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RSVP: Reporting Saratoga's Various Parties for 8/17

By | News

Racing to the Microphone

Monday is Friday for the jockeys of Saratoga, who have off on dark Tuesdays. In the spirit of ‘TGIM,’ Vapor Night Club came alive on Monday, August 13, for Riders Up!, benefiting the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF).


Almost 200 attendees learned what ‘horsing around’ really means as jockeys went head to head in an on-stage karaoke competition. Appropriately, Tom Durkin emceed this race for the coveted golden microphone. With his trademark wit, he welcomed guests, thanked sponsors and invited former jockey Andrew Lakeman to the stage. Lakeman was paralyzed from the chest down in a horrific 2007 accident at Belmont Park; in 2011, he returned to the world he loves as a trainer. After drawing the lucky ticket that allowed two people full ‘VIP’ access to the jockeys’ event ‘green room,’ Lakeman expressed his gratitude to PDJF and the supporters present. Durkin then introduced the jockey lineup and the riders joined Lakeman for an ensemble opening performance.

YNN’s Marisa Jacques, Hall of Fame jockey-turned-agent Angel Cordero Jr., and noted trainer Todd Pletcher were appointed to judge the sing-off in “American Idol” style. After the ensemble number, there was no doubt Pletcher was channeling Simon Cowell when he declared, “This might be a very long night.”

While the panel was tasked with choosing the best performance, guests were asked to select their own favorite by casting ‘bets’ for PDJF. During each song, volunteers circulated the room, collecting donations, or votes, for that act. How to choose? Some didn’t. NYRA’s Molly Brindle was overheard asking manager Colleen Carlson where the closest ATM was.

A few sung on their own, others with spouses and several in groups. John and Leona Velazquez performed “Someone That I Used to Know,” crooning together, though the judges each noted that Leona rescued her husband. Maylan Studart owned “Magic Man” and was the early lead, perhaps more for her late-70s attire than her singing, but all’s fair in karaoke.

When David Cohen and Julien Laparoux came out to sing “Baby,” Jacques thought they were dressed to rock like the Beastie Boys, not the Justin Biebers they aspired to be. What saved the pair? Laparoux’s fiancée, Shea Mitchell, joined them and carried the performance home.

Next up were Rajiv Maragh, Javier Castellano, Junior Alvarado and Studart, who returned to help the guys with the “Moves Like Jagger,” performed by the group as the ‘moves like Javi.’ It was a good call to include Studart. She distracted the judges, and even Pletcher threw out a positive word or two, perhaps because he had already razzed Maragh for two earlier numbers.

Just before intermission, former jockey, now agent, Ronnie Ebanks brought the house down to his rendition of “Strokin’.” Complete with back-up dancers, Ebanks’ performance left Jacques blushing and Cordero smiling to himself, while Pletcher sat back, taking it all in. It was classic Clarence Carter, and Ebanks stroked it perfectly. Kudos to his dancing girls, Judy Doyle, Stacy Prior, Jillian Tullock and ‘Doc Jamie’ for making it through the number. Everyone else needed a break when it was over!

Guests took the opportunity to refill drinks and check out their silent auction bids. There were minimal items compared to the season’s other events, but quality made up for quantity since most were one-of-a-kind, autographed treasures. From a signed collage of Ramon Dominguez’s record six-win day at Saratoga on July 22, to a Derby lamp from the Thomas Allen Pauly Fine Art collection with a shade autographed by the 2012 Kentucky Derby jockeys, to the Breeder’s Cup package with clubhouse seats and exclusive passes, bidding was high and furious during the brief intermission.

Back on stage, redhead Rosie Napravnik donned a blond wig to woo her husband, Joe Sharp, in “You’re the One That I Want.” During the judges’ critique, she quickly pointed out that if she could sing, she probably wouldn’t be riding horses.

The fun continued as Edgar Prado and Alan Garcia attempted “Fly Me to the Moon.” Durkin somberly met the two in the middle of the stage and reminded the judging trio that they weren’t required to say anything. So they didn’t. Prado is in the Hall of Fame for racing, not singing. Enough said.

The Susan Boyle of the night was former jockey Heriberto Rivera, Jr. Performing the final song in the competition, Rivera, now a regional manager for the Jockeys’ Guild, did more than show with his flawless version of “Lady.” The tune actually inspired the Velazquez’s to dance their way back on stage where John literally swept his lady off her feet.

In the end, the judges were torn between Rivera and Ebanks, asking the audience for applause to break the tie. Ebanks won by a nose, or perhaps a hand, and also took the People’s Choice Award, having raised the most money of the eleven performances for PDJF.

The question now: who can cook? Find out at the next PDJF benefit, the 2nd Annual Taste of Saratoga, at Stadium Café on Monday.


Broadway on Broadway

From the moment guests arrived at the National Museum of Dance last Saturday, it was clear that a colorful celebration was in store. Over 400 walked the red carpet at the Song & Dance Gala, a carpet paling in comparison to the fabulous, magenta gown worn by Michele Riggi, event chair and museum president. Standing outside, she welcomed attendees as Imagine! Photography & Design captured souvenir photos against a lime backdrop. The earliest on the scene witnessed Riggi greeting the evening’s honoree, Ben Vereen, before he danced in to visit his exhibit in the Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame, and share a private moment with honorary chairs Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson.

By 7 p.m., the festivities were in full swing with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the main foyer. The space was splashed with lime accents, but among the white pillars, it was the glittering gowns and flirty cocktail dresses that really popped. Kimberly Adams-Russell stunned in a long, bright watercolor Theia, while Ann Marie Flores was a knockout in papaya adorned with paillettes, also by Theia from Saratoga Trunk. Kimberly Burton, owner of The Pink Paddock, wore a Lilly Pulitzer halter-style gown in carnation pink and orange. Beth Jameson and Pam Worth went long too, in styles from their own boutiques, Frivolous and Spoken. Julie Bonacio, Lisa Torani, Margie Rotchford, Phyllis Bynum and Kate Calbone all sparkled in their gowns, as did Laura James, who was toasting her upcoming appearance on “America’s Next Top Model” (August 24) with mom, Denise, and boyfriend, Ryan Duddy. Speaking of proud parents and the kids who make them so, Gideon Grande was seen chatting with mom and dad, Suzanne and Greg; Tori Rotchford posed for a photo with her father, Michael; and actor Chris Riggi came home to make a special appearance for his mother’s event.

Slowly, the crowd trickled across the courtyard into the School of the Arts, completely transformed by Fine Affairs. Fabric draped to hide glass windows turned the watchful parents’ gathering space into an elegant lounge, and the three studios usually filled with barres and ballerinas had become one long ballroom bursting with color. Aqua, hot pink, lime, yellow and purple plumes bloomed from matching ‘vases’ that glowed from within, more than two-feet above tables and chairs clad in the same colors.

The rooms weren’t the only transformation. Somewhere between the museum and the school, Michele Riggi traded her full-skirted gown for a sleek, peony crystal Theia that beautifully reflected the light and color on stage. She joined close friend and Master of Ceremonies John James, to welcome everyone once again, and started the celebration with a round of “Happy Birthday” for another dear friend, Dr. Joy Lucas. The pair continued the program, recognizing the many generous patrons present, including Hall of Fame Sponsors Bill and Susan Dake, Gary and Nancy DiCresce, the Swyer Family and Michele’s brother-in-law, Vince Riggi, with his wife, Patty, in addition to Song & Dance Star Sponsor Eileen Guarino.

A standing ovation lauded Hall of Fame inductee Vereen when Michele presented him with an exquisite Waterford crystal bowl commemorating the occasion. “Few entertainers today are as accomplished and versatile as Mr. Ben Vereen,” she stated. “His legendary performances transcend time and have been woven into the fabric of this country’s artistic legacy. His first love and passion will always be the stage.”

In grateful reply, Vereen spoke briefly and then dazzled like only he can, singing verses from his performances in “Wicked,” “Fosse,” “Pippin” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” among others.

Next up was a foot-stomping, all-out fun rendition of “Sunnyside of the Street” from the New York Song and Dance Company. The troupe was created five years ago with the idea that people of all nations understand the universal languages of song and dance. Based in New York City, they explore a wide range of dance in American culture, using rhythm as a common denominator, and combining old-style hoofing and theater dance from the last century, creating a show that hopes to unite the audience with contagious joy. And that it did! Spotted tapping to the beat were Seth McGuire, Judy and Celia Fulfs, Melissa Delsavio, Rich and Vonda Fazzi, Cathie Coleman, Janine Stowell, board secretary Leslie LaGuardia, and School of the Arts director Raul Martinez.

After an encore from Vereen, Mazzone Hospitality served an incredible plated entrée of grilled petite filet and broiled lobster tail with potatoes and pencil asparagus, capped by a chocolate-raspberry panini for dessert. The T.S. Ensemble beckoned diners to the dance floor and as the band played on, the party went well into the night.

Always one of the most elegant soirees of the summer season, the sold-out gala was another outstanding success for the National Museum of Dance thanks to the extraordinary committee assembled by Michele, and countless donors. Some in attendance were John and Mimi Carusone, Neil and Jane Golub, Ed and Maureen Lewi, Michael and Linda Toohey, Marc and Jennifer Leidig, Nancy Smith, Natalie Sillery, Tammy Loya, Tony and Trish Ianniello, Lisa Johnson Barber (also celebrating her birthday that night with husband, Allan) and several members of the board: John Witt, with Cari Endres, Michael Okby and his wife, Marlene, Nikki Roche, with husband Niall, and Buzz Aldrich with his wife, Mylea.

RSVP Spotlight for 8/17

From fabulous fillies to fine days and fashion shows, not to mention the Alabama Stakes on Saturday and the Travers next weekend, there is so much fun waiting to be had. RSVP today!

Put on some pink to end the week as NYRA celebrates women and their contributions to the Thoroughbred industry with Fabulous Fillies Day at the Saratoga Race Course. All fans wearing pink on Friday, August 17, will receive free admission and the first 1,000 women (age 16+) will receive a cubic zirconia, with the exception of one lucky lady who will be handed a real diamond to redeem for one of three Hearts on Fire diamond pendants from Northeastern Fine Jewelry.

A highlight of the festivities will be the Sizzling Hot Pink Saratoga Hat Luncheon to benefit The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) in the At the Rail Pavilion. This year’s event will pay tribute to BCRF Founder and Chairman Evelyn H. Lauder, and honor Virginia Kraft Payson, a renowned owner/breeder and a pioneer woman sports journalist and author. ESPN’s Jeannine Edwards will serve as Mistress of Ceremonies. General tickets are $150 per person and may be purchased by contacting NYRA Director of Community Relations Joanne Adams at (518) 584-6200, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Kick off the Travers Festival on Monday, August 20, with the 2nd Annual Taste of Saratoga, supporting the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. Guest chefs at The Stadium Café will include jockeys Rajiv Maragh, David Cohen, Javier Castellano, Ramon Dominguez, Shaun Bridgmohan and Simon Husbands. Local chefs John Ireland (Panza's 28 Tables), James Demers (PRIME at Saratoga National), Mike Kiernan (Sysco) and John LaPosta (Maestro’s at the Van Dam) will judge the dishes for the prestigious Jockey Boot Trophy, and the first 25 attendees will vote for their favorite to receive the new People’s Choice Award. Limited tickets are available for $65 each at both Stadium locations.

The track is dark on Tuesday, August 21, but it will still be One Fine Day for the Shelters of Saratoga. Partake in this afternoon garden tea party at Union Gables and support the only adult homeless shelter in Saratoga, Washington and Warren counties. A silent auction and entertainment by The Garland Nelson Ensemble will complement fare from Maestro’s at the Van dam and tea by Divinitea. For more information, visit www.sheltersofsaratoga.org.

On Wednesday the 22nd, trade garden party attire for jeans and gems to attend A Night of Denim & Diamonds, the 15th annual benefit for the Belmont Child Care Association. This year’s event at the Gideon Putnam Hotel will support Anna House, the early childhood center for children of the backstretch, and honor Barbara Banke of Stonestreet Farm. The casual evening includes cocktails, dinner and a silent auction. For tickets, call (516) 527-4746.

When dusk settles over Saratoga Race Course on Thursday, August 23, the annual Travers Celebration, the official party of the $1 million Travers Stakes, returns as a lavish outdoor cocktail party, sponsored by Macy's. Guests will indulge in delicious food stations and enjoy elaborate beverages to the music of the New York Players. The spirited event will also bring a new ticket price of $175 per person ($125 for those under 30), with proceeds benefiting the Backstretch Employee Service Team (B.E.S.T.) and the Times Union Hope Fund. Tickets may be purchased by calling (518) 584-6200, ext. 4233.

Next Friday, Travers Eve, the National Museum of Racing is the place to be as Senior Services of Albany hosts the 14th annual Travers Wine Tasting. Presented by Time Warner Cable, the evening features a premier wine tasting of 200 fine wines and beer from around the globe, enhanced by some of the Capital Region’s finest cuisine, all in support of the vital Meals on Wheels program. For details, visit www.seniorservicesofalbany.com.


The RSVP Must

On Thursday, August 23, Saratoga Trunk will present the 14th Saratoga Fashion Show to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region. This annual event, held in the At the Rail Pavilion on the Saratoga Race Course, is the ultimate celebration of Saratoga style, with attendees in full clubhouse attire and models in the hottest fashions for a cool fall ahead.

Each year, Natalie Sillery of Saratoga Trunk brings in noted designers and milliners to showcase their creations and provide personal guidance for interested shoppers. Don O’Neill, creative director for Theia, will be back by popular demand, fresh from his appearance at The Kerryman Irish Independent Fashion Show, part of the Rose of Tralee International Festival. The fabulous Kay Unger will also be in attendance, and Sillery promises delightful surprises are in store for show guests.

Doors open promptly at 11 a.m., with the runway show at 11:30, leaving plenty of time for bidding in the ‘Win, Place, Show’ silent auction before cheering favorites in the 1 p.m. post. With a lavish luncheon spread, dessert bar and champagne courtesy of Crush & Cask, this event sells out year after year. There are limited reservations still available. To make yours, visit www.rmhcofalbany.org or call (518) 438-2655.

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