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Saturday evening, August 18th
Sometimes, I think that there’s simply nothing better than a day at Saratoga Race Course. I know that that’s awfully chauvinistic, but on days like today, I just can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else.
I went to the races late, after having spent the late morning/early afternoon in downtown Saratoga with my mother; rushing a little, I did manage to make it for the two-mile fourth race, hearkening back to Saratoga’s early days, when horses not only ran two-mile races on a regular basis, but when races consisted of the best of three heats, and heats consisted of two to four miles. It was not uncommon for horses to race twelve miles a day, in the heat of the summer…and then come back and race again a few days later!
We all know that such tests of endurance are long gone, and thus it was fun to see this long race at the track today. Tom Durkin, the track announcer, seemed to enjoy it as much as the crowd did. The horses broke from the seven-furlong chute on the far end of the clubhouse turn, and as the horses ran down the backstretch towards the far turn the first time, Durkin said, “It’s Nite Light to catch, and they’ve only got thirteen furlongs to do it…,” eliciting a laugh from the crowd. As the horses headed down the stretch for the first time, Durkin reminded us, “Don’t get excited, folks, they’ve got one more circuit to go,” and as Nite Light ceded the lead in the stretch to longshot Touchdown Peyton, the eventual winner, Durkin said, “And Nite Light gives way after fifteen and a half furlongs!” As I headed off the apron following the race, I heard more than one person remark about how much fun it was to see such a long race, and Sherry Ross, in her NY Daily News blog tonight, exhorted the folks at Saratoga to card this race annually.
We’ve got another long race tomorrow, the John’s Call at a mile and five-eighths on the turf; rumor has it that John’s Call himself will make an appearance on the track prior to his eponymous race. Like these sorts of races, John’s Call is a horse of another era, racing in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Turf as a nine-year-old and finishing third, beaten less than half a length. Earlier that year, he won the Grade I Sword Dancer, the oldest horse to do so in that race’s thirty-two year history.
The 127th running of the Alabama (the second oldest race for fillies in the country) was as good as racing gets; it has been widely written that the absence of Rags to Riches didn’t diminish the race at all, and I have to agree: the post time favorite was Panty Raid at odds of roughly 5/2, which means that you had a field of evenly matched fillies with no significant favorite to bring down the prices. As both a horse fan and a small-time bettor, I like that; there were no horses to throw out on either quality or odds, and that makes for a terrific race.
After some time handicapping, I decided to throw out Panty Raid and box Octave, Lear’s Princess, Moon Catcher, and Lady Joanne (now decisively pronouned “Joanie”; I think that’s a little weird, but hey, who am I to criticize the spelling of a Grade I winner’s name?). Too bad I’m not given to betting trifectas, as today’s paid $177. I can’t complain about the $54 exacta, nor about the winner paying $11. For both principle and practical reasons, I would not have objected to Lady Joanne being disqualified, but I am not surprised that the stewards left the result as it was; it’s completely consistent with their decisions throughout the meet. It looked to me like the interference was significant enough to possibly have impeded both Octave and Lear’s Princess, but I’m not a steward and I don’t know their standards. You can read Steven Crist's take on it here: http://cristblog.drf.com/.
Racing fans could not have asked for a better race from a game bunch of fillies; it will be great to watch them go against each other through the fall. Rags to Riches has been deemed heiress apparent to the three-year-old filly crown…but here’s hoping for some competition to keep things interesting through the end of October.
I was also fortunate enough to get into the paddock to see Sabellina saddled before what many of us hope is her last race. Today was her fourth race while in foal to Pulpit, and she finished eighth; I heard a rumor that she will be sold at Keeneland in their fall sale, and here’s hoping that she gets sold to a good owner who will take good care of her through her pregnancy. I know that I’ll be keeping my eyes out for news of her foaling next spring.
I head back to Brooklyn at some point tomorrow, as, sadly, my vacation is over and I go back to work on Monday. I’ll be back up here on Wednesday for the Anna House benefit and the following weekend for Travers, and I’ll follow news as closely as I can and post it here. It’s been such a pleasure writing these reports and I’ll post a few more before the season comes to an end. I’m hoping to make it over for a few races tomorrow before heading south.
If the link doesn't work, go to www.drf.com; on the right in the box titled "Saratoga 2007," click on "Crist blog," and you'll get to the piece on the Alabama.
Sorry about that...
Thank you for taking time from your vacation to post your Saratoga updates and I want you to know how much I appreciate them. I have enjoyed reading each of them.
Have fun returning to the "real world" again! LOL.
Thanks, Katie--I've experienced Saratoga in a whole new way doing this, and it's been such a treat.
Sitting here in my apartment, I can't believe that I won't be getting up tomorrow morning and going to watch workouts, and instead I'll be going to WORK! Ugh.
I did get to workouts this morning, though, and I saw Rags again, so I'll post something later--not quite ready to break the habit. =)
Thanks, Teresa. Very interesting articles by Crist. And I learned something new about that site.
Aren't there horses that get shut down when roughed up?
Sunday evening, August 19th
Well, it’s nice to be home…though, I must say, not quite as nice as being on vacation in Saratoga. I still haven’t quite computed that when I awake early tomorrow morning, I’ll be traipsing off to school and the world of professional e-mail, student questions, and prepping for classes, and not the world of coffee on the rail, the Saratoga Special, and handicapping.
My mother and I did do a quick drop-in to the races today; NYRA was giving away Saratoga umbrellas, and as I do not currently possess a manageable umbrella, I took advantage. She also had two hunch bets that she wanted to make. You should know that my mother, despite having worked in a racing industry for a time, doesn’t love going to the track; she goes about once a meet and usually complains that it’s no fun because she always loses. Yeah, well, she hit Lady Joanne yesterday with $5 win and place (her best friend’s name is Joanne), and her hunch bet won today and paid $12.00. So she has taken to gloating that she is “up for the meet,” much to the dismay of her daughter, who is not.
Of the many benefits to going to church, I discovered an unanticipated one this summer; for the last three weeks, I’ve gotten up to go to 7:30 am services and then to the morning workouts. Each week, Rags to Riches has taken to the track minutes after my arrival. Apparently God is a racing fan. =) At this link, you will find photos for several of the Alabama fillies in the paddock before the race (including the winner), along with a couple of Rags working out, in company with Magna Graduate. Lawyer Ron came to the track in Pletcher’s second set, but I didn’t, unfortunately, get photos of that, and equally unfortunately, none of my photos of Octave came out well. http://s186.photobucket.com/albums/x243/TeresainNY/Fillies%20in%20the%20paddock%20before%20the%20Alabama/
Two articles of interest: you might recall that in the accident that paralyzed Andrew Lakeman, Norbert Arroyo was also significantly injured. He’s trying to make it back to the races and the NY Daily News did this story on him: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/more_sports/2007/08/17/2007-08-17_arroyo_mounts_new_comeback-1.html
Bob Baffert’s displeasure with Polytrack has been well-documented, but his sojourn east has lately led him to condemn much of Southern California racing in general: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/more_sports/2007/08/17/2007-08-17_baffert_will_spend_more_time_at_spa-2.html. One oft-quoted line from this article: “’It was nice to come back here,’ Baffert said. ‘You guys have some serious fans here. Your horses are appreciated here. At Del Mar everybody's just getting drunk and going to the beach.’”
Finally, a couple of weeks ago I wrote and posted photos of a three-year-old grey colt who stopped on his way out of the paddock in the morning to be petted by some morning visitors; he’s entered in tomorrow’s races, and his name is Triple Nine Fine. His photo is here: http://s186.photobucket.com/albums/x243/TeresainNY/August%205th/
I’ve got some leftover anecdotes that I’ll write up tomorrow night; by this time tomorrow, I will likely be in full-fledged Saratoga withdrawal…
By "shut down," do you mean they stop racing? Lose their momentum? I think that's definitely true; if their jockey has to pull them up significantly to avoid contact, it's hard for them to get going again (it would be for us). One of the reasons that Lady Joanne wasn't taken down was that John Velazquez "never stopped riding her." According to that point of view, if she'd been truly impeded, he'd have had to pull her up, and he wouldn't have been able to keep riding her.
Did I answer your question?
Yes you did answer my question. Thanks.
I was just wondering if that happened to Octave?
The stewards apparently didn't think so--they thought that Lady Joanne never quite got in her way enough to make her stop running. If Octave HAD stopped running, I wonder if the result of the inquiry would have been different?
Anyone else it and have any opinions?