Saratoga’s 33rd Annual Chariot Races scheduled for February 15-17 |

Saratoga’s 33rd Annual Chariot Races scheduled for February 15-17

Story by Ella Marie Hayes | Saratoga, Wyo.
Photos by Noel V. Hayes, Jr.
This chariot racer walks slowly by the spectators to give them time to check out the team as it heads toward the starting gates.

The 33rd Annual Donald E. Erickson Memorial Chariot Races are scheduled for Friday, February 15 through Sunday, February 17 in Saratoga, Wyo. 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, February 15, 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 6:00 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, February 16, the banquet and Calcutta will be held at the Platte Valley Community Center. Happy Hour will start at 6:00 p.m., followed by the Wolf Hotel’s great prime rib dinner. Banquet tickets for guests and non-team members will be $20 each at the door.

The Calcutta starts at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday evening. There will also be Calcutta betting at the track both days. Post Time will be at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday and 11:00 a.m. on Sunday. A nominal admission fee is charged at the gate for spectators and non-team members.

The American Legion Auxiliary and Odd Fellows, as well as local restaurants will be serving breakfasts each morning downtown. Lunch and concessions will be available at the track both days.

Only members of Interstate will be eligible for the Dave Pennock Good times Trophy, sponsored by Saratoga Auto Parts, as well as the Interstate Racing Association Traveling Trophy, both given 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 the Saratoga Lions Club and the local sponsors.

Once again, a cash prize will be awarded to the winner of each race each day. 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 and two banquet tickets donated by Platte Valley sponsors.

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, 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 a 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 their 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.

Teams must call in or e-mail their teams no later than Wednesday, February 13, to Nora Jewell, (307) 326-8357, Teams should also notify Nora of any special problems or needs, i.e., sharing of harness, headers, etc.

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

Chariot races are a great answer for anyone looking for excitement and an opportunity to spend time outdoors to enjoy a winter weekend!

If anyone has trouble finding a room, call the Saratoga-Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce at (307) 326-8855. For a complete list of lodging facilities in Saratoga and Encampment visit ❖


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