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The Sights and Sounds of Saratoga

 
Make no mistake; Saratoga Race Course is the finest racetrack in America. 
 
Day 2 of the Saratoga-Fort Erie Road Trip ’12, was a biggie. Arriving at nine in the morning (below), I knew I was in for whirlwind day at The Spa, and that is precisely what I got. It was Whitney Day, one of the best days of racing on the Saratoga schedule. 
 
The Whitney may have been the big one, but the card was filled with good horses. In the first, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf runner-up, Stopshoppingmaria was bet down in an allowance turf sprint but really never ran and finished off the board. From my vantage point in the winner’s enclosure, I could look almost directly back at Mike Repole and entourage in the front row of the owners’ boxes. Repole has that nervous energy before the race that you can just feel even from a distance. As it became apparent that one of his stars was not firing early in the lane, I looked back at the orange and blue crew to see Repole quickly sit down looking like a kid who just found at that Santa Clause was not real.
 
Hooking up with buddy, Joe DePaolo in the press box, I chatted a bit and powered up the old laptop, but did not stay long. No need to be holed-up in there, while the atmosphere of The Spa beckoned. I roamed the place from corner to corner reminiscing about all the great times I have had there over the years. There was Majestic Light (a family favorite) trouncing Fifth Marine in the Bernard Baruch, and General Assembly running like sire, Secretariat, on a track that he adored. If I listen closely, I can still hear the raucous Travers crowd the day Affirmed was dq’d for nearly knocking Alydar over in their final meeting, and if I close my eyes I can still see the picture of health and beauty radiating from Lady’s Secret in the paddock the day she upset Mom’s Command in the Test and began an awesome streak. There was Willow Hour defeating an all-star cast in the mud, and Holy Bull bravely holding off Concern at ten furlongs, and more recently, there was Rachel raising the rafters. Oh the memories.
 
One of the highlights of the day for me was getting together with friends Steve Haskin and Ernie Munick in the best paddock there is for a fifteen minute discussion of the good old days. Dr. Fager and Damascus, Affirmed and Alydar, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Dr. Patches and Spectacular Bid … We could have talked for hours, and we probably would have if not for the welcome interruption of watching the most exciting prospect so far from the first crop of two-time Horse of the Year, Curlin, win in impressive fashion. Owned by Cot Campbell’s Dogwood Stable, Palace Malice (above) looked every bit the part of an up-and-coming star with a facile score in the day’s seventh race, joining another good looking juvenile maiden winner earlier in the card, Fortify.
 
Other racing highlights of the afternoon included the giant killer, Allen Jerkens saddling Emma’s Encore in the Grade 1 Prioress, Getting up in the final jump to win by a nose, it was the second straight stakes win for the daughter of Congrats. I will never tire of seeing the 83-year-old training legend winning a stakes race.
 
Undoubtedly the star of the day, after the racetrack itself that is, was Fort Larned running huge in the Whitney Handicap. You can read my report on him and his win here. Graded stakes winner Dominus returned in the race after the Whitney and looked great for Stonestreet Stables. It should be right back to stakes racing for the four-year-old son of Smart Strike.
 
And then there was the food … All that wonderful food. I started the day with a taste of tradition. I’ve been eating Manhattan clam chowder at the New York tracks for as long as I can remember, so at 11am, and with the stomach starting to growl, I happily enjoyed a bowl full of memories. It tasted just as ever; I could not help but think of my Dad and all the chowders we enjoyed together at the track over the years. He doesn’t make it out to the track that much anymore, but I would love to get him up to Saratoga one more time. Then for an early dinner, I realized I had too many good options. I know … it is a problem. I had a burger the day before, so the Shake Shack was out, but still, what would it be? There didn’t used to be this many choices. Now, everywhere you turn there are different kinds of food, and great food at that. After strongly considering both a lobster roll and a Montreal poutine, I ended up with the four-piece fried chicken from Hattie’s. It was right up there with the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. I’m still full.
 
I mentioned a few friends, but being at Saratoga was like a reunion for racing family. I was able to catch-up or say hello to dozens of my extended racing friends. Some of whom I knew would be there, but many more who I just had the pleasure of running into. Only one day at Saratoga this year is not near enough, but in some ways, it was plenty. Within nine hours at The Spa, I soaked up as much everything Saratoga as I possibly could. The sights, the sounds, and the atmosphere, there truly is no place quite like Saratoga.
 
Until we meet again my old friend. Tomorrow, I am off to visit our friendly neighbors to the north … Fort Erie or bust, baby!
 

 

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Older Comments about The Sights and Sounds of Saratoga...

Glad you had a good time at Saratoga
Yesterday I had my inaugural visit to Saratoga Springs to experience racing at its best. The NYRA does a great job with a free walking tour of the stable area to show fans how horses live off the track and a demonstration of a starting gate. Where else in America can you see stables with slate roofs? The National Museum of Racing is superb, with so much to see that a second visit is required on Woodward and Forego Stakes day. It was a pleasure to film the Alabama, from horses walking up the track to the finish, and seeing my pick Questing win in a front running romp by 9 in the fastest time since 1980. If you haven’t seen horse racing at Saratoga, go.
Sounds awesome! I've made it to Del Mar, but still haven't had the chance to get to the Spa!
's day. Great music, food, it's a great time to be Irish and a fun time to have if you aren't!
Best time in Boston is on Saint Patrick
Zipse- we'll let u put tomatoes in your Chowda, if you ask nicely sans Jersey accent. Anytime you want to make your way to Beantown, let me. Fenway, Sam Adams brewery, Kelly's roast beef at Revere Beach are just a few attractions...
wow i dont know what happened in my first post haha. lots of spelling errors.
*have been going up every weekend since they opened. No better way to spend a saturday. Cant wait for the Travers.
Love Saratoga. Granted this is my first year getting into racing the only otheree place I've bn is Belmont. ut Saratoga is about 2.5 hours away me and my buddies H
If you make it to Saratoga this year, make sure you try a chicken sandwich from Hattie's Chicken Shack. You're welcome. :)
You've got it right Brian, Saratoga is the place to be--and what a weekend to be there! The highlight for me had to be seeing the Chief in the winner's circle with Emma's Encore! Unfortunately, I had to watch from afar! Sorry I missed you!
"Your expereince in hore racing is incomplete, until you visit Saratoga in the summer time," Lou Cauz emeritus curator of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. Did not get there until last year when we were guest of the US hall of Fame on Alabama day and were lucky enough to present a blanket to the winner of the 4th that day and met Ramon...nice fellow. JUST KNOWING which monster competed there is akin to walking into a place like the Louvre in Paris
It is hard for Saratoga not to live up to expectations. I just sat down in the pressbox after hanging at Oklahaoma for the morning works, looked at the beautiful yearlings at the sales pavillion, and visited Big Red. I, too, had many a bowl of clam chowder back in the day and I'm already thinking about the lunch decision..
Been to every Travers since 1992 (NY Bred Thunder Rumble swept Jim Dandy and Travers) and the Spa is like horseplayer's heaven on earth. Heading back Friday for the first time this year and have two more long weekend trips planned. Wouldn't miss it for anything.
@:mike.savage pick your own winners!
On my bucket list to make the spa trip in the next few years.
I read this article in the 1950's, 1960's, all the way up to the 2000's. What has changed except for 14 authors of the same thing. Any media to do with horseracing should have to do with putting your knowledge into helping the horseplayer. If we wanted aesthetics we would go to a Yosemite site, read about Cabo, or some boating magazine site. We want you to give us some winners, instead of being some horseracing site that doesn't take a stance on anything.
Personally I like the fact that there seems to be a place where everyone can find a comfort zone. I like the laid back atmosphere, driving up to the rear entrance and giving some one your keys to park on their lawn or driveway and your only 50 yards away from the entrance.
Hello Brian...what a wonderful article, yes Saratoga is beautiful and i wish i was able to get up there this weekend but it will have to wait till August 17-19, great racing and what a wonderful atmosphere, enjoy Fort Erie and hope to see you soon....Breeders Cup?
This was the best blog ever! I love the recap of events in the first person describing the sights, sounds and food! HOWEVER sir, I MUST contend that Arlington is the nicest track in the country. Sorry.

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