Saratoga Scenes: They're off at the Oklahoma Training Track

May 26, 2019 01:25pm


Now that the Derby and the Preakness Stakes are behind us with all their drama and excitement, racing's attention turns to New York. While the spring meet is in full swing at Belmont, culminating with the June 8 Belmont Stakes, spring has finally arrived at the Oklahoma, Saratoga’s historic training track.


Saratoga is quietly preparing for this year’s summer meet, and generally a sure sign of summer in the North Country is the gradual arrival of the thoroughbreds with their entourage in town. For this year, opening day of the summer meet has been moved forward by two weeks to July 11, and as a result of this earlier start you can feel a heightened level of excitement and anticipation around the track and its barns.


But before we get to the Oklahoma, every racing season has its foundation in the foaling season that brings excitement and jumping joy to the meadows of the horse breeders around Saratoga in the middle of winter


The Oklahoma training track officially opened in the middle of April with the frost barely out of the ground. The weekend before the Kentucky Derby, trainer Bill Mott’s team is lining up under the watchful eyes of Riley, Bill’s son, gazing into a still barren landscape. I am sure they were all dreaming of the Kentucky weekend ahead.



By early May, Rudy Rodriguez has arrived and set up with his team in Saratoga. He is one of the few trainers who works and breezes his horses himself.


One of the Rodriguez horses seems to enjoy the sight of the first green on the trees.



In early May the mornings are still cold and fresh, as Christophe Clement’s riders are breezing their horses under fluttering blankets


A Nick Zito rider, all bundled up in a winter jacket, experiences that not only the mornings are a fresh, trying to get his horse to keep a straight path.



The days get warmer toward the end of May, but the morning sun still has to burn off the fog around the track in front of the Whitney viewing stand.


The thoroughbreds are bringing this historic place to life with their radiant glow and energy. A Jorge Abreu rider is starting her morning workout gazing into the warming sun.


Here, the Cristophe Clemente team is arriving at the track.


Todd Pletcher has brought a new set of 2-year-olds to his barn, where grooms and riders are excited to share some love.



The filly Thankful catches my attention, and I then realize that she is sired by American Pharoah. I'll have to keep an eye on her throughout the summer season.


Glory Road is another young colt who conquered the hearts of groom and rider.



Meanwhile, Daddy Is a Legend, a 4-year-old filly who won two Grade 3 Stakes races last year, is looking for her mints from rider Heather Coots at the barn of George Weaver.



Stopping by at the barn of trainer Robbie Davis, you can always hear some good stories. This time he cheerfully showed off Dublin Green who broke his maiden at the beginning of March at Aqueduct.


As the fog is lifting, riders are not only lining up for a morning workout, but also for an exciting season ahead at Saratoga.




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Meet Konrad Weeber

In his photography, Konrad captures the beauty of equine sports. His photos take the viewers behind the scenes of horse racing and allow them to experience the daily passion at backstretches, training tracks and horse barns. Horse people are motivated by their seemingly limitless dedication to the animals. Konrad aims to capture this in his photos that often explore the changing light between dawn and sunrise. His goal is to photograph the poetry in motion of horses in flight, the intersection of sunlight and athleticism, and the caring passion of riders and caretakers for the equines in their charge.

Konrad is a lifelong photographer who started with black and white photography of modern dance performances for a journal in his hometown of Vienna, Austria. He has followed his passion for photography as he travelled the world and transitioned to travel, outdoors and sports photography. After settling in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 2015, he started to explore horse racing photography and picked up horseback riding himself to develop a better appreciation for and connection with horses. He now specializes in equine photography as a freelance photographer.

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