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Despite Attendance Cap, 100k Anticipated for Travers Day
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Any municipality preparing to host a major event such as baseball’s World Series, a World Fair, or a visiting monarch would do well to reach out to the public and private leadership in the City of Saratoga Springs for a bit of advice.
Every year, without fail, the City hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world during Saratoga racing season, a feat requiring constant communication and smooth, dance-like coordination between stakeholders to pull off.
This year, with racing’s own visiting monarch in the form of Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah, plus Earth, Wind, and Fire and Chicago performing Saturday evening at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), crowds could reach 100,000 people on Travers Day, August 29, but the experienced small city in the country is more than ready.
“We definitely have more staff on duty than we normally would,” said Gregory Veitch, chief of police of the Saratoga Springs Police Department. “We anticipate it being one of the largest track sizes that we have seen in a long time. It’s going to be a big deal and we’ve been planning this for quite some time. There will be an increased presence by all law enforcement, emergency medical and fire. We aren’t doing this in a vacuum.”
In the century and a half of summer racing seasons, successful public safety and coordination at local, state, and federal levels has played an important role in keeping fans and visitors returning year after year.
“A lot of thought has gone into our coordinating with other agencies, and we are very appreciative of them,” said Christian Mathiesen, commissioner of Public Safety in Saratoga Springs. “I know the sheriff’s department will be very helpful, especially with traffic. The fire department will have an increased presence, and EMS will have two engine crews instead of one and one HAZMAT truck at the racetrack. The Police Department will have some changes in the traffic patterns, and overall staff will be optimal to take care of issues at the track and throughout the City. My advice to everyone is to come early and be patient, not to expect to breeze right into the City.”
Visitors will be driving in to attend the concert at SPAC around the same time the people are leaving the racecourse after the last race, so traffic patterns may change to accommodate the increase and timing. Visitors are asked not to honk their horns, as this can startle the horses. (See page 14 for important traffic safety notices).
Public safety is just one piece of the larger entertainment puzzle put together by public and private partnerships in the City. As a destination locale, there is quite a bit of effort put into assuring everyone has a good time.
“We began talking and staying in touch as soon as American Pharoah won the Triple Crown,” said Todd Shimkus, CCE, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. “The Convention and Tourism Bureau, Downtown Business Association, CDTA, the Mayor’s office, the Police Chief – we even talked with Amtrak the week after he won.”
Those conversations continued throughout the season. “There has been months of preparation ahead of this year’s Travers in anticipation of American Pharoah coming to Saratoga,” said Todd Garofano, president of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau. “Once NYRA [The New York Racing Association] announced that attendance would be capped at 50,000, we all turned our attention to creating and promoting viewing parties at Saratoga area bars and restaurants. Our message is that while the Travers is sold-out, Saratoga is not. We want fans to come and participate in what is a historic weekend for Saratoga. A website was created, www.2015saratogatravers.com to list and promote the viewing parties around town.”
Shimkus understood the reasons behind NYRA’s cap on attendance at the track, but said the rest of the town leaders were confident that the City could welcome many more, which is why they worked so hard to set up viewing parties.
“This is about creating an experience that people want to come back to time and again,” Shimkus said. “The cap allows the track to provide the best possible customer service to those attending, so it’s up to us to provide the best possible experience to City visitors not only to ticket holders, but for all those who can’t be there. We’re working hard locally to make sure we can accommodate everyone, that everyone has a great experience, with just the right food, the right product, and help people find hotel rooms – we are getting calls from around the world.”
Shimkus went on to say with confidence that it is not the first time the City has hosted a big crowd in Saratoga. The vast majority of businesses are locally owned by people who live here and have a sense of what they need to do to make this work. He said the process has been relatively smooth for years when it comes to preparing for crowds from a staffing perspective, food perspective, merchandise perspective, and promotional perspective.
“I don't think anyone has any idea of what it takes to host something like this,” said Shimkus. “This hasn't happened in 37 years, [Triple Crown winner]. We'll be talking about this to our grandkids. Yes, traffic is difficult, parking is difficult, getting reservations is difficult, folks might have to wait in a line, but while standing there, take a deep breath and look around and know you’ll remember this race and this moment 40 years from now. The enormity of the event will make us all a little more patient when we think about how cool this really is.”
By Brendan O’Meara
For Saratoga TODAY
What this past weekend showed, if nothing else, was a shape of things to come for the $1.6 million Travers Stakes.
Could the Travers be a one-horse walkover starring American Pharoah? It may as well be because that’s what we saw by his visually impressive and comedic performance in the $1.75 million Haskell Invitational this past Sunday.
Comedic in that it was a complete joke; he made a mockery of a field of decent 3-year-olds and he did it in third gear with the brake lights glowing scarlet. His final time of 1:47.80 was made all the more impressive due to the lack of urging. If he wanted to—and that’s the thing with American Pharoah—he could have run this race in well under 1:47.
Mr. Jordan, a horse who won the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth, was a pace threat in the Haskell and hung on for about 46 seconds before he was, by all accounts, eased to a canter. What he experienced on the front end was that American Pharoah breathes different air. Not every Jedi can be Yoda.
So Victor Espinoza, aboard American Pharoah, didn’t so much say, “Go” with a quarter-mile to go as “This bores me” and let the reins out a few transcendent inches. Keen Ice gave a spirited chase before Lucy pulled the football out from his outstretched foot.
In that final eighth of a mile, you could hear the gears turning: What race will American Pharoah target next? (NBC’s Kenny Rice pressed and pressed and pressed, but all he got was that ‘Would-You-Let-Me-Enjoy-This?’ look from owner Ahmed Zayat and trainer Bob Baffert).
Saratoga-philes will cry Travers, as they are prone to do. A Mid-Summer Derby with the Kentucky Derby winner jacks up the ‘derbyness’ of the entire day. It feels more authentic and the New York Racing Association brass will, no doubt, see two cherries verging on three on the slot machine should Zayat point his van up the Northway.
Given 48 hours to think, Zayat made his motives clear: He wants Saratoga and he wants it bad.
"I have made it very clear that I want to go to the Travers," Zayat said in Ron Mitchell’s BloodHorse.com article. "We are motivated by what defines his legacy. If it were up to me, it would be the Travers. I have made my desires known to my trainer. He knows what I want."
There’s no subtext here for Baffert to read into. A trainer’s No. 1 job isn’t to train horses, it’s to placate owners, but Zayat may want to hear Baffert out if he does, in fact, want to ship somewhere south and west of Saratoga Springs.
American Pharoah has toyed with restricted company since March, so staying in his own class is like Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer facing high schoolers. Just three weeks away sits the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar against older horses and this could be the chance to release a monster on the older division.
What more can American Pharoah do against the 3-year-olds? He beat the Grade I Wood Memorial winner (Frosted) twice. He beat the Grade I Santa Anita Derby winner (Dortmund) twice. He beat the horse that set the mile record at Churchill Downs (Competitive Edge). At this point American Pharoah’s greatest competition are ghosts.
The only reason he would exclusively run against 3-year-olds again (and it would be only one more time) is out of Zayat’s charity to bring him to Saratoga.
The Pharoah is already the Horse of the Year and Champion Three-Year-Old, so what’s to prove? His only challenge over the following two or three races are against older horses. All great 3-year-olds eventually approach the mountain previously summited by older horses. The tenured elites have been waiting.
Back in 2009, a similar line of reasoning was used for the campaigning of Rachel Alexandra. After she beat her 3-year-old fillies in the Kentucky Oaks by 20 1/4 lengths and then in the Mother Goose by 19 1/4 lengths, what more could she have done against her class?
She also beat 3-year-old males in the Preakness and the Haskell. What more could she have done against them? The only logical step, in the spirit of competition, was the older males. It squeezed everything out of Rachel Alexandra to “raise the rafters” at the Spa, but she did it, even at the expense of her 4-year-old year.
As it stands, American Pharoah hasn’t been tested since the Kentucky Derby and he seems to be getting better, as hard as that is to believe, which makes the Travers a hard sell from a pure athletic perspective. That, and American Pharoah will scare away more horses than the ghost of Ramesses II.
The only way the Travers has much of a chance is to bump its purse up from $1.25 million to $2 million, and it struck a happy medium at $1.6 million. That will attract more victims. A purse of that size will ensure a full field instead of five or six horses running for second.
Saratoga stands to benefit from increased attendance, betting handle and patrons’ trips to the Shake Shack should American Pharoah show. It’s only fair.
“I was very surprised that Saratoga raised their purse," Zayat said. "I have not asked (racetrack representatives) for a nickel. I had zero financial discussions with them. The purse raise came as a surprise to me.”
Saratoga stands to earn that extra $350,000 back and then some.
The other argument for the Travers is the mere fact that this is the only crack a 3-year-old colt gets at it. It’s the Mid-Summer Derby, after all. The last Triple Crown winner to run in the Travers was Affirmed, but there’s no Alydar stepping into quarter-inch bends to, at the very least, make American Pharoah appear mortal.
With all his time parading around the East Coast, a trip to the Pacific Ocean is only fair to the fans out west. Something for Baffert to think about, assuming the thinking hasn’t already been done for him.
It’s too early for the Saratoga Springs Chamber of Commerce to lace Broadway with American Pharoah banners, but in the meantime it’s worth basking in what he’s done and the hope in what remains.
Brendan O’Meara is the author of Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Filly Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year, now out in paperback
Legendary Racing Cartoonist Honored at Saratoga Events this Summer
By Arthur Gonick
SARATOGA SPRINGS – He has a career spanning over 50-years developing what can only be described as a labor of love: Horse racing’s preeminent cartoonist, chronicling in caricature the leading lights of the sport of kings with verve, style and impish good humor.
Pierre Bellocq, known affectionately to racing fans as PEB, whose iconic cartoons were a staple of the Daily Racing Form, is continuing to embrace life well into his ninth decade. And he shows no signs of slowing down. This summer, he is returning to Saratoga Springs for the first time in a few years (“a place that I always feel happy,” he said) to receive richly deserved accolades at some of racing society’s leading galas and events. PEB was one of the honorees at Equine Advocates Gala this past Thursday, July 30, at which several of his collectable cartoons were among the auction items.
He also has been commissioned to paint a fiberglass horse with the likeness of current triple-crown winner American Pharoah, to be auctioned at the Sunday, August 9 gala (“The Foods of Anne Burrell”) to benefit the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at the Canfield Casino in Congress Park (for information, visit www.trfinc.org). PEB is planning to attend this event as well.
It’s been a long, cheerful road for the man who once voyaged to the US from France in the 1950s. “I was sponsored by the then owner of Laurel Race Course in Baltimore, John D. Shapiro, who was looking for an illustrator for his track program,” PEB said. “Most people don’t know this, but I actually came over on a cargo plane with five horses! For me, it seemed luxurious being able to sleep in all that hay. And it gave me an opportunity to brush up on my English with the grooms.”
His patron, Shapiro, also connected PEB with work at a local advertising agency, and eventually, the Daily Racing Form, where he rapidly grew to be a 365-day institution – frequently his cartoons would be prominent on the front page of racing’s bible. “I mostly made my choice of subject with little direction, featuring the leading event of the day and focusing on the personality of trainer, jockey, horse as I saw them,” he said.
How did the subject feel about being caricatured? “Well, usually they were gratified. I recall one person saying: When I’ve been drawn by PEB I know I’ve made it!” He said. “Although, I’ve learned over time that it is wise to be extra-sensitive as to how I draw the ladies.”
While most of PEB’s cartoons would reflect the good-natured and humorous side of racing, he would also cover the controversial issues (such as doping or mistreatment of horses) when the situation called for it. Which is precisely why he is a worthy honoree at this year’s galas.
Also, some may not be aware that for many years he pulled double-duty: Skewering politicians and the great issues of the day three times a week as a political cartoonist at the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I preferred international issues over local – they were less likely to come looking for me!”
Even over the phone, you can feel the joie de vivre and warmth in his voice – the voice of a man who loves sharing his gift with others.
Regarding Saratoga, PEB first came visited as a guest of jockey Jean Cruguet and his wife. “So many memories… on my first outing, Saratoga reminded me of the atmosphere at Deauville” (a race course in in the Basse-Normandie region of France,) PEB said. “So beautiful, the morning workouts, breakfast at the track, the museums…”
“Saratoga. Going there, it’s always something I always look forward to,” he said.
The Hunt & Fish Club at Siro’s is Ready for a Big Debut Season
By Arthur Gonick
“People love the luxury here. Our job is to build upon a treasured concept.”
So stated Ben O’Sullivan, executive chef of the Hunt & Fish Club; a restaurant that has taken the discerning foodie community in New York City by storm since it opened at the beginning of this year. O’Sullivan is leading a core group that will be establishing something extra-special this race season – at a place that has always been special.
Behold: The Hunt & Fish Club at Siro’s. The best meets the best adjacent to the Saratoga Racecourse, at a place where winners have always met. By the time you read this, it’s the surest of sure bets that they’ll be ready to dazzle and delight diners. “I see our role as establishing a brand that is faithful to the restaurant’s glorious heritage, while putting our own stamp on things,” O’Sullivan said.
And so, while you will still see several familiar items on the menu, such as the colossal 7-10 pound lobsters that are a Siro’s tradition, expect to see some incredible upgrades. For one thing, the restaurant will feature miyazaki beef. Originating from a region south of Kobe in Japan, O’Sullivan noted that this Wagyu beef is rated A5 – the highest grade of prime beef available. All the beef served at Siro’s this summer will be dry-aged for maximum flavor.
Some of the Hunt & Fish Club’s most popular dishes, including its signature Burnt Lemon Chicken, will be on the Siro’s menu. O’Sullivan mentioned that the menu will not be the same every time you visit, however. “I expect that we’ll have changes in response to what are the best available products over the course of the next seven weeks – I’m a big believer in local sourcing and I’m looking forward to seeing what fish, mushrooms and other items are available to put on the menu. We are also discussing the idea of a special Tuesday ‘locals’ menu, where we can get a chance to really get creative.” He said.
O’Sullivan, a Napa Valley area native, sports an impressive background prior to taking the reins at The Hunt & Fish Club. He apprenticed for legendary Chef Todd Humphries on the West Coast (“…he would have us all forage for mushrooms with him,” O’Sullivan noted with a smile), with stops at leading restaurants in Toronto and Nantucket on his way to New York City, where, among other places, he worked at the prestigious ABC Kitchen under multiple-Michelin star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. His training was evident in the quiet, confident and firm manner that he led his staff in preparing the dishes for this piece that make it evident that those visiting Siro’s this summer are in for a singular treat.
It may come as a surprise to some that the kitchen staff at Siro’s manages to perform all this excellence with a rather small staff of six. Three were brought up by O’Sullivan from The Hunt & Fish Club, including his Sous Chef Jim and two line cooks.
Another surprise is that this will be O’Sullivan’s first summer in Saratoga Springs. His impressions so far? “I love the ambiance. It reminds me of St. Helena in California, which has a seasonal wine culture.”
Some of the things outside the restaurant he looks forward to include “…a long bike ride. I’m looking forward to seeing the lakes in this region. I can’t wait to visit the Farmers’ market here, as well as some of the other restaurants that I’ve heard so much about.”
“But mostly, I’m looking forward to just absorbing the racetrack atmosphere here. It’s going to be exciting to experience,” He said.
And it’s another sure bet that O’Sullivan and his team will make your Hunt & Fish Club at Siro’s dining experience as world-class as the race meet next door.
By Carrie Rowlands Johnson
For Saratoga TODAY
SARATOGA SPRINGS – “Next up, we have Carrie Rowlands Johnson from Saratoga TODAY Newspaper, modeling a gorgeous hunter green strapless evening gown from THEIA by Don O’Neill. Its daring neckline is complimented by a stunning, one-of-a-kind necklace designed by Peter Ciesla.”
The words coming out of Natalie Sillery’s mouth seem to echo inside my head. I am aware of the fact that she is in front of the microphone, on the same stage just a few feet away from me, but I don’t dare shift my gaze sideways. I am completely focused on my mission: make it across the stage, down the stairs, and up the aisle without tripping over and possibly tearing my amazing THEIA couture gown.
In spite of the fact that I am by nature a genuine clutz, right now I feel like a princess. The gown I am modeling is a strapless, curve-hugging, world-class masterpiece. It’s a shade of dark hunter green reminiscent of fairies and pixie dust. Around my neck is what designer Peter Ciesla calls “Wearable art,” and it certainly is. It is hand-embroidered, lined with silk and crafted of tiny glass seed beads and Golden Sheen Obsidian.
My hair is coiffed and pulled away from my face, thanks to the skillful hands of master stylist Julie Potter, who spent the three hours before the show readying almost all of the nearly fifty girls modeling. Seriously, I’ve never seen anyone’s hands perform such miracles in such small bits of time. Her hands work on hair the way mine do on a computer keyboard, as if they have a mind of their own.
This isn’t my first time modeling, but I am such an amateur. The last time I walked a runway was about thirteen years ago, at this same event. I remember it being much smaller in scale, with fewer girls, fewer gowns, fewer attendees. Leave it to Natalie Sillery of Saratoga Trunk to keep it alive all of these years and help grow it to the grand event it is today, a staple of pre- Travers weekend festivities at The Saratoga Race Track and a fashionable, flirty, and fun way to raise money for The Ronald McDonald House.
As I walk across the stage in front of about five hundred ticket holders inside the “At the Rail Pavilion,” I try to remember the tips I gleaned from a few of the other models before the show. Many of these women have been what Natalie affectionately calls “Trunkettes" since the show made its debut sixteen years ago. They are an eclectic bunch, hand-picked from the community by Natalie herself. Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen, artist Joni Sarah White, The Stadium Restaurant Proprietress Chris Harmon, and local graphic designer Christianne Smith are just a few of the fascinating women I meet.
Katie Rodriguez owns the new and wildly popular downtown restaurant Javier’s with her husband and the restaurant’s namesake, Javier. A former ballerina, she is a newbie this year, but was an absolute natural in a strapless ball gown painted a stunning shade of baby blue. “I’d rather dance my way down the runway,” she laughed before the start.
For me, this event is about more than just fashion and fun. The Ronald McDonald House holds a special place in my heart. One of my 8-year old boys, Jordan, was in the NICU at Albany Medical center for twelve days after birth. While his twin brother, Cameron, and I were up in the Saratoga Hospital, Jordan’s dad spent a few overnights by his side, crashing for a few hours here and there at The Ronald McDonald’s Family Room, located inside Albany Medical Center’s Children Hospital. A few hours of my time today remind me of that special, stressful time in my life more than eight years ago.
I make it across the stage and up the aisle without even a slight stumble before rushing backstage to change into my second and final gown. I have mere minutes to carefully disrobe and pull on a breathtaking black gown reminiscent of a bridal piece, with fluffy tulle on the skirt and a delicate, intricately detailed lacy top. I can barely breathe as two of the trunkettes tighten the corset and zip me in. “I don’t care if you can breathe, as long as you can walk down the runway,” Natalie laughs good-naturedly.
While I wait in line for my second turn on stage, THEIA’s Designer/Creative Director Don O’Neill himself kneels down and straightens the train on this world-class gown. This man is a legend in the fashion world. He is a globally-renowned designer and has dressed celebrities including Oprah Winfrey and Taylor Swift. I feel as though I am living a dream, realizing he is now dressing me! After Don O’Neill’s final approval, I take my second walk onstage. I am ecstatic as I near the end of the runway and daringly steal a glance sideways for a smile at my friend, Matt Kieley, who purchased a ticket to support me and this worthy cause. I gather with the rest of the models at the back of the room, then step in line to file across the stage for the grand finale.
As we say our final goodbyes, I am honored to realize every little girl’s dream has become my own reality. At least for “TODAY.”
With tickets and the silent auction at the end of the show, the event raised a lot of money for The Ronald McDonald House.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga 150 Committee may have been developed to help celebrate last year’s 150th race course celebration, but it is still making a presence now and plans to do more in the future.
An example of that is how the committee has established 10 interactive quarter pole markers that have been put up in downtown Saratoga Springs (seven) and at the Saratoga Race Course (three). The poles were purchased with some of the leftover funds from the 150th celebration.
“I have to give all the credit to Bill Dake (Chairman of the board for Stewart’s Shops Corp. and member of Saratoga 150 Committee),” said Charles Wait Sr., chief executive officer and chairman of the Adirondack Trust Company. “He came up with the idea and then he managed to wrangle the forces together to get it designed, built and put in place in three months, which is pretty quick. We were very fortunate in having a surplus from the 150 events, principally from the generous donations we got, the sale of our logo rights and the events we ran. With that surplus we decided we wanted to do something to unify the city on a more permanent basis than just one year, so we brought the committee together and we settled on three projects.”
Wait is also chairman of the Saratoga 150 Committee, which selected the locations of the interactive markers based on places of heavy foot traffic, which are also out of the way of snowplows.
Designed after the infamous red and white markers at the Saratoga Race Course, the poles are equipped with a Quick Response (QR) code, so anyone with a smartphone can get information about the city with the subtle movement of their finger.
The code will take users to ViewSaratoga.com, an interactive site that further takes people into the city’s rich history.
“The website really tells you what Saratoga was like in the old days and what it is today,” Wait said. “The long-range vision is to expand the usefulness of that website.”
Currently, ViewSaratoga.com includes the following 11 subheadings with photos and information:
“The Battle of Saratoga”
“The Horses” “Grand Hotels”
“The Spa State Park”
“The Place To Be”
Wait hopes the website will go beyond giving new visitors a brief history of Saratoga Springs, envisioning a site that gives people information on parking, taxi services and box office information.
Aside from the three locations at the track, the poles can be found in various spots including outside of the Saratoga City Center, the information booth on Broadway, the main Adirondack Trust building, and the Stewart’s at the corner of Circular Street and Broadway.
“There are certainly thoughts of adding more [poles] in the future, but we don’t have any specific locations picked out,” Wait said. “We want to see how the traffic is for this.”
The committee will be keeping an eye on how many people use the QR codes in the coming months to see how popular the new features are. The committee is also working on ways to boost the north and south entrances of Saratoga Springs also.
The remarkable thing about horse racing is its widespread appeal and that was brought to light in a conversation with my mailman the other day.
Patrick Mansfield has manned the route around Saratoga Race Course for most of his 29 years with the U.S. Postal Service. He was born and raised in Saratoga and claims he doesn’t remember becoming a race fan. His story is proof in the pudding.
Mansfield tells his story to Marilyn Lane.
I was always a fan. My grandmother owned a home on Nelson Avenue and every season she rented her place and came to stay with us. Jean Cruguet lived there the summer after he won the Triple Crown on Seattle Slew. My grandmother would have parties and every year I got to know more track people.
My first job at the track, I worked as a sweeper. My day started cleaning the pit, that’s the area between the apron of the grandstand and the track. It would be filled with discarded tickets and we’d work with our eyes peeled, but thank God they paid a salary because finding a live ticket didn’t happen very often.
I’m a big fan of Jerry Bailey. Cigar is my all-time favorite horse and Jerry’s signed every one of his win pictures for me.
Frank and Linda Alexander have always been so nice to me. They’ve been on my route for years. I’ll never forget when they won with that Dogwood horse, Slambino. I was alive with my Pick 6 but I didn’t have him because Frank told me he didn’t have a chance. Slambino trailed the field all the way around there and in the last 100 yards he exploded and got up for the win at 88 to 1!
Frank Alexander trained horses for 42 years. His was victorious in 74 stakes races. His richest win was with Cherokee Run in the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The fast bay was voted sprint champion that same year. In all, Cherokee Run made 28 starts and visited the winner’s circle 13 times. The Florida-bred champion earned a whopping $1,531,818 and went on to be a successful sire. He’s the perfect poster boy to kick off Saratoga Today’s 2014 Winner’s Circle.
Frank and his wife, Linda, have maintained a home in Saratoga since 2000.
“The best thing about our years in the game were our great owners,” Linda said. “People like Cot Campbell of Dogwood Stables and the Robinson’s (owners of Cherokee Run) really cared for their horses, they always allowed Frank to do right by the horse and that’s what mattered most to us.”
Mike Smith signed a picture of Holy Bull for me back in ’98. That afternoon he had that God-awful spill on the turf. All these years later he’s one of the most elite riders to ever come along and he’s just as nice as he’s always been.
Richard and Evelyn Pollard are such terrific people. I remember how much I hurt for them when their good horse, Saratoga County, got that bad batch of medicine and died.
I have a picture of Funny Cide in my living room. I love racing and go as often as I can. I always take Travers week off and a bunch of my buddies come up for the races, it’s the highlight of my year.
I try to get to Florida at least once or twice a winter. Saratoga Day at Tampa Bay Downs is something I try not to miss. It’s always the first Sunday in March and a lot of fun.
I went to the Kentucky Derby one time. It cost me $50 to park and an infield pass was another $30 and I saw nothing. It was so frustrating. I’ve been to Keeneland and loved it. I’ll go back there. I’ve gone to the Kentucky Horse Park a couple of times to see Cigar and then the last time I was there I got to see Funny Cide too. That was really nice.
It’s funny the things I remember, like the year my parents were putting in a pool. They went out to check on the workers and no one was there. Affirmed and Alydar were pitted against each other in the Travers that day and everyone went to the races, including the pool guys!
The Spring Street Deli is on my route and one of my favorite stops. Dale Romans brings a table full of people there almost every day during the season and on any given day you’re going to meet a lot of backstretch people stopping by to enjoy the great food. It’s just such great energy.
Louie Olah, the silks guy, was one of my favorites. He had a condo on Union Avenue. Sometimes he’d call me even in the winter and when he was here he always invited my family to come to the Jocks’ Room. He loved his job and made every one around him happy.
You ask what it is I like about racing; well it’s a million things, the guys at the feed store, stopping by the museum every day or Ken Ramsey inviting me to join him in the winner’s circle.
The Whitney Viewing Stand is the best thing to happen to Saratoga racing in a long time. Now a guy like me can go to see the morning workouts and I love it. I especially enjoy watching the kids, the way they thrill to see the horses and how they warm up to all the friendly people. There’s no broader smile than that of an exercise rider on his or her favorite horse, unless it be a kid looking up to them. I think it does people good to see how hard all those people on the backside work and to feel the respect they have for the animals.
My youngest daughter has ridden since she was 5. Dressage is her thing. She rides a Thoroughbred. His name is Jasper, but his racing name was Kristi. He was purchased right here at Fasig-Tipton, raced for five years and won in the United States, France and Canada. Calvin Borel rode him and when Calvin was here for Rachel (Alexandra) he was on my route. I got to go see Rachel in her stall. Calvin gave me a bunch of signed caps. I have so many great memories.
I love how everyone decorates their porches and its fun to see people studying their Racing Forms. Racing gives everybody a chance to play at whatever level suits them. Even the fighting for parking can be entertaining, and who doesn’t enjoy all the fancy clothes or watching people pull coolers the size of a Mack trucks to the picnic area?
I miss Harvey Pack and his handicapping show. I always loved how he’d end every session with, “May the horse be with you.” We’re lucky to live in Saratoga and have the horses! They’ll always be with me.
Space Derby is your Online Solution.
SARATOGA SPRINGS—For years, decades even - the real race has always preceded the races on the historic Saratoga Race Course oval.
The race for a decent parking space.
Where will I find one? Will I find one? And how much am I going to pay? The tension and uncertainty surrounding these questions have been as much a part of the Saratoga Race Course experience as the walking ring and the Big Red Spring.
Thanks to Saratoga Springs native Hans Theisen, you now have a solution at your fingertips: on your smart phone or any computer device.
Behold SpaceDerby.com – an online solution that makes finding and securing parking around the track (and soon, downtown and other areas) as simple as ordering a pizza or as Hans puts it “Think of it like booking a hotel.”
“Research has shown,” Theisen said, “that nearly two-thirds of same day hotel bookings are on a mobile device. We are just adapting it to parking.”
It really is so simple; your child could do it while you driving up the Northway. Once logged onto their site, you choose a date, and various options (locations and prices appear.) Click, book, pay online and receive an email or mobile receipt in seconds with your license plate number.
For instance, if you wanted to book a parking space for track opening day, July 18, you search on that date, and in this case, options ranging from $5 to $34 will appear. For Travers Day (August 23) the range is from $15 to $42, while a post-Travers weekday might be in the $5-$29 range.
Each location has a little profile page, showing a map and picture of your destination, which could be very helpful for first-time visitors, as well as various amenities (such as available restroom facilities) and even, in some cases, promotional incentives. For instance, at the Mexican Connection, a complimentary “Park-a-Rita” (a $6 value) is waiting for you inside and for your $7 parking fee at the Horseshoe Inn on opening day, you also get a 15 percent discount off your food bill that night.
Well, you do the math. Less stress and a more fulfilling experience. Sounds like a beginning of a winning day to me. You also have flexibility. You can reserve for any day of the meet, book a number of adjacent spaces (Tailgate!), pay for a client’s parking and even cancel with 24 hours notice.
Theisen, an entrepreneur who has participated in five previous start-ups is launching this one solo. He has been talking to downtown entities, and has plans to expand this concept to major markets like NYC, Boston and Los Angeles, where the appeal would be obvious, though certainly the logistical challenges would be greater.
“But I wanted to launch it here,” He said of his hometown. “I’m still here every August, and I am aware of the unique situation we have in this market every year.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Veteran handicappers Tom Amello and Nick Kling, longtime co-hosts of “Trackfacts Live” on the Capital OTB television network, will participate in a Travers Stakes preview discussion at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame on Thursday, August 22 at 10:30 a.m. The program is free and open to the public and will feature video of key races leading up to the Midsummer Derby as well as a question-and-answer session with the panelists.