Join the excitement at Saratoga’s Chariot Races – Feb. 12-14 |

Join the excitement at Saratoga’s Chariot Races – Feb. 12-14

Ella Marie HayesThe outriders who monitor the chariot teams during the official races add a bit of variety as they compete during the 2009 Chariot Races at Buck Springs near Saratoga, Wyo.

The 30th annual Donald E. Erickson Memorial Chariot Races are scheduled for Feb. 12-14 in Saratoga, Wyo. Once again, teams and drivers will wait for the starting signal to rush through the gate to race toward the finish line 440 yards away in less than 30 seconds.

The event, held during Presidents Day weekend, is put on in cooperation with the Saratoga-Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Saratoga Lions Club. The races also serve as the Interstate Championships.

On Friday, Feb. 12, the gathering place will be the Wolf Hotel. There will be people to meet the racers to help with directions or other questions.

A no host cocktail party for all the racers will start at 6 p.m., with appetizers provided by Rawlins National Bank of Saratoga. Other guests are also welcome. The Calcutta will follow at 8:30 p.m.

On Saturday night, Feb. 13, the banquet and Calcutta will be held at the Platte Valley Community Center. Happy hour will start at 6 p.m., followed by the Wolf Hotel’s great prime rib dinner.

The Calcutta will start at 8 p.m. following the banquet. There will also be Calcutta betting at the track both days.

Post Time for the races at Buck Springs Arena northeast of Saratoga will be 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13 and 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 14. A nominal admission fee is charged at the gate for spectators and non-team members.

Only members of interstate will be eligible for the “Dave Pennock Good Times Trophy,” sponsored by Rosemary Erickson-Hobbs and the Interstate Racing Association Traveling Trophy, for the weekend’s best individual combined time. Drivers also have to be a member to qualify for the first place awards in each division sponsored by Wyoming Beverage, the cash prizes sponsored by Saratoga Lions Club and local sponsors.

Once again, a cash prize will be awarded to the winner of each race both days. A total of $8,000 will be given away over the course of the weekend.

On Sunday, a race will be picked at random to be the Norm Epler Memorial Race. The winner will receive a hand-blown glass chariot team, donated by Patty Lufkin.

Any person or club can become a member of Interstate by sending $25 for a club membership or $20 for an individual membership to Nora Jewell, Box 423, Saratoga, Wyo., 82331. Each team will also receive a gate pass for two plus two banquet tickets donated by Valley sponsors.

Barn space will be the same as last year. When you call in your teams, you will receive your barn space assignment. If you have been here before, you will be placed where you were last year if possible.

Please call or e-mail in your teams as soon as possible, and no later than Wednesday, Feb. 10, to Nora Jewell, (307) 326-8357, Please advise her of any special problems or needs, i.e., sharing of harness, headers, etc.

The American Legion Auxiliary and Odd Fellows will be serving breakfast, along with local restaurants. Lunch and concessions will be available at the track both days.

Official chariot races feature three chariots per race pulled by two-horse teams. Racers originally used horse-drawn sleds with razor sharp runners, called cutters, for racing on snow packed tracks during winter months. Today, for the safety of the horses and the lack of dependable snow conditions, wheeled chariots are used.

The Saratoga Lions Club, a sponsor of the event, has adopted written Cutter and Chariot Racing Rules as of December 1997. The rules are specifically designed for safety as well as clarifications including which infractions could disqualify a team or driver.

Drivers must be at least 17 years of age or older, must be a member of their own association and have driven in three races. Other rules include: drivers shall not be fastened or attached to the chariot in any manner and teams shall not move out of the lane in a manner that interferes with or impedes another team. Disqualification for infractions may be made by the stewards and judges per the American Quarter horse Association (AQHA) rules.

If you have trouble finding a room, call the Saratoga-Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce at (307) 326-8855 or Nora Jewell. For a list of lodging facilities, please go to

Chariot Races are a great answer for anyone looking for excitement and an opportunity to get outdoors to enjoy a winter weekend.

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