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A True Saratoga Engagement

By Sydney Adams | 08/20/2012 12:43 PM ET
Chris Pernell & Ashley English

An exciting race card and perfect weather drew more than 30,000 to Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, August 18. However, for one couple, Alabama Day 2012 will be remembered not for the racing, but instead for their engagement.

Chris Pennell and Ashley English, both 26, met at Saratoga three years ago on Alabama Day. Pennell says that he gathered a group to go to the track, and English was one of his cousin’s guests. They began dating soon thereafter.

Pennell was raised in Saratoga Springs, and is no stranger to horse racing; his family actively follows the sport during the summer. English, on the other hand, grew up in Buffalo, and the 2009 Alabama was one of her first visits to the track.

“I guess I’ll have to start following it now!” said English, after Tom Durkin announced the couple’s engagement on the loudspeaker.

The couple had previously discussed marriage, but Pennell was determined to keep the proposal plans a secret. He brought together the same group of people that had been present when he and English first met. He also arranged for everyone to watch several races on the roof of the track, where he proposed in the early afternoon.

“It was pretty obvious to everyone else, but Ashley didn’t know,” Pennell said. “I’m so happy we could keep it a secret.”