at the track, then people start changing into race clothes. (In the Reading Room, you can wear jeans, tennis clothes, etc. until 10:30 a.m.)
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Valerie Clement of Christophe Clement Racing Stables receiving kisses.
Valerie introduces Hilary and Webb.
Home sweet stables.
Casual breakfast at the track.
The paddock attire is simple and classic.  J. Crew had almost everything we needed, from hats to waterproof boots.  Their jeans are my favorite for fit and comfort, and when I found this perfect white shirt bodysuit, I bought two. Imagine a shirt that stays in place. The Hermes Belt was a splurge, but totally worth it, and while I was on the Hunter Boot sight, I found this packable rain jacket that is totally chic as well as highly functional. You can stow it in the Aerin Tote in case of a change in the weather.  
Young Brooke combed the boxes on and stands seeking opinions on the style of dress.  According to the elegant Joyce Brown, former President of FIT, “Saratoga is a very special place, it's beautiful, and intimate.  It captures an era when people dressed up and understood the importance of the industry of racing for the state.  Those who come here support the season of racing and there is great commitment to save the style around racing. I don't think you’ll find that in other places.”  Sheryl Schwartz concurred, “The tradition and the glamour that once was, make Saratoga a special place.”
Joyce Brown and Sheryl Schwartz.
Melanie Seymour Holland, Hilary Dick, and Webb Egerton at the Reading Room  
Webb’s Race Attire: Coat and tie for men and dresses for ladies. Pants or slacks of any kind is big social faux pas at the races for ladies. There is a lot of walking to and from the box to the paddock to look at the horses between races (and from the Reading Room over to the track.) I tell people to make sure shoes are comfortable and still chic of course! There is grass in places so also wear a heel that is not like a golf tea.
Webb Egerton and Hilary getting a lift to the track. Melanie Seymour Holland, Webb Egerton, Hilary Dick, Brooke Egerton, and friend.
In the paddock.
Feeling lucky?
Where Jockeys rule.
Loading the gate.
And they're off!
Hilary enthusiastically observed: Webb was the perfect tour guide and really showed us the ins and outs of Saratoga racing. We had a blast!  I took her advice as to what to wear and chose a white dress similar to the ones I have featured here. If you haven’t noticed by now, Karen and I have a thing for wearing white. Block heels were key because we did move often between the paddock and our box, as we checked out the horses before placing our bets.  And a tote is a must for carrying your program which has all the important stats for each race and horse. It was such a treat for me to be so close to all the action. It didn’t lead to big wins but that just means I have to go back!  
Webb at the Derby.
Webb’s Stakes Days Advice: usually the weekend for the big Grade 1 Stakes Races people dress up more. Growing up, men would wear suits for important Stakes races. My father still dresses by that social code. Ladies definitely wear dressier dresses on big race days. Hats are making a comeback especially on big race days. Stakes races have Grades 1, 2 or 3, and Grade 1 examples are: the Travers Stakes, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, The Haskell, etc.
Mary Lou Whitney. Viviam Malloy.
We love the hats from The Madder Hatters Diane Niles King and Belle McIntyre, two gals who are part of the horsey set. And yes, they are mad!
Fancy hats for Stakes Days.
Webb’s What to Wear to the Sales: At the Fasig-Tipton Sale Pavilion and they are the select yearling sales —  all thoroughbreds turn a year old on Jan 1st. These are the top of the top yearlings being sold. It happens in two nights from 7 p.m. until about 11 p.m.  Men used to wear ties, but now, most do not, opting for blazer (no tie). The dress for ladies has also become less formal in the past few years, with white jeans and pretty tops being acceptable, along with summer dresses. Bring a wrap as inside the sales pavilion can be cold and the beautiful Saratoga night air can be cool.  
Stanley Petter and friends. Off to the sales: Evie Tompkins, William L. McMahan, and Webb Egerton.
Taking a good look.
Not a bad number.
Hilary was in the clubhouse turn and still going strong: After our big day at the races we rushed home to change before heading to the Select Yearling Sales at the Fasig-Tipton Sale Pavilion. Webb suggested a more casual look for the evening though she says it used to be quite formal. I wore white jeans and a dressy top like the ones below. Ladies were dressed in everything from dresses to pants. And the men for the most part were in collared shirts without jackets — but there were quite a few holdouts in jacket and tie.
We went first to watch the beautiful race horses being paraded in the outside walking ring for bidders to eye. There are bars placed strategically throughout so you can enjoy a cocktail or nibble as the excitement builds with every bid. From there, each horse is walked directly into the sales pavilion.  We followed and watched as the auctioneers held court, bidding happening at a breakneck speed, while the handlers expertly showed the horses off to their best advantage. It was a sight to behold and one I will never forget ...  in large part due to my expert hostess.

Mrs. Groves of King Ranch summed up the feelings of Saratogians perfectly,  “You know there is no comparison. One of the things about Saratoga is that it's just so amazing how friendly and kind the people are here.  I think it's a special place because I've had the privilege of getting to know so many walks of life here and met so many wonderful people. My parents knew wonderful people and my grandparents knew them — and now I do, and that is amazing!” 
Mrs Groves of King Ranch.
Mr. and Mrs. Mather.
The tradition continues. Thank you Brooke!
For a schedule of races, go to Saratoga Race Track Schedule
Certainly tradition plays a key role in the draw of the crowd to this small town in upstate New York that for over a century has dominated the summer season in racing as well as other cultural events.

Webb’s Fun Places To Go:


Sperry’s Restaurant: is a must for visiting Saratoga.  All horsemen, trainers, jockeys and horse people go there. Lots of horsey pictures on the walls and it’s a great local place been there forever.

The Wishing Well:
 Family style and corn and tomatoes from the garden. It too is super horsey and everyone goes there. Slacks and a nice blouse. No coat and tie. Cool lodge-type feeling and great piano player!

The Bar, by the back walking ring at the sales:
During the sales many people go to socialize at the bar by the back walking ring. It’s really a great crowd.

Siros: An institution! The inside bar sells Stags Leap as the house wine. There is a famous piano player and it is either Hot or not! The Restaurant is dressy and the food is famous (I think Bobby Flay bought part of it). It is only open during the race meet. Same waiters for years.

Circus: On Main Street great for teenagers and young children. A fave with Avery and Brooke!

Lillian's: Good food and a Saratoga place that people go.

Mrs. Londons:  Incredible pastries — similar to the finest pastry shop you know.  Muffins, etc!

Putnam Street Market: Great gourmet food. Delicious!

Other Places to Go:

Saratoga Performing Arts Center:   Lots of concerts and NY C Ballet; symphony for the summer.

Downtown:  Lots of fun shops and teaming with people.

Congress Park Surrounds the Casino:  It's in the center of town and has the most beautiful Carousel that my girls rode and rode!  The ducks are fat and follow children around ... many happy times spent there. Also Ben and Jerry’s is conveniently  at the side of park so lots of riding and ice cream.

National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame:  On Union Ave across from the Race Course,  the Hall of Fame Inductees are voted in and a big presentation is made followed by a lunch at the races. The Museum Ball is Black Tie and it is held at the Museum.  People truly wear their most gorgeous dresses and jewelry!  Beautiful party.  Glorious Foods and Bob Hardwick plays! It’s fantastic!

Saratoga Polo:  Many people go right from the track to watch the matches taking place every Friday and Sunday at 5:30 p.m.  
Bob Hardwick making friends at the Stables.
And speaking of Polo, The Hampton Cup at Equuleus Farm in Watermill, the home of Diane and Joe DiMenna, proved to be a delightful day of horsing around. There was a lively crowd of friends and fans coming out to support Robin Hood Foundation while watching a match of intense competition sponsored by Cartier. At the end of hard-fought six chukkars of play, Team NetJets was victorious over Team Solaia Capital and all players shook hands as gentlemen and sportsmen. It was a close, well-played match.  After the play, fans celebrated team members, and of course we had to have a photo with the dashing Nacho Figueras. We are happy to report that the event raised over $650,000 for Robin Hood.
The Awards ceremony.
Girl power, Dee Dee Ricks, the MVP for NetJets and Courtney Moss. Diane diMenna.
Dee Dee Ricks, KK, Nacho Figueras, and Courtney Moss.
Kim Heirston and Mary Snow. Janna Bullock.
Dee Dee Ricks, Kelli Delaney, Courtney Moss and friends.
What2WearWhere helps today’s busy women shop for life’s events, sports, workplace and travel.   The site is a synthesis of the latest looks and trends compiled by Karen Klopp & Hilary Dick: www.what2wearwhere.com