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SARATOGA SPRINGS — “Well, inside I was freaking out. But it was too good an opportunity to pass up.”
So said Rodger Wyland, a fixture in this market’s sports world, reminiscing about his first broadcast, which happened to take place on Travers Day, 1986, as a then-new addition to the WNYT-13 sports team. “Here I am, Born and raised in Altoona, PA, so of course we have heard of Saratoga, but never did I imagine that my debut assignment would put me on the roof to anchor our station’s coverage,” Wyland said.
Well, if he was nervous, it apparently didn’t show. For on Friday, August 26, Rodger Wyland, along with co-host John Pricci, will be up on the roof again, anchoring WNYT’s Travers Preview program, from 7-7:30 p.m. – a mere 30 years later. His regular sports program, “Big Board Sports,” has blossomed into the region’s “Must See TV” sports broadcast, on the network (NBC) affiliate that invented that catch phrase, as well as the network that will bring the big race, and show off Saratoga itself to the world on Saturday, August 27. And after the Travers, look for the Wyland-Pricci alliance to be on air with post-game analysis at about 6:20 p.m.
“So there I was, scrambling to prepare for that first broadcast, and I’m looking around the press box for some experts to interview,” Wyland said. “John at the time was the race analyst for Long Island’s Newsday, in addition to being an extremely colorful individual. John didn’t hesitate: He said, ‘Sure, I’ll do it!’ “He really bailed me out on that first broadcast. And we’ve been friends ever since,” Wyland concluded.
In a number of ways, this 30th anniversary has brought Rodger Wyland full circle. In addition to the WYNT anniversary, he this month transitioned to a higher plane on another other broadcast branch of his sports ‘tree’: Radio, as he moved to 104.5 the Team, an FM affiliate of sports powerhouse ESPN Radio, after several years on AM980. His show airs Monday-Friday, from 10 a.m. to noon, with Friday’s broadcast originating live from Saratoga Race Course. “I really got an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Wyland said. “For one thing, I have the syndicated “Mike and Mike Show” (Greenberg and Golic) from 6 to 10 a.m. as a lead-in. The ratings are huge!” “More importantly,” he continued, “I’ve got a big-time producer/partner on the show in Brady Farkas. This is a big upgrade. Most hosts get a producer who screens calls, cues breaks. Brady is on the mic next to mine. I can’t say enough about the guy! He knows his stuff, and puts it out there effectively. Even our good-natured ribbing and repartee is mixed with a major dose of respect. I’m telling your readers – watch this one. He’s going to do some great things,” he concluded.
We met last Friday, August 19, after the conclusion of his live radio show at the Race Course. A quick jaunt to a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts stand. Caffeine in tow, we looked for a place to sit and chat. Failing that, we settled in around a recycle barrel and chatted a lot about racing trends. Wearing shades – we weren’t bothered by any fans (his, not mine). And so, we dug into the 2016 Saratoga Race Meet trends.
“What a meet so far!” he said. “Just halfway through, and we’ve got a lot of star power. No Triple Crown Winner, like American Pharoah in 2015 – but this meet has depth in its roster of outstanding performers.” So with three of the six racing weeks in the books, I asked him who his MVP of the meet would be if current trends continue.
“I got to go with my man from Mechanicville – Trainer Chad Brown. I remember interviewing him after he won his very first stakes race here years ago,” Rodger said. “But this is not a case of ‘homerism,’ the guy delivers – particularly on grass. He’s loaded up for the Travers as well, with three entries.” That would be My Man Sam, Gift Box and Connect – all who landed in the field of 14 for Saturday’s Grade 1 Classic.
Switching to the Jockey colony, Rodger’s top picks for the win title: “Now this is tough. A very competitive, high-quality group. I’m picking the Ortiz brothers one and two, with a slight edge to Jose over Irad, but I say it will be neck-and-neck to the wire at this meet. Number three, kind of funny calling him a ‘dark horse,’ but John Velazquez has come back strong this meet,” he said.
Now, onto horses – and I take great pains to remind you that this conversation took place the day before the Alabama, won for fun by Songbird. “You can’t look past Songbird – what a star! You can see greatness radiate off her. Her Coaching Club American Oaks victory here earlier in the meet (Sunday, July 24 – when Songbird won by 5 ¼ lengths) was good enough to convince me. I expect that she will smash a similar field in the Alabama,” he said.
(Songbird took that one the next day by seven lengths at odds on).
“Number two. It’s Chad Brown’s Connected. Primed for the Travers (as of press time, second morning line choice to Exaggerator at 4-1). Coming into this beautifully. And number three… well, what’s wrong with Frosted? Not a thing! We tend to overlook him because he will only race once at Saratoga (a Grade I Whitney Handicap victory) and this meet is geared to the 2 and 3-year olds. I wish he would try the Woodward, but his next race will be the Jockey Club Gold Cup, then, hopefully on to the Breeders’ Cup.”
So how about one longshot Travers pick before we sign off? “I’ll take Laoban. A longshot (15-1 in that same morning line) - but maybe not really. He broke his maiden in the Jim Dandy (July 30), first win in six starts - at 27-1, however. So we’ll see. I’m partial to his trainer, Eric Guillot. I visited his barn a while back, and he had this whole voodoo set-up with an opposing trainer’s head on it. Hard to go against voodoo,” Rodger said laughing. “What a character.” “So let’s go with the Connected/Laoban exacta. Bet it big and call it a day!”
Looking forward, we promised to discuss High School football once it started rolling, and in September, he was looking forward to promoting a golf tournament at Orchard Creek Country Club to benefit the Thomas Patrick Morrison Foundation, named after a two-year old child who succumbed and passed on January 20, 2006, as a result of a mitochondrial disorder. Rodger also recently concluded a soccer camp that benefitted the foundation.
We’ll be happy to help promote the tournament when details are finalized. It’s a no-brainer to do right by a person’s most near-and-dear cause, particularly when that person has spent decades doing the right thing in our market.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it:
“Art, how you doin’? How about those Mets? I don’t know, that Davey Johnson – he seems to run hot and cold with me… hold on.”
“Hey Sam! So we are talking stocks. I tell you, no one picks ‘em like my uncle – man is he a wiz! Be right back…”
“Vito! Welcome back buddy! I think last time we were into this discussion about the Civil War, right?”
And on and on.
The scene would take place at Joe Collins restaurant (now Bravo) when it was one of THE places to go. Night after night, he would hold court at that big square bar, with sometimes up to two-dozen people. Later, it would happen at the defunct Broadway Joe’s with a similar amount of patrons.
One bartender would hold court, uncannily remembering everyone’s drink, whether it was two hours, two days or two years since you last walked in.
Even more amazingly, the man behind the bar would have the ability to hold two-dozen separate conversations, on maybe 24 different topics – enough of a renaissance man to speak knowledgably on each. But wait there’s more:
“Yeah, Art. Now with Gooden and Darling, Frankie V and Jesse, you would think he’d have to try to mess it up… I don’t know…”
Yes he did. And he still does.
But the amazing thing about Joe Raucci is that he can hold two-dozen or so conversations, PAUSE them to serve 4-5 customers, and come back to you – picking up at the exact spot you and he left off… visit awhile, then off to the next guy…
“Yeah, Sam, my Uncle can sure pick those stocks just when they’re about to make their move, understand? He just had this uncanny ability. I tried to get him to go to the track, but he was having none of it…”
But wait, there’s still more.
Meet Joe Raucci, Saratoga Springs through and through. The Collector. Of memorabilia – different artifacts of this and that. Sports in general. But it is horse racing, particularly Saratoga horse racing, and Saratoga Springs in macro, that Joe focuses his concentration toward.
And we have already established that the man can concentrate.
During a too-brief visit recently, he had stuff strewn out on his kitchen table that made it resemble the set of Hoarders. But the thing was – it was all cool, and very valuable. So extensive is his collection that we had to segment it into digestible, yet delicious parts. There are things we are saving for future segments that I promise will blow your mind. Think hardware that horse owners raise in triumph. That sort of thing. But we’ll get to that. Today, we explore his complete collection of Lake House gambling chips and postcards. “Aaaah, the Lake Houses. The romance of gangsterism,” Joe said with his omnipresent good-natured smile. “For a lot of people, the real action began after racing was done for the day… certainly, in that era, the two went hand-in-hand. Lansky and his crew. You know, Saratoga is the only place Meyer Lansky ever spent a night in jail…” Enjoy Mark’s photographs of items that are long gone but still cherished. I assure you, this is just an aperitif. Like Joe himself, the best is yet to come. “I’m a historian at heart. I think I acquire these things because when I look at them, the history comes alive,” Joe says.
He knocks on the table for emphasis. “So, what about those Mets?” Joe said. “Man, are they loaded! It’s like 1969 with the rotation they’ve got… But I don’t know…”
Next Week: Programs – programs galore!
Online note: see all of the photos from this feature on our Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/SaratogaTODAYnewspaper/
SARATOGA SPRINGS — This event has everything: among its many attributes are a cocktail hour, gourmet dinner, silent and live auctions and dancing to the music of Body and Soul with a special tribute to Prince. But that’s not why you should go to Equine Advocates Gala on Friday, July 29 at the historic Canfield Casino in Saratoga Springs.
The organization will also be celebrating its 20th birthday, as well as the 15th anniversary of this event in Saratoga. This year’s honorees are: - Hall of Fame Trainer Jonathan Sheppard. A sports legend, he has trained 13 Eclipse Award winners, winning six Breeders’ Cup races (four steeplechase and two over the flat), as well as being the leading US steeplechase trainer of all time in victories and earnings. Equine Advocates will honor him with the Ellen and Herbert Moelis Safe Home Equine Protection Award for his humane treatment of racehorses. - Lisa Caporizzo. She worked on placing countless companion animals, and is also the co-founder of the Free to Be Me Rescue for dogs and cats. Her husband, Steve Caporizzo, is the Chief Meteorologist at News10 ABC where he hosts The Pet Connection. For the past 25 years, he also has been dedicated to placing companion animals and has helped thousands find homes through his TV work and his advocacy. Assemblyman Jim Tedisco will be on hand to present Steve and Lisa with their award.
The event is known for its unique and alluring items… a few of the many choice ones include: - An authentic halter worn by Storm Cat, with Letter of Authenticity, plus a book about the horse signed by Jonathan Sheppard. - A Kentucky Derby experience for four: Two rooms for three nights in Louisville and seats for the 2017 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. - Meet and greet with Kelly Ripa at “Live! With Kelly” for four
But that’s still not why you should go.
“Lisa and I do a lot of fostering of pets.” Steve Caporizzo said, in an interview with Equine Advocates Founder and President Susan Wagner. “My wife is so into helping the underdogs. We personally take some hospice pets and the ones that nobody wants the three-legged dog, the one-eyed cat or the one who has a bad heart. The group that my wife co-founded is the ‘Free To Be Me’ Rescue. It’s a wonderful group that does so much, and she her close friend work together as a team. What they do is inspiring.”
Hint: You’re starting to learn why you should go. But there’s more: “Some of the happiest days of my life was when I owned horses,” Steve Caporizzo continued. “There is a special bond. Bottom line, horses are companion animals. This country would not be the country it is without horses. They made this country great. They brought us West - they plowed our fields. They entertain us with racing. “No matter what you think about horse racing there has to be a better outcome for these athletes. Why in the state of New York, with many millions and millions of dollars in revenues, in jobs, are brought into the state because of horse racing - why do we treat them the way we do? “I always say, why can’t they take 1 percent of their money at the end of the racing season and donate it to horse rescues? I bet you if you survey the people who go to the track they’d be happy to donate and let part of their winnings go to help horse rescue groups in New York State. How can a state as great as New York justify the transport of horses to slaughter?” Steve Caporizzo concluded.
And that, my friends is why you should go.
It’s not a small ticket, but it’s a big mission. A unique mission, a worthwhile mission.
It’s as simple as respecting those animals that have given us such pleasure throughout their lives at the end of their days.
We advocate for doing the right thing. Go.
15th Annual Gala
Friday, July 29 - 6 p.m.
For info: 518-392-0175
Note: The Finest Fillies and Some Colts field has been drawn, and an all-star prodigious slate of entries awaits your bets – all to benefit Jake’s Help from Heaven (JHFH – visit: www.JakesHelpFromHeaven.org). This is a field so incredible that it will take two issues to sort through this lineup. To help with this supreme test of handicapping acumen, we enlisted the aid of JHFH’s Heather and Brian Straughter. Heather provided great color commentary about some participants whom I was not familiar with; Brian’s primary role was to smile and giggle at our remarks – a role he filled quite excellently!
SARATOGA SPRINGS – AG: Welcome to the festivities. We have quite a task before us. We need to handicap this field so people can make their bets on their favorites intelligently – and of course, help Mr. Tom Durkin, a new MC for these proceedings, understand just what he has gotten into.
AG: Well, no worries. We will sort it out for him, and have some fun along the way. Let’s start off by saying that any of the nine entrants – each team with a “racer” and a trainer – can win this. And in fact, they are ALL winners for putting themselves out there for Jake’s…
AG: So Heather, before we handicap the field – and today we are going to do post positions 1-4; and 5-9 next week – tell us a little about the game itself.
HS: The game that people will see on event night (Wednesday, July 20, from 7-9 p.m. at Vapor Nightclub) is quite similar to Wheel of Fortune. In addition to Tom being MC, I will play the role of Vanna…
AG: I see – excellent casting all around. And will who provide “Vanna’s” wardrobe?
AG: That would be Natalie Sillery of Saratoga Trunk – who is a former MC of the Finest Fillies, and lo and behold – “racer” number 8! Hmmm – well, that adds another layer of interesting dimension – and we’ll get to her team next week. But meanwhile…
HS: If I spin your number, your team advances one position. The first to the end wins – but wait, there’s more!
AG: I bet we’ll be saying that a lot today…
HS: In addition, all the teams are competing for most money “bet” or pledged to them. And this is where it gets interesting… So you know, these people aren’t in the habit of losing. AG: Indeed… HS: So, many of the teams are having early-bird fundraising events to up their totals (see below), and this where some really creative, fun stuff is happening!
AG: OK, that’s a good short course. As we said, all these teams are winners for participating. Having said that, let’s analyze their strategy, chances and maybe rip them a little as the situation warrants … let’s start with post-position 1.
HS: Beth Alexander. Third consecutive Finest Filly. Won the game last year. Looking for her first $$ raised title. Making a Major statement here.
AG: Indeed. I know this team. And Beth is not fooling around, with her drink special at Hattie’s – nor, in her trainer! One Lars Huus-Skladzinksi … Oy! Talk about a first round draft pick out of stud-muffin central casting! Server at Hattie’s / Associate at Julie & Co Realty… Gee, Heather – as we sit here today, who is leading in the fund-raising to date?
HS: Them… and they have no intention of being headed.
AG: Yes, we’ll see… but if form holds, and, as Mr. Durkin would say, the rail is good – this could be over!
AG: Exactly. So let’s consider PP #2: Two first-time starters with outstanding pedigree… Angela Amedio and Katie Nemer. I know Angela – but tell me about Katie – all I know is that she probably drives a really nice car…
HS: Katie is also at Julie & Co, as is Angela…they’ve got two fundraisers on the schedule and I don’t think they feel like rookies…
AG: So the Julie stable entry is pretty impressive, much like herself… and let me say this about Angela, who owns Saratoga Cycling Studio as well. She is a fierce warrior…
HS: Yes, as game as game can be!
AG: …and if this were a real race, she would dust everyone! Probably circle the game board 58 times before some of these go one lap! The only question I see is experience – but these two could be anything – so therefore, it couldn’t be classified as an upset if they pull off either win. On the other hand…
AG: Well, what do we have here at #3? An all-colt entry, again first-timers… Michael Billok, trained by Todd Shimkus. Tell me about Michael’s pedigree…
HS: Attorney. Partner at Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC.
AG: I see… well, hopefully I won’t get sued, but I have a little question about strategy here… I like that they’re doing an event, but Colt 45? For 45 minutes? Seriously?
AG: And, of course Todd – well, I’m a Todd guy most of the time. He’s always there when you ask, and always comes up with creative stuff, so maybe there’s some alchemy that I’m not getting… but OK I’ve had enough. They pay me to have an opinion here, and in this case, I feel that the fillies – all of them – experienced and otherwise – are going to carve these guys into finger sandwiches… and, then guess what they’re gonna do…
HS: Oh, no!
AG: Yes, in every race, someone’s gotta be last – and I say this is it. Sorry… in fact, I’ll go further… It may be controversial, but it comes down to this: Todd roots for every WRONG sports team on the planet! All this New England/ Red Sox stuff – outta here! No, I’ve been waiting, and the Evil Empire is throwing his hex on these blokes… Not only last - I see a possible DNF: I have a vision of a bad future here… I predict Michael, probably a nice guy, halfway through the proceedings, throwing his hands up and exclaiming: “I’ve been had!”
HS: Oh, boy…
AG: We will drink their beer though – I hear it’s great for washing down finger sandwiches. Next!
HS: Post 4. Colleen Carlson. Trained by Mary Gavin.
AG: OK, Colleen. Saratoga TODAY Woman of Influence. Former “Vanna” in earlier Finest Fillies, when she was “Plinko Queen.” JHFH Board Member. And, home field advantage at Vapor. Wow! Stand back! How about Mary?
HS: Vice President at Gavin and Lavigne, Inc., Healthcare Capital Financing Specialists. Married to Jim LaVinge, who was my former trainer when I was a filly.
AG: So really, if I understand – Colleen has set herself up with a training TEAM…
HS: Essentially. And both of them support this event strongly They reach out to everyone they know – and I think they know everyone! So this is the epitome of a contender!
AG: Agreed… well, the producer’s waving to us. Time to wrap up for today… but we still have the second half, and a lot of strong entries to cover next week… So, any final thoughts?
HS: Yes – thank you for playing. Bet early and often! See you at all these great events… Bye!
Bet Early – Bet Often!
Upcoming Pre-event Fundraisers
As of Press Time:
- Ongoing: “Jakes Crazy Cardinal Cocktail” at Hattie’s…
$10 cocktail with all proceeds going to JHFH to support Beth and Lars (PP 1)… Also an internal competition among Hattie’s staff for whom can sell most drinks.
- Monday, July 11, 3:30-7 p.m.: Natalie Sillery’s (PP 8) “Porch Party” at Circular Manor
- Monday, July 11, 5-5:45 p.m.: Mike and Todd’s (PP 3) “Colt 45 - It works every time!” Event at Gaffney’s.
- Friday, July 15, -6 p.m.: Car Wash Party at Nemer Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram of Saratoga held by Katie Nemer and Angela Amedio (PP 2)… Katie and Angela will wash cars for $5 and Nemer will match every donation.
- Saturday, July 16 – 10:30 a.m.: “Rooftop Karma Spin & Yoga” on top of Washington Building, 422 Broadway. Angela Amedio (PP 2). A complimentary class, donations accepted to benefit JHFH.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — In the ol’ music talent evaluation game, certain rules of thumb apply. Of course, you learn to trust your own instincts, but beyond that – I don’t care how good you tell me you are, even though you are nice, clean cut and polite.
And I certainly don’t care what your parents say! Even though I know most of them in this case, and they are solid citizens all.
No, I care about what these guys say: “The first thing that impresses me about the members of Delphino is that they are very smart,” said Jeffrey Halstead, musician and music teacher extraordinaire at Saratoga High School. Jeff has had most of the six members of Delphino – all now going into their senior blue streak year - as students in his various classes. “They all have a keen awareness of music history – both rock and pop,” Halstead continued, “I expect that they will continue to work hard and be creative.” Jeff said he expects to attend Delphino’s Album release party at Lake Local (details below) next Thursday.
That alone is good enough for me, and should be for you too. Jeff is about as close to the Underwriter’s Laboratory seal of approval as it gets on the local music scene. But wait, there’s more:
“Awww, Delphino. Now this is a pretty cool thing to see,” said Rick Bolton, local music legend and esteemed host of Gaffney’s open mic on Tuesdays for more years then he cares to admit. “They first came to the open mic, two or three years ago, with a smaller configuration,” Bolton continued. “They waltzed in like they had been there before. I remember getting them up right away because they were so young. They came back again last spring, and you could see a lot of progress.” “But even that first time - the stuff that they were putting out was structured and creative. Moreover, they approached and presented their original music very seriously. Another thing I like is how they get support from their families to reach for more – the best thing in the world is to have the opportunity for talent to flower at a young age,” Rick concluded.
That’s hitting the daily double, but let’s go for the trifecta. For my part, the members of Delphino (we’re on a first name basis, meaning: Max, Emma, Adam, Sam, Jeff and Aaron) all bring a unique level of talent to the table – but the synergy is much greater than the individual parts. You can see they enjoy each other, and it’s reflected in the music.
I asked each of them one of my “pick your favorite parent” questions, in this case – tell me your ONE top musical influence – only one. Here was the scoreboard:
- 2 for Velvet Underground – Adam and Aaron
- 2 for Cage the Elephant – Sam and Jeff
- 2 for The Strokes – Emma and Max
And the mix works. Photographer Mark said he heard They Might Be Giants, which got knowing nods from most. Me: I said I hear The Kinks in some numbers – which got some smiles, though I think Emma was just being nice to me. In any event, Jeff Halstead is right for giving them an A in music history. This may be one to follow – and not just for the music. They took great pains to acknowledge the recording engineering efforts of Brian Miller of the Capital Area Music Project (and also the head of Cutting Edge Martial Arts), thanked him for his donation of time and effort on Delphino’s album. That says a lot about the quality of the young adults we are dealing with here.
It may be overkill, but we end with my intern - and recent Blue Streak graduate Allie Capasso, who said. “Oh, Delphino! Yeah, I know those guys… you’re doing a story on them – cool!” That, my friends, is a cold pick six.
Album Release Party
Thursday, July 7 at 4 p.m.
550 Union Avenue at Saratoga Lake