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Friday, 09 September 2016 10:47

King Zac the First

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Sometimes I look at my business card in disbelief. My title here is Fun and Games Editor. Pretty cool actually, plowing both the A+E and sports platforms, in a market where there are bushels of material – year round. I have a wealth of choices, and each week I try to pick the best of the best and present it to you. If you see me, ask me for my card – I’d be delighted to give you one. But sometimes, late in the work day, actually at night – after I have done all my editing and set up to do my own byline writing, like this review of the fabulous Zac Brown Band, my eyes sometimes get tired. And I look down at that same business card. Amazingly, the word “Editor” magically morphs into “Emperor.” And before long, while I rest my eyes a bit, I actually visualize what it might be like to be the Emperor. Not in the dictatorial sense, that’s not my style. But perhaps I might wave my scepter and transform society and change its peoples for the better. A nice goal. But I had no specific prescription. Until the night of Saturday, September 3 when I saw the Zac Brown Band at SPAC. There I got the answer. I decided that Zac Brown should be King. Zac Brown I, King of the United States. Now, as Emperor, of course, what I say goes. But let me try to build a consensus here. First, to quote a current Presidential nominee, “You could do worse.” This is true and we appear to be headed to be doing just that. And this is not meant to be a slam at one side or the other. Let me even the score: Can anyone seriously imagine Zac Brown taking home government emails? No, I think he knows he has better things to do. Like entertaining, thrilling and bringing diverse, SRO crowds like SPAC’s to jaw-dropping delight over the music industry’s most creative genre mash-up. So consider me an equal-opportunity slammer, non-partisan and yet disgusted with the whole set up this election year. And I know I am hardly alone. Nearly everyone I spoke to at SPAC that night, and during the Labor Day weekend, expressed thoughts not unlike Ray Milland in the movie “The Lost Weekend,” to wit: ‘What have we done?’ In my previous review of this band, in August 2014 – all the glowing verbiage about his performance that was true then is even better now. Zac Brown has grown musically, has grown spiritually, because he is true to the values that have gotten him to the pinnacle of his profession. What are these qualities that would make an Emperor want to crown Zac Brown as king? Let me list a few, you can do the comparing and contrasting yourself: - Humility and Gratitude: Consider the third paragraph of my 2014 review: Zac Brown said something similar this year: “We truly appreciate each and every one of you coming. We remember what it was like to play for beer money not so long ago, and we take nothing for granted, I assure you.” He’s not saying it by rote; it’s a little different each time, for it comes from the heart. - Philosopher-King: Not only was the crowd at SPAC massive, but it was the most diverse of any Live Nation show this season. They came to hear and groove and listen and cheer a band, led by a person who builds bridges: Bridges between musical genres (name another group that can medley-blend from Led Zeppelin to Charlie Daniels to Billy Preston and then The Who!), and between peoples. This is a man, in the tradition of great leaders from both major parties, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, for instance, who is all about tearing down walls, not building them. Enough said – my eyes are clearing, so it is time for the Emperor to rule. Accordingly: - The Presidential Election is hereby cancelled. All Constitutional provisions and legislation regarding said elections are temporarily suspended. All other Constitutional privileges and rights remain intact. - Zac Brown is hereby crowned King. All hail King Zac the First! Tell me true, don’t you wish you could be Emperor?
SARATOGA SPRINGS — This year, call it the Grand Gold Finale. It is fitting that the SPAC Wine and Food Festival, which takes place Friday-Sunday, September 9 – 11, all over the SPAC grounds, is the final crescendo before the curtain falls on another season. For it shows off SPAC at its finest – at its “reach for excellence” core value finest. An indoor/outdoor wonder that has earned its deserved reputation as a presenter of the finest in music and dance – pivots, changes the subject matter completely, and yet does not miss one beat. It is an event that has evolved and been tweaked a bit over the year, but the core experience has always been superior and distinctive. Come for the food and beverage, of course, but stay for the experience. The fine points of the weekend are described in generous detail at spac.org – where you can also buy tickets. There are certain highlights for the first-timer that are worth noting. Star Power – If you’re a foodie, then it’s pretty safe to say that you like the Food Network. And that network’s star power is in full force with both Anne Burrell, whom aficionados will know earned her bones as a sous chef on Iron Chef America for Mario Batali back in the day, coupled with a return visit from Chopped Judge Marc Murphy – who first came in 2014. They will be hosting the Grand Tasting and Concours D’Elegance on Satuday from noon- 4 p.m. The list of restaurants participating would take up most of the listings of both the Manhattan and Capital Region phone books, if anyone remembers these. But I digress. And wait, there’s more: Friday’s Fired UP! Grill Competition (7-10 p.m.) will be hosted by Josh Capon, best known as the host of Spike TV's first cooking competition show, “Frankenfood.” Josh is the six-time winner of the People's Choice award at the New York City Wine & Food Festival and South Beach Wine & Food Festival's Burger Bash event. In the kick-off event to the Festival weekend, Saratoga Springs’ best chefs will compete with chefs from the Capital Region’s finest restaurants in a fiery grilling event. If you want to root for the home team, how about this lineup: 15 Church; Druthers Brewing Company; Fish at 30 Lake; Henry Street Taproom; Primal - Butcher and Delicatessen; Sperry’s Restaurant; and The Wishing Well. That should Fire you UP! There’s much more at spac.org, but I say: short and sweet, let’s get to the food!
SARATOGA SPRINGS — I arrived at the Yaddo Gardens, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Katrina Trask stood before me, in her garden, and invited me to walk with her. I had heard that the Yaddo Garden Association (YGA) was eager to promote their upcoming event – the ‘Ghosts in the Garden Party,’ on Sunday, September 18, from 3-6 p.m., but apparently they decided to pull out all the stops. “Come and see my roses, they are past the peak, of course, but still lovely,” Katrina said, on this late August afternoon. “When I first saw this land, in the 1870s, I knew it was special,” she continued. “But the garden, this was a project that I felt privileged to enjoy, enjoy in the design and making, and enjoying as a finished product for about 15 years.” Katrina passed in 1922, about 12 years after her husband and companion, Spencer Trask, perished in a train crash in 1909. “But most of all, I enjoy sharing the Gardens with generations that came after, and generations to come,” Katrina concluded, with a wisp of a serene smile. And share they shall. Katrina met me at the Yaddo Gardens to help YGA promote their event, in the manner that some rock stars appear on the radio to promote an upcoming concert. On September 18, she will meet with all attendees, along with Spencer and their special guest: Edgar Allan Poe. Mr. Poe will also discuss his feelings about this special place, and will have students from Schuylerville perform ‘The Raven.’ Mr. Poe himself will read ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.’ As we walked, Katrina recounted a few things I already knew, but many more things were learned on this day. “The goal was for our visitors to experience the magic of inspiration,” looking me straight in the eye, “this is why we placed the poet’s bench here,” she pointed. Outside the formal garden, the bench is a place for poets, novelists, etc., to record their thoughts immediately after a garden stroll not unlike the one we were taking today. Who actually designed Yaddo Mansion? I asked. “We both did, Spencer and I,” she said, “The gardens also. Our interests, intellect and skills made us the perfect partnership. Spencer was the mathematician. Yaddo is perfect, from a geometric standpoint. Everything is laid out on a perfect East-West plain. I brought the spirituality, and the sensitivity to it, to the table. Today, you might call it ‘the woman’s touch,’ Katrina said, her back to me as she surveyed the rock garden area. But then she turned and faced me directly. Piercing dark blue eyes. She wanted my attention. She got it. “What you must understand, that all of this, Yaddo, is overlaid on the contrast of light and shadows - the experiencing of great disaster,” (like the burning of the original structure which led to the fireproof stone one that came after, and looms large when you visit today), “the experiencing of great tragedy,” (she had had four children, all of whom died in infancy or childhood), “and yet, despite all this, the inspiration to create something beautiful and wonderful, and hopefully eternal,” Katrina said, never breaking her gaze from me. “Your admission proceeds on Sunday, September 18, will help fund the Yaddo Garden Association’s activities, which are to continue Spencer’s and my goals,” Katrina concluded. I wanted to take some time to let that sink in. But I had so many other questions, and the lengthening shadows told me that our time was running short today. So I told her about my private tour of the Mansion in 2012. A bucket list item, in which myself, Mark Bolles and Lesley LeDuc (former Yaddo Marketing Director and now Yaddo Garden Association member) walked everywhere we wanted – sort of alone. We three went to places that no public tour in Yaddo’s history has ever gone. “I went into Katrina’s Tower,” I said. “Oh, really? Well, I certainly hope someone straightened up for your arrival!” she said with a rosy-cheeked, broad smile. But then she got me. “I have to admit, I straightened Katrina’s Tower up for you.” You mean... “Of course, I was there! Couldn’t you see me? I suppose you were not ready – well, you certainly are today!” she said, and suddenly – she was a younger woman. The woman that Spencer fell for. I also asked her about her health. In life, Katrina was never healthy. “It’s much more preferable to be a ghost, quite frankly,” she said. And then she was gone. But Katrina will be coming back, and soon. And she’ll be bringing friends.
Friday, 26 August 2016 11:53

Rodger That: Spot On!

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.

We advocate for doing the right thing. Go.


15th Annual Gala

Friday, July 29 - 6 p.m.

Canfield Casino

Saratoga Springs 

Tickets: $250

For info: 518-392-0175

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Friday, 22 July 2016 10:09

It’s Always Sunny at Polo!

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Polo is one of the few sports where men and women play on the same field, and in fact, Saratoga Springs has a proud legacy of featuring some of the best players in the world, like Sunny Hale, the highest rated women’s player in history. Sunny returns for her triumphant fourth year to Whitney Field, where she has wowed the crowds in the past, playing in an all women’s tournament– but this year, in a twist, she will be leading an all-star women’s team against an equally impressive all men’s team that Cuko Escapite has put together for the Veuve Clicquot Challenge Tournament on Sunday, July 24. For fans of Saratoga Polo, the Veuve Clicquot Challenge matches have become the must-see matches of the whole summer, and this year the stakes are even greater, but Sunny has always shown her prowess to lead the way in what typically was just a man’s sport. In 2000, she was on the winning team in the US Open Polo Championships, becoming the first woman to do so. At the time of the 2000 championship, she outranked 96 percent of players in the world, including men. While the progress of equality on the polo field for men and women has moved forward exponentially, one only need go back one generation to witness circumstances where Sunny’s mother, Sue Sally Hale, was only allowed to compete as a polo player in the 1950s and ‘60s disguised as a man. Sunny Hale is now an acclaimed author, debuting the book “Let’s Talk Polo” to her already storied career. Besides being the founder of the American Polo Horse Association, she is currently the highest rated woman polo player in America at 3 Goals, the first woman in history to win the US Open Polo Championship (the most prestigious and highest level polo tournament played in the United States), attained the highest rating ever given to a woman (in the history of the sport) of 5 Goals, after winning the US Open Polo Championship with Outback Steakhouse Polo Team in 2000. If you want some perspective, these ratings are the equivalent of a woman playing as a professional on the winning team in the NFL, the World Series or NBA Championships. Jim Rossi, Managing Partner of Saratoga Polo, looks at this opportunity with excitement and satisfaction. “Saratoga Polo was one of the first polo clubs to spotlight women in major tournaments. With the help of sponsors like Veuve Clicquot, we are proud to bring this fastest growing part of the sport to the Saratoga Springs destination.” As a salute to the tradition started during the Napoleonic Wars by Madame Clicquot, guests at the Clubhouse will get a chance to sabre a bottle of champagne with a sword guided by our sabrage experts. The Veuve Clicquot Challenge public matches will be on Sunday, July 24th at Saratoga Polo Association’s Whitney Field at 5:30 p.m., with the gates opening at 4 p.m. To purchase tickets, or for more information, visit Saratogapolo.com, or call 518-584-8108.
SKIES ABOVE SARATOGA —Once again, good day ladies and gents, and thank you for flying PULSE Airways… this is your Captain speaking. Delighted to be at the controls again. We anticipate a smooth arrival at our destination – the Saratoga Season. In the meantime, I have turned on the fasten seat belt sign, as we will have to do some navigation to get through to it, which may involve some twists and turns, to wit: An Idea Who’s Time Has Come! SARATOGA SPRINGS — Every good weekend starts with a great Happy Hour, and on Thursday July 21, Chef Brian Maxwell and Bartender Jai Silva will host The Crown Grill’s “Make Your Own” Happy Hour. Beginning at 5:30 p.m., guests will be presented with two specialty cocktail options to choose from along with a demonstration of how each cocktail is created. In addition, “Make your own” flatbreads will be offered to pair with these cocktails. Each guest will receive two flatbreads and have an assortment of signature toppings to choose from (fresh mozzarella, artichoke hearts, arugula, heirloom tomatoes, Andouille sausage, and many more) with which they can make their own creations. This is an interactive and informative session featuring feedback and suggestions by the Chef. Cost to attend “Make your own happy hour” is $10 per guest and includes one cocktail, two flatbreads and an assortment of fresh toppings. Signing up via email is recommended (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) but drop-ins are also welcome. Wear your own “Crown” at 390 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Jake’s Wheel: Part Two. Finest Fillies and Some Colts SARATOGA SPRINGS — It’s lunchtime, and it appears I may need to order a plate of crow. Yes, those who read my missive on Post Positions 1-4 last week will know doubt remember that I singled out PP 3 for last place honors… however, we must be fair and note that the Colt 45 boys Michael Billok and Todd Shimkus pulled off a superior fundraising event, with less-than-superior beverages, and rung the bell to the tune of 1,600 smackers to benefit Jake’s Help From Heaven – stamping them, according to my co-conspirators – Heather and Brian Straughter – as contenders, and I must agree. Furthermore, I must salute Mr. Michael for being too nice of a guy to be any kind of success as a lawyer, and Mr. Todd for being merely the best Chamber of Commerce President – anywhere - I have ever met – and this hobo has ridden the rails, as it were. Good thing it tastes like chicken…. But I digress: Herewith are thumbnails of the remaining posts 5-9; and in this case I am only familiar with one team – so I relied on Heather and Brian for some background, as well as inviting some of the teams to submit a mission statement. Everyone in the pool! PP 5: Johanna Friedman, trained by Julie Cox. These ‘hulks’ intend to take all to school – as they are equipped to do as SSHS faculty. Johanna is the only original filly running. Trainer Julie says: “Get your pencils ready, kids. It’s time for class, and English teachers Johanna and Julie are primed to school the competition! This is Johanna’s fifth year as a Filly (winning once before), and with rookie trainer Julie they have an A+ combination of experience and enthusiasm.” PP 6: Michael Hoffman, trained by Susana Hoffman. “I’ve had this colt in training for 45 years,” says Susana with pride. Indeed, this pairing is not the only husband/wife team on the board, but certainly the most seasoned. They have always supported each other in business as well as life, not to mention the raising of their only child, a fine individual known as Heather, although on Wednesday, July 20, she will be known as ‘Vanna.’ Sometimes luck is the result of good planning, which appears to be the case here. PP 7: Justin Hogan, trained by Steph Cash Hogan. The second of two husband/wife pairings - and winner of PULSE’s best team photo prize. To make a good soufflé you start with the best ingredients, and this principle seems in effect here. Steph writes: “We’re two first time starters, but I’ve been training colt Justin Hogan for years now. A Saratoga Springs native, I’m ready to push him to his full potential through every furlong.” My only concern with this entry is that Justin may feel compelled to be overly ethical, which has NO place in this field. But, combining Justin’s work ethic mixed with overall steadiness and Stephanie’s young energy they are sure to be a crowd favorite on race day. PP 8: Natalie Sillery, Trained by Elaine Sillery – No statement needed to be issued from this pair – their record speaks for itself. Keyword: winners. In life, in everything they do. If that is not enough, Natalie steps down as a multi-year MC of this same event, deferring to Mr. Tom Durkin – but make no mistake: she’s still holding the keys to the Rolls Royce that is Finest Fillies. With trainer Elaine, possessor of a top-5 all-time smile, it all adds up to a formidable force from an outside post. Major contender for both the money pledged and game title. PP 9: Erin Smith, trained by Tammy Haarman – They call their team the ‘Average Joes’ but I think they are looking to lull the field to sleep. Erin does reveal: “The Average Joes will bring the fun to Vapor! I have 3 boys and Tammy has 3 girls. A modern day Brady Bunch!” Well, I know which team my mom is betting on! So there you have it. A power line-up for Wednesday, July 20th’s event at Vapor – 7 p.m. is when the wheel starts spinning. For every $10 bet placed, you are entered for a raffle that will be pulled after the game. The prizes include: - A two-night stay at the Intercontinental Barclay in Manhattan with breakfast - An overnight at the Meadowmere Resort in Ogunquit, ME - An overnight at the Sheraton Syracuse University with two tickets to either a SU basketball or football game - A Lisa Miller “The Foal Project” photo. Also, everyone who registers by July 20 at noon will be entered to win a day at the track on September 4, with a private box and gift certificate for Sperry’s – Donated by Scott and Julie Johnson. Visit JakesHelpFromHeaven.org to get tickets. For fun alone, this is PULSE’s pick as the do-not-miss event of the season. But let’s remember the reasons why ALL these PP’s are winners: Since 2011, the JHFH Foundation has awarded over $300,000 in grants to those living with multiple medical challenges within 100 miles of Saratoga Springs; and have already awarded over $65,000 this year. RIDE-ing Into Town SARATOGA SPRINGS — Marc Berger and RIDE(at right) will be rockin’ Congress Park this Sunday, July 17 at 7 p.m. Marc has performed at Austin’s SXSW Music Festival, the Kerrville Folk Festival, has opened shows for Bob Dylan and other national acts, and will be showcasing at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival next month. His song “The Last One” was a staple of Richie Havens’ concerts for over twenty-five years. Marc’s critically acclaimed current release, RIDE, is a collection of songs that explore the romance of the American West. It’s gotten national airplay and terrific reviews and Starbucks has licensed it for worldwide in-store airplay. You can hear tracks at marcbergermusic.com. He’s also currently in the studio working on a new album with Tony Garnier, Bob Dylan’s bandleader and bassist, and drummer, Dan Rieser (Norah Jones, Roseanne Cash). It’s a genre-bending project called FOLK MUSIC, and the band will be previewing some of that material in combination with RIDE’s sonic Western vistas on Sunday night. Based on what I’ve heard before, you should bring your dancin’ shoes... We Advocate… SARATOGA SPRINGS — There will be more on this next week, but we advocate you make plans to celebrate those who advocate for horses – and to attend the 15th Annual Equine Advocates Awards Dinner and Charity Auction on Friday, July 29, at 6 p.m. at the Canfield Casino. The honorees will be legendary Trainer Jonathan Sheppard as well as Steve and Lisa Caporizzo. Numerous tantalizing auction items abound, including Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup packages – PULSE likes the meet and greet with Kelly Ripa, a big fan of Saratoga TODAY. Tickets always gallop out fast, so get yours by calling 518-392-0175. Gonna Get Pretty ScaryToga Friday SARATOGA SPRINGS — On Friday, July 15, the Bow Tie Criterion Cinema in Downtown Saratoga Springs is the place to be for the Ghostbuster Premiere and public launch of The ScaryToga Project. ScaryToga Project will be hosting the premier showing of the new Ghostbusters. Meet and greet local Psychics Michelle Ann, Katie Manning Hilton, author Mason Winfield and a hometown all girl ghost investigators SPRT (Saratoga Paranormal Research Team). This mini-ParaPalooza runs 5 to 7 p.m. in the Lobby and out front of the Bow Tie, complete with Carriages, The Costumer Hearse, and that Real Lady Ghostbuster Team. Film showing begins at 7 p.m. No word on the Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man’s whereabouts at press time. I Got Chills, they’re Multiplying… SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Children’s Theatre announces live performances of Grease at the JBK (Janet Kinghorn Bernhard) Theater, Skidmore College on Friday July 22 and Saturday July 23, at 1 and 7 p.m. Local teens, ranging in age from 13-18 will be starring in the musical. All tickets are sold at the door - General admission is $10. Kids 10 and under are FREE. Refreshments will be available. Here is Rydell High’s senior class of 1959: duck-tailed, hot-rodding “Burger Palace Boys” and their gum-snapping, hip-shaking “Pink Ladies” in bobby sox and pedal pushers, evoking the look and sound of the 1950s in this rollicking musical. Head “greaser” Danny Zuko and new (good) girl Sandy Dumbrowski try to relive the high romance of their “Summer Nights” as the rest of the gang sings and dances its way through such songs as “Greased Lightnin’”, “It’s Raining on Prom Night”, “Alone at the Drive-In Movie” recalling the music of Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis Presley that became the soundtrack of a generation. An eight-year run on Broadway and two subsequent revivals along with innumerable school and community productions place Grease among the world’s most popular musicals. For more information, visit the saratogachildrenstheatre.org. Ladies and Gentlemen: Your Captain again. We have received clearance for final approach for the Saratoga Season. Thanks again for flying PULSE Airways, and wherever you go – have a blast!

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.

HS: Uh-oh!

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…

HS: Amen!

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?

HS: Natalie…

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!

HS: Except…

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…

HS: Uh-oh!

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?

HS: Yeah…

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.

Lake Local

550 Union Avenue at Saratoga Lake



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