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Thursday afternoon, August 23rd
It’s probably not a good idea to begin this report with disclaimers, but I’m a big fan of getting the bad stuff out of the way and leaving the good stuff until the end, so here goes:
Bummer #1) You will notice the utter lack of photos of the Anna House event, and there are a few reasons for that. 1) NOBODY was taking pictures of the speakers—nobody, except the press photographers. I felt like a dope getting up from my table to get a better shot, so I didn’t. I’m sorry—it was killing me not to take photos, but it seemed the right thing to do. 2) The room was dim and pretty big, so I don’t think that they would have come out, anyway. 3) My camera was acting pretty wonky. A bummer…but I’ll try to paint word pictures instead. =)
Bummer #2) I have no idea what bids individual items brought; there were literally hundreds of items in the silent auction, and when time was up, a herd of volunteers swooped in (is that a mixed metaphor? Can a herd swoop? I don’t think so) to pick up the bid sheets. I’m going to try to find out and get back to you. The good news overall is that the event brought in about $300,000 for the children of Anna House—yippee!
Bummer #3) There was not a chance of my picking up extra programs. I browsed the tables at the end and didn’t find even ONE lying around—the programs were about 70 pages long, though, and the TWR ad is a full-page, full-color beauty. I’m going to take a photo of it and post it—it really does look just like the flyer, but there’s something cool about seeing it in the book.
OK, so there’s the bad news…and really, it’s not so bad, is it?
The whole evening was terrific, and I hardly know where to start; be warned that this is a much-longer-than-typical report! I hooked up with Martita late in the afternoon and drove her to the Gideon Putnam Hotel (where the event was held), which is in a beautiful state park on the edge of Saratoga. We were not seated at the same table, and I lost sight of her for hours at a time…but I know that she had a wonderful time. I drove her home and saw her again briefly this morning…more on that later.
The theme of the party was Western round-up, and there were many folks who came in full Western regalia; they looked terrific. Unfortunately, this Brooklyn girl doesn’t have a lot in the way of Western wear, so I was one of the many in jeans and boots (not cowboy boots, alas…city boots); other folks wore generally casual clothes or summer dresses. It was awfully nice to be comfortable and not worrying about what to wear.
The first hour was the silent auction and cocktails: hundreds and hundreds of items on offer on both sides of a long hall. Among them: signed photos of various horses on the finish line; wine baskets; a halter worn by Rags to Riches; baskets of books about horses and horse-racing; hotel stays; concert and sporting event tickets; jewelry. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to afford much of it, so I chatted during most of it instead of browsing…but I did head over to a wonderful framed photo of Rags winning the Belmont, with the program below, signed by John Velazquez. The bidding was at $340, and as I picked up the pen to bid $350, the announcement came that the auction was closed. So I did the honorable thing and put the pen down…slightly regretfully, slightly relieved that I wasn’t going to fork out $350!
Dinner followed, a sit-down dinner of salad, beef, and key lime cheesecake. I was seated with Todd Pletcher and his wife; Kiaran McLaughlin and his wife; D. Wayne Lukas and his fiancée; Eugene Melnyk and his wife (Pletcher clients, owners of Flower Alley (2005 Travers winner) and the NHL’s Ottawa Senators) and another couple I never met because they were on the other side of the table. I was a little awed to have a Belmont-winning trainer on either side of me (Rags ’07, Jazil ’06), but everyone was terrific, and I spent a lot of time talking with Tracy Pletcher and with Lettie and Kiaran McLaughlin; Todd was up doing auction spotting pretty quickly, so it was a working night for him. I have lost track of the number of charitable events that the man has not only attended, but in which he’s participated; you might remember that he coached the jockeys in the basketball game to benefit Andrew Lakeman a few weeks ago.
The dinner part of the evening began with a wonderful short film of Anna House; it featured the children and many well-known racing personages, and was followed by a welcome from Michael Dubb, chairman of the board of directors of the Belmont Child Care Association. Wayne Lukas was the evening’s MC, and he then got up to do a pretty funny (and R-rated!) monologue. As co-honorees of the evening, Edgar and Lily Prado then were recognized, and Edgar spoke eloquently about the importance of Anna House to the racing community.
Edgar introduced the Jacksons, the evening’s other honorees, and Gretchen linked Anna House and Barbaro with the theme of love, saying that through Barbaro’s hospital stay, the only questions were “Is he OK? Is he bright? Is he in pain? Is he eating?”, and that love guided all of their decisions, just as it does in the care of the children at Anna House. She expressed her delight at being able to attend an Anna House graduation last year, and regret that she is unable to be more involved on a daily basis. You all already know the simple passion with which she speaks, and it was evident again here.
Finally, a boy who looked to be about seven to me, and who I believe is an Anna House graduate, sang a song in honor of his sister, an Anna House pre-schooler. She danced, he sang—and he can really sing! The whole room—all 367 of us!—were utterly, utterly charmed.
Folks chatted through dinner, and before too long Wayne Lukas again took center stage, to serve as the evening’s auctioneer. Among the live auction items: a trip for two to the ’08 Dubai World Cup; a week in London and a trip to Royal Ascot; an aluminum lawn jockey signed by current and hall of fame jockeys (THAT’S what I wanted, but even if I could afford it (which I couldn’t—it went for multiple thousands of dollars), I live in Brooklyn and don’t have a lawn); dinner with four members of the cast of The Sopranos; a trip in a fighter plane. I don’t recall what each of item went for, but most were $10,000 and above. Mike Luzzi, JJ Castellano, Todd Pletcher, José Santos, Angel Cordero, and John Velazquez (and probably others, but these are the ones I saw) served as auction spotters, alerting Wayne when someone in their part of the room was signalling to bid. The bidding was fast and furious, and it was fun to watch people bid each other up—there were clearly items that certain people were determined to get, and fought not to get out-bid.
Not too many people stayed to dance when the live auction was over, as they were picking up the live and silent auction items they’d purchased, and as many of them had to get up early to be at the racetrack. I did have a couple of great conversations with John Velazquez and Edgar Prado, and Kiaran and Lettie invited me to the barn this morning to meet their equine family. I accepted, and will write more about that later or tomorrow; I got home around eleven last night; went to sleep around midnight; got up early to go to the track; then drove back and worked the rest of the day! So I’m feeling a little weary…but I know that I’ll recall more details and anecdotes that I’ll want to share.
If you have specific questions, please ask them and I’ll do my best to answer them. I’m also going to look for press coverage and post links if I can find them.
Thanks again to the many, many, many people who contributed in one way or another to the success of this event; it really was a huge success, and something upwards of thirty FoB contributed time, money, rewards points, or auction items. Altogether, the contributions must come up to several thousand dollars, all for the children of Anna House!
crosspost: 13183.51 in reply to 13183.50
wow. Teresa, I have literally waited all day for this report- you made my birthday complete!
Thank you for being our roving reporter and sharing your experience.
I had no idea that such a high number of FOB helped with this, and am absolutely tickled to know this is the case!
Sorry that you didn't get photos, but that's okay. Word paintings are sometimes even better~
WHAT A WONDERFUL THREAD! It makes me feel happy to be alive...and to be an FOB...and to have such wonderful friends who enrich my life so much! (yes, you can tell I don't get out much...LOL)
Seriously, thank you for these wonderful stories of beautiful Saratoga...and thanks to all who put in their two cents and make the thread come alive!
Here's a link to photos of the ad--I was very disappointed not to get copies of the program...but I did take mine home, and seriously, I am happy to send it out to people who want to see the whole thing--it could be like a big chain letter--we could see how long it takes to get back to me? =)
It is NOT by invitation only! Anyone who wants to buy the ticket (this year $200) can attend...if you want advance notice, get on the BCCA mailing list, and you'll get a "save the date" and response card in the mail early in the summer.
See you next August!