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Breeders' Cup 2017

Luck Defined at Saratoga

By Tony Bada Bing

Luck, both bad and good, presents itself in a myriad of ways in life and at the track. Nose defeats and big scores are easy enough to witness, trackside. Life’s up and downs rarely play out in such neat, little spectacles as horse races, unless, of course, they’re tragic or triumphant. What follows is a tragedy and triumph sprinkled with a healthy dose luck. And it all played out on opening weekend at Saratoga two years ago.


If you’ve never been, Saratoga is a bucolic town of less than 30,000 where history met myth and a horse track was built to accommodate both. There are tree-lined streets filled with arts and crafts homes, an outdoor amphitheater where symphonies, ballets and rock concerts are hosted and a horse track that attracts the best equine athletes and those that like to take a gamble, follow. Revolutionary war hero turned trader, Benedict Arnold, was stationed in the area and hucksters and healers sold foul smelling spring water as natural health aid.


My attraction to this place began early for me (please see video below), but it wasn’t until 1993 when I started making my annual trip to the August Place to Be. For 20 straight years I’ve made the drive, mostly with my Uncle Pete and then after he passed away, my wife, her cousin (Uncle Pete’s daughter) and our cousin’s husband. In Pete’s honor we started making the trip on opening weekend and it was on opening Saturday, 2010 that this story takes place.


In addition to Kara, my wife, Mary, her cousin, and Bob, Mary’s husband, were all on hand that opening weekend. We made it to the track late on that wet Friday and caught a few races before giving into the rain, leaving before the last race. Following early dinner plans, we hit the hay early as Mary and Kara prepared to run their third straight Silks and Satin Road Race.


Kara’s older brother and his family made the drive down from Rochester, NY to join us. Kara’s niece, a high school cross-country runner joined her and Mary for the annual 5K race through Saratoga, which benefits the Special Olympics. The day as usual was hot and humid; the race goers psyched and ready to roll. Kara’s older brother jumped into the race at the last minute to support his daughter and challenge his younger sister.


Now fast-forward 45 minutes or so later – a sister, a cousin and a daughter waiting anxiously for the last member of the family to cross the finish. Imagine that Kara’s older brother, a strapping man in good health, never crossing that line. Imagine his 17-year-old daughter walking back from the finishing line looking for her father and only finding his ripped shirt. Imagine all the panic and horror that comes with knowing something horrible is unfolding in front of your eyes.


Now, I am not going to go into all the details of this true, horrific story – that’s private and my brother-in-law is a private man and ultimately this is his and his family’s story. Thus, I write without some names. The story ended happily, but it was an anxious-filled 72 hours that involved a new, inventive treatment, as well as good-old-fashion care, compassion and medicine all while an extended family tried to keep thoughts that it would not end so well out of its heads.


Now, imagine the luck involved in a man crashing into the ground just a few minutes from the finish line. In that moment he crashes, a woman sitting on her front porch sees the man collapse in front of her home. A wife and a mom that just happens to be a registered nurse, who is CPR trained and just happens to continue watching the road race despite the numbers of runners going by her home dwindling down to just a few stragglers. Imagine that she is first on the scene and immediately attends to the man, calls for help and more than likely saves the man’s life.


Now, I’d like to try to put this into perspective for you and me. There are about 25,000 people living in Saratoga. There is a little hospital in town and then a larger one just south of town in Albany that just happens to have an excellent cardiac care center. In a town this size with a couple of hospitals in the area, I’ll estimate that maybe 10,000 practicing nurses live in the greater Albany area and of those maybe 100 or so live in Saratoga. Maybe half were on duty or waiting to be on duty that day, some may have been sleeping following an overnight shift or some were just away.


Now let me ask, because I don’t know, what are the odds that just one of these nurses that isn’t on duty watched the race go by, waited for all to pass her house and stuck around to see my brother-in-law’s heart stop, his body collide with the ground and then run out to save him? At the very least, I answer that the odds are high that such an event, happens in just such a way to save a man’s life.


Finally, as Saratoga Race Track opens its doors again today and invites the public to find a winner, I ask you to consider your luck – blind and otherwise. Take stock of what you have, whom you love and who loves you back. It all can change in the blink of an eye and where you stand, sit, run or watch can make all the difference in deciding if you continue on to see tomorrow or not. I think of this each year Saratoga races again…




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Older Comments about Luck Defined at Saratoga...

Awesome video!! Saratoga...the graveyard of favorites and the pot of money for good handicappers!!
That's me with hair and yes Ogunquit is cool. I'll upmarket the Spa inmid-August
Great video Tony, is that you in the Ogunquit sweatshirt? I'll be there in August after my visit to Saratoga. That's two pretty great vacations! Hope we meet up at the Spa.
Wow, that's quite a story ... thanks for sharing, Tony. Hope to see you at the Spa soon!
Saratoga Time!!!!!

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