Monday, August 23, 2010

For the love of Saratoga!

A few months ago, upon meeting my new friend Kim, she asked out of the blue,"Want to go to Saratoga?" Well, why not! And from now on I hope each of my summers involves a trip to The Spa! What an amazing time if you're a horse racing fan. Every race we saw was a close one like this picture below. Trainers told us this is the hardest meet in the country. We stayed in these cute cabins in Lake George, about 20 minutes north of Saratoga. The $70 a night was much better than the $300 a night hotels in town we were getting quoted. The saying goes head north to Saratoga and step back 100 years. Really - you can just imagine all the ladies and gents in their finery 100 years ago milling about. I absolutely loved it. This is hard to see - a room of all the owner silks displayed: Here is a work-in-progress from jockey-turned-artist Nick Martinez: And since I've mentioned finery, here is an example of "not!" Really, if you're an owner, you must have some sort of fashion sense but this one must've taken leave. And I'm not going to be mean like Kim was to me ... and I'll just warn you up front about this dadgum spring water. It is about 12 different kinds of nasty! It was almost a deal-breaker between friends! Let me set up this story: on Facebook there is a silly little quiz "Which jockey are you?" Turns out, I'm Garrett Gomez, who didn't have the best of reputations on the track. Anyway, Gomez is riding in one of Friday's races and Kim and I are bantering back and forth,"Look, there I am on the number 5 horse." We head out shopping in the evening and I'm being slightly obnoxious about some stuff in the store when, all of a sudden, I see ... GARRETT GOMEZ standing right there in the store. After a few moments to recover, I approached him for a picture and he happily obliged. Really, just about only in Saratoga do jockeys, trainers and owners get any kind of recognition and appreciation and fans going all goofy-stupid over them in a store. Ahem.

Rachel Alexandra is arguably the best filly in racing today. So, enough said:
Window display at the toy store:
So, now we come to the Thursday evening portion of this blog post in which Kim and I had to shake off our harrowing pick-up Shannon at the wrong airport because she doesn't know JFK and LaGuardia are two separate entities, and just where the heck is the racetrack?? Here we are at Siro's:
Here is the highlight of the trip: going backside to trainer Neil Howard's barn. Neil's wife Susan called out of the blue to invite us Saturday morning, specifically to see Lou Brissie, owned by Dogwood Stables in Aiken, S.C. Here's me: "Ok, Lou, don't bite me." "Ok, Lou, bite Kim if you have to bite someone." Here I am with Neil, whom I interviewed when he wintered at the Camden Training Center in South Carolina many years ago. I can't believe I didn't get a picture with Susan! And this is where, if I'd had my druthers, I would've just planted it for the rest of the morning and watched the horses get hot-walked outside the barn ... or walked back and forth to the track just to watch them gallop or breeze. This is the last set of Neil's horses on the track. What impressed me was the old-time clocker spouting off a time he thought the horse would go in and it was RIGHT! I could've sat there all morning if I'd been allowed.

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