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Displaying items by tag: charlie samuels

Friday, 25 September 2015 11:55

Dear Editor: Support for Safford

Letter to the Editor:

Please give your support to John Safford in his run for Mayor of Saratoga.

I have never known a more honest and candid person than John Safford. 

John is a sincere man of high intelligence, integrity, patience, compassion and has a very positive attitude every time I see him, which is once a week for the past three years when we meet for conversation and coffee. 

John is a former intelligence officer of the US Army, for whom I have great respect, and am proud to be his friend. John is running for Mayor of Saratoga, and I wholeheartedly endorse him for that office.  

John is a person who cares about people and taking care of their needs, having managed the needs of thousands of homeowners as manager of a homeowners' association in the Saratoga area for many years now. Even when we have our meetings together, he usually will be interrupted with a phone call or two by a client with a special problem that needs attention. John is quick to respond and take care of it.  

And I have never heard him get angry or impatient while talking with a client. 

To get the word out, John has knocked on over 3200 doors in Saratoga, and he tells me he enjoys it, having gotten the opportunity to talk to scores of people about why he is running for office and the issues that Saratoga is facing.  

If John happens to knock on your door, please take the opportunity to talk with him. You will never meet a more likeable and gracious man than John Safford. 

 - Rev. David Bauscher, Cambridge, NY 

Published in News
Friday, 25 September 2015 11:44

Dear Editor: No to Saratoga National Expansion

Letter to the Editor:

The concept of Saratoga Springs as a city in the country was embedded in the creation of a conservation district.  In contrast to our bustling downtown, this area was meant to have a bucolic rural character allowing only light residential and agriculture related development.  The key to this district was not only its sparse density but just as importantly, its low intensity activity. 

As the city has grown there have been constant attempts over the years to propose development that would alter this area. The most recent manifestation of this controversy  appeared in the stalemate of the city’s last Comprehensive Plan Committee which was unable to agree upon a final document.  Two visions collided.  One faction believed that a large golf resort in the greenbelt would bring economic benefits to the city and dismissed concern about its impact on the pastoral character of the conservation district.  The other group viewed the proposal for a very large, commercial  resort development as a fundamental danger to the district that would potentially destroy the very qualities that attracted people to our community. The latter faction won the Comp Plan battle but now Saratoga National Golf Course is back pushing the City Council to vote to grant them the ability to expand into a full fledged resort.

When SNGC applied for permission to build their course back in 1998, they made a number of commitments to the city that were codified in their original Special Use Permit.  They agreed to build two nature trails available to the public on their land.  Emphasizing at the time their proposal’s  minimal impact on the conservation district, they agreed to limit themselves to only three large functions a year.  Large was defined as exceeding their regular parking capacity which was two hundred parking spaces.

SNGC has failed to abide by either of these commitments.  As to the nature trails, most of the supposed “West Trail” follows the entrance road along the fairways.  There is literally no path and are no signs to reassure you that you are on the trail.  You are at risk of being hit by a wayward golf ball.   The only two places where you actually leave the course have no signs identifying the way.  The only signs that do exist are on the little bit of land that is not on the golf course and these are hidden from both the golfers and the people trying to find the trail.  The cynicism exhibited by SNGC in this is stunning.  No fair minded person would ever call this a nature trail.

As to their promise of keeping to three large events a year,  just a cursory review of their website came up with three events during the last week that exceeded their normal parking.  They sold out both weekend nights of their “Special Travers Party” in a tent that holds “200+.”  This does not count their restaurant that seats another 250 which we can presume on Travers weekend was full. 

If you go to their website you can clearly see that they have the capacity to accommodate many hundreds of people and see how aggressive their marketing is.  They are not just a golf course.

According to their own literature, with their proposed expansion they expect to increase their guests from 190,000 (a lot of people already) to 300,000 a year.  People who live on Lake Lonely already complain about their regular fireworks events and their outdoor music.  They also advertize helicopter rides.

The point of our Conservation District is to have an area outside the core of the city that has low intensity use meant to protect the country part of our city in the country. It was with this in mind that SNGC was supposed to limit its special events and create nature trails in return for being granted permission to build their original facility. Given their poor history of keeping their commitments to keep their development in tune with the Conservation District’s goal, imagine what will happen if members of the City Council allow them to become a resort.

- John Kaufmann, Saratoga Springs

Published in News
Thursday, 24 September 2015 10:26

Pulling It All Together

Saratoga Rowing Association’s Mission: A Year-round Premier Rowing Destination

SARATOGA SPRINGS – With Saturday’s Tail of the Fish Regatta scheduled to launch about 8 a.m., it is important to celebrate the year-round impact that the Saratoga Rowing Association (SRA) has on the local economy. Yes, they put on world-class regattas, but an important part of their greater mission is: To grow Saratoga into a premier rowing destination. That mission got a big boost earlier this week, with the beginning of construction on a new Saratoga Training and Regatta Center on Route 9P. 


This center, scheduled to be completed in February of 2016, is the cornerstone of a $1.25 million capital campaign that began earlier this year with contributions from Bonacio Construction, Stewart’s Shops and the Dake Family, Adirondack Trust Company and other community leaders as well as the public.


According to SRA Board President Katherine Smith, the fundraising for the campaign is about 70 percent complete, and donations are still welcome (visit SaratogaRowing.com/campaign). 


Smith, citing statistics from the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, the impact from the Regattas (including the Tail of the Fish, Head of the Fish and Saratoga Invitational, and others) already generates impressive numbers:

  • 10,000+ hotel room nights
  • An overall $8.9 million annual local impact on the economy

 It is worth noting that this impact is generated between Labor and Memorial Day – outside the height of the traditional Saratoga tourism season. 


So, the new training center will serve to increase an already robust economic impact that SRA fosters locally. Once complete, it will also greatly expand the ability for year-round indoor training of athletes. “When it’s up and running, we will have the capacity to train 200 young athletes in grades 7-12, plus 40 adults, all in one day.” Smith noted. 


Saturday’s Tail of the Fish Regatta is a success story begun by SRA Regatta Director Chris Chase in 1997. This one-day event will bring over 300 boats and 36 registered teams, from as far as Cope Cod, MA and throughout the Northeast, to compete on Saratoga Lake, along with thousands of viewers and supporters who will line the shore. This regatta has several important early-season functions for the teams involved. 


“It gives an opportunity for teams that are just beginning the season to settle on the lineup(s) that work best,” said SRA Executive Director Eric Catalano, who also is the Varsity Girls Head Coach. “It gets newer rowers an initiation into the competitiveness of regatta action, with an emphasis on local rivalries, such as with Albany, Shenendehowa, Niskayuna, Burnt Hills and Emma Willard that traditionally field strong teams. Chris Chase always does a great job reaching out to the other squads and putting together a solid lineup.” Chase, like many on SRA’s dedicated staff, wears more than one hat – he is also the Freshman Boys Coach. 


As far as SRA’s teams, Catalano said, “…the squads are deep and evenly balanced – from both an age group and gender standpoint. We are coming off a strong showing at the Head of the Hudson in Albany.” Catalano notes that the Tail of the Fish is also a great opportunity for someone new to view the sport of rowing, as “the weather is nearly always ideal,” he said. This early prelude to some of the major fall regattas, including Saratoga’s two-day Head of the Fish (on Saturday October 31 and Sunday, November 1 this year) also gives Smith, who also serves as SRA’s Volunteer Coordinator, a chance to work out logistics with about 125 volunteers, whose ranks will nearly double at the end of next month. 


The new training center will be faithful to the rich heritage of rowing in Saratoga that SRA has stewarded since their founding in 1996. In a nice piece of symmetry, the architect of the new building is Tom Frost, who is the creator of the iconic and highly treasured Head of the Fish Trophy. It will also have expanded facilities, Smith noted. “The new facility will have locker rooms and showers. In addition, the bottom floor will have a regatta office that will have staff and serve as a headquarters for day-of- event activities. It will be a much better situation for logistics.”


“Also, the second floor will have temporary adult housing space for visiting coaches and race officials, and will give us room for our youth and adult summer camp.” Smith added. 


At any major well-run event, such as the Tail of the Fish Regatta, there are many things that go on behind the scenes that the public often doesn’t see until they arrive on event day; this is also the case with a lot of the Saratoga Racing Association’s activities to make Saratoga a premier destination for rowing – but we need not wait for the eventual ribbon-cutting to salute their dedication to that cause.  


“We’re very grateful to all that helped bring us to this point with their support,” Katherine Smith said, “I’m happy to point out to any of our contributors that 100 percent of our Board, and all of our members, about 170 families, gave to this campaign before the public kickoff.”


“It set us up for an exciting future that everyone will enjoy.”


For more information, visit SaratogaRowing.com.

Published in News
Friday, 11 September 2015 11:28

More Than Just A Great Race!

In Its Tenth Year, The Saratoga Palio Has Become A Community Happening.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – If you wanted to show someone an example of how this community comes together for great causes, and how that commitment grows over time, take them to Downtown Saratoga Springs on the morning of Sunday, September 20. At Ellsworth Jones Place near the City Center just before 8 a.m., they will witness the spectacle of over 2,000 runners, of all ability levels and from all over the region and nation, taking off on two races – a 5K that sweeps through the city, and a half-marathon (13.1 miles) that cascades through Spa State Park. 


The races themselves are an achievement – in its tenth year, The Saratoga Palio: Melanie Merola O’Donnell Memorial Race has exponentially grown in its participation (from about 400 runners in 2006). But the real impact comes from the good it does for the community, as well as from the community outward. 


The Saratoga Palio is the most significant fundraising effort of The Melanie Foundation. This Saratoga Springs-based foundation was formed in 2006 to honor the life and legacy of Melanie Merola O’Donnell, who passed away at age 33. Melanie lived a life of giving, focusing her career on relieving suffering inflicted by mental illness. As The Saratoga Palio has grown, it has enhanced the ability of the Melanie Foundation to expand its support via scholarships awarded to aspiring mental health practitioners, in recognition of their dedication to community service in a manner that reflects Melanie Merola O’Donnell’s values of compassion, generosity, respect and commitment to others. 


In 2015, three scholarships will be awarded, including one to Tabitha Dunn of Ballston Lake, who is pursuing doctoral studies at Springfield (MA) College. Other recipients are Stefanie Landau of Philadelphia, PA, and Melissa Smigelsky of Memphis, TN.


But while The Melanie Foundation’s scholarship winners can come from everywhere, their commitment to our local area is consistent. Since 2009, the have designated (see sidebar below) a local not-for-profit to receive a portion of the Saratoga Palio’s proceeds. This year’s recipient is The Saratoga Center for the Family. 


“We not only support the scholarship winners and the local charities,” said The Melanie Foundation’s Scholarship Chair Colleen Sanita, “but also the many runners who set the goal of completing a race like a Half Marathon for the first time, and train for it all summer to run in The Saratoga Palio. This perseverance is another way we keep Melanie’s spirit alive.”


The races themselves are the centerpieces of an entire weekend of activities suitable for the entire family. On Saturday, September 19, race participants can pick up their registration materials from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hampton Inn (25 Lake Avenue), and everyone can view an exhibition that features vintage Saratoga Palio gear and informational displays from Arbonne, Bondi Band, National Running Center, Saratoga Boot Camp and The Melanie Foundation. 


Congress Park is much more than just the races’ finish line on Sunday. Interspersed between the 5K and Half Marathon award ceremonies are two heats of a popular Kids Fun Run (registration is that day). This is all followed by a big community celebration, sponsored by Druthers Brewing Company, that has all the elements: food, drink and activities for everyone in the family, plus music by three top area bands: Sugar Pill, High Peaks and The Remainders. 


Whether you decide to run or cheer, participating in The Saratoga Palio: Melanie Merola O’Donnell Memorial Race in its tenth renewal is something in which everyone in the community can take pride.   


For more information, to volunteer, or to register for The Saratoga Palio: Melanie Merola O’Donnell Memorial Race on September 20, visit www.TheSaratogaPalio.com. Course maps and itineraries, as well as details of the weekend activities are also available.


Online registration ends September 16 at 11:59 p.m. In-person registration and packet pickup will be held on September 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hampton Inn (25 Lake Avenue). There is no race registration on race day; race packets can also be picked up on race day between 6:30-7:30 a.m.



Community Benefit

In 2009, The Melanie Foundation began giving back to the community through charitable donations, and as the Saratoga Palio has grown, so have the contributions. This year the foundation will give to the Saratoga Center for the Family.

2009: Saratoga Bridges ­ $5,000

2010: Saratoga Hospital ­ $6,500

2011: Franklin Community Center ­ $7,500

2012: World’s Window, Inc. ­ $7,500

2013: Jake’s Help from Heaven Foundation ­ $10,000

2014: Saratoga WarHorse ­ $15,000

Published in News
Thursday, 03 September 2015 12:13

Public Invited to 9/11 Ceremony and Remembrance

SARATOGA SPRINGS – All citizens are invited to attend an annual ceremony to honor and remember the heroes and those who were lost in the 9/11 attacks on our nation, on the event’s fourteenth anniversary – Friday, September 11, 2015. This event will begin at 8:35 a.m. at the “Tempered by Memory” sculpture in High Rock Park. 


The ceremony will begin with a presentation of color guard from the Saratoga Springs Police Department. The Saratoga Springs High School Choraliers will perform several songs throughout the ceremony. At exactly 8:46 a.m., hand bells will be rung followed by a moment of silence, to coincide with the time the of the first impact upon New York City’s World Trade Center by a hijacked airplane.


Following welcoming remarks by Former NYS Assemblyman Bobby D’Andrea, the Choraliers will sing our National Anthem. The Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Former Saratoga Springs Mayor Ken Klotz. 


An invocation will be delivered by Reverend Adam Weigand of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, after which Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen will deliver remarks and introduce the keynote speaker. 


The keynote speech will be delivered this year by John Betor, retired Saratoga Springs Assistant Fire Chief. Betor said he was “…humbled and honored to be chosen to speak” on this occasion. This will be followed by wreath presentations led by Saratoga Springs Police Chief Greg Veitch and Fire Chief Robert Williams, along with members of their respective department. 


The Choraliers will then lead attendees in the singing of “God Bless America, followed by a Benediction delivered by Reverend Carole Miller, the Saratoga Springs Fire Department Chaplain. The ceremony will conclude with Ernie Belanger of Wilton playing Taps. 


The City of Saratoga Springs is responsible for coordinating this annual remembrance and acknowledges the assistance provided by public and private organizations drawn from the community, including:  


Advantage Press, Inc.

Allerdice Rental

Ernie Belanger

Former Assemblyman Bobby D’Andrea 

Reverend Carole Miller

Mouzon House

Saratoga Guitar

Saratoga Springs Fire Department 

Saratoga Springs High School Choraliers 

Saratoga Springs Police Force Color Guard 

Saratoga Springs United Methodist Chancel Ringers 

U.S. Navy at KAPL

Reverend Adam Weigand

Published in News
Friday, 14 August 2015 18:12

Saratoga’s Solar Future Looks Bright

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Local governments around the nation are increasingly seeking ways to curb energy costs, and finally – between improved technologies and federal and state incentives – the reduction of a municipality’s carbon footprint has become both affordable and fiscally appealing. This is very good news for taxpayers, especially in a city like Saratoga Springs, with residents who are committed to lower energy costs without sacrificing environmental conservation and beauty. 

The Saratoga Springs City Council has launched two initiatives that will save homeowners, businesses, the City, and ultimately taxpayers significant energy and financial resources in the short and long-term. Additionally, the City has formed a Solar Access Committee to research additional solar energy opportunities. 

Solarize Saratoga 

Solarize Saratoga is a volunteer-driven campaign sponsored by the City of Saratoga Springs, led by Mayor Joanne Yepsen, and New York State to make it easy and affordable for households and small businesses to “go solar” utilizing funds provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) as part of the statewide NY-SUN Initiative. Community partners Sustainable Saratoga and Green Conscience Home and Garden have signed on to promote awareness of the campaign.

“The community is coming together to make it easier and more affordable for Saratoga area homeowners and businesses to install solar PV systems,” said Yepsen. Combining the power of community with a smart group purchasing strategy, Solarize helps everyone learn about solar technology, benefits, choices and financing options—together. 

The City selected two firms - Apex Solar Power, headquartered in Queensbury, and Hudson Solar, headquartered in Rhinebeck - through a competitive process to install solar PV systems in Saratoga Springs and adjacent communities. They are offering discounted group pricing for those who purchase solar before mid-October through the Solarize Saratoga program.  

Homeowners and businesses who sign up for solar installations by October 7 through the program will be able to take advantage of group rates below market prices. The more customers who sign up, the lower the price will be for all participants.

Solarize Saratoga is a nine-month program. The enrollment period began in July 2015, with the last installations wrapping up in December of 2015. For more information, visit www.solarizesaratoga.org.

Spa Solar Park

The City of Saratoga Springs awarded a bid to SunEdison on May 21, 2013 to work with the City to convert the City’s capped Weibel Avenue Landfill into a solar energy production site known as the Spa Solar Park Development. 

According to Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan in a report to the City Council, this is the City’s project, but SunEdison will build, own and maintain a 2 megawatt AC solar array on the City Landfill for an estimated 20 years.  The 2MW solar array is estimated to generate electricity equal to about 35-40 percent of the City’s current electricity usage for municipal operations. 

Sun Edison’s financial model includes funding from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA), which was received in October 2014 through the Governor’s NY-Sun Competitive PV Program.  It also includes funding from the sale of electricity to the City.  Since this is a “remote net metering” project, the actual electricity produced by the City’s solar panels will be directed to National Grid, which will provide a monetary credit to the City for amounts generated; the City, in turn, will pay SunEdison for electricity that is directed to National Grid. This payment is governed by a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (“PPA”), which was approved by the Council in December 2014 and fully executed in January 2015. 

“The electricity price the City will pay to SunEdison remains the same over its entire course,” said Madigan. “The City saves money when the PPA price is lower than the National Grid credit amount, which is the anticipated result. Regardless, having a 20-year price allows for long range budget planning, as well as reduces the City’s carbon footprint.”    

“There are tremendous opportunities through federal credits or state agencies like NYSERDA that enable local governments to save taxpayer dollars not only on their next electric bill, but for years down the line. We have seen a shift to renewable energy work wonders for private homeowners or local businesses like Stewart’s, and government at all levels should strongly consider this model as a way to save money, green the environment, and reduce our dangerous dependency on fossil fuels,” said U.S. Congressman (N-21) Paul Tonko.  

In 2013, Stewart’s Shops announced it would install a 600-kilowatt photovoltaic rooftop solar energy system at its manufacturing and distribution center near Saratoga Springs. Stewart’s took advantage of federal tax credits and a rebate offered through NYSERDA to offset the cost of the $1.5 million project.  

According to Stewarts Shops spokeswoman Maria D’Amelia, “It’s doing well, the project is generating about 7 percent of our plant’s electricity needs, saving about $3,000 a month. The only thing that gets a little in the way, which made us slightly under projections, was the bad winter which gave us a bit of a backup with snow covering the panels. Otherwise, it’s been very positive, with very little maintenance, and we are very pleased.” 

Solar Access Committee

At the June 2 City Council meeting, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan announced the formation of a committee to review the solar landscape including advances in science, technology, and how other communities handle solar access in laws and regulations. “I do think there are more things to look at than what we’ve considered so far,” said Madigan. 

Saratoga Springs resident Larry Toole chairs the Solar Access Committee. He holds an undergraduate degree in meteorology and is also a board member with Sustainable Saratoga, but makes it clear that he is on the Solar Committee as a Saratoga Springs citizen. 

“I’m interested in helping the City best understand the solar landscape in today’s world, anticipating where we might be in the future,” said Toole. “That’s dependent on lots of things, certainly the projected growth in solar is going to be quite significant, such as the signs of global warming initiatives and state and federal regulations of emissions.”

The goal of the committee is to provide context for that, as well as look at best practices regarding solar access rights, solar zoning issues, and other issues that other local governments have addressed. The committee will issue a report with recommendations in a couple of months. 

“In phase two of the Spa Solar Park there is potential for the City to add community solar,” said Toole. “This means that businesses and homeowners who do not have properties conducive to solar panels could instead purchase solar power through the Spa Solar Park array, or some other future array.” 

Looking into the solar future, Toole sees a day when no trees will be cut back or down to avoid shading solar panels on roofs, no ordinances will need to be changed to manage infill shadowing of neighboring panels, and no homeowner or business will need solar panels on their roofs. 

“Historical buildings would even be able to have solar energy,” said Toole. “Everyone would be able to purchase clean energy through a community scale project.”

For that to happen, however, New York State would have to pass legislation that require operational and billing changes in the power industry. 

“It’s inevitable that the power industry will have to go through a transformation in the next 20 to 30 years,” said Toole. “If President Obama’s mandate to the industry to reduce greenhouse gases by 32 percent by 2030 survives the courts, they will start owning more utility-scale renewable energy projects as part of their industry portfolio. When we’re 25 years down the road, 80 percent of the energy you buy from National Grid will be clean energy, so there won’t be a need to buy solar panels for rooftops. The power industry’s business model will change, but that has to start with net billing and they won’t do it unless required to by the state.”

Toole said that most indications are that the state is moving toward authorizing a community solar future, and once that happens, Saratoga Springs is likely to jump on board. This scenario is one of many that could be included in the committee’s report to the City. 


“I’m excited about the potential of what the committee can do,” said Toole. “We have a good cross section of concerned citizens, businesses, people with expertise in earth science and solar technology, plus support from the City, so hopefully we con provide useful information to incorporate in the future. You combine the ebb and flow between the Solarize Saratoga concept of discounts on rooftop solar, plus City savings on the Spa Solar Park, and add community solar one day, and we still have only begun to see what a solar future for Saratoga can look like.”

Published in News
Thursday, 13 August 2015 10:49

2 Days / $46.8 Million

How Locals Build a Fantasy Fasig-Tipton Stable

By Marilyn Lane

for Saratoga TODAY


Editor’s Note: The results are in and once again the numbers are staggering. 


The annual Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale saw 145 horses sold for a whopping $46.8 million dollars, a 40 percent increase over last year; and the highest sales total since the 2009 sales, which served as proof to many that the horse racing industry has rebounded strongly from the economic downturn. One colt sired by Tapit brought in the highest bid on Monday’s opening night, hitting $1.2 million. This was topped by a Street Cry colt, which fetched $1.4 million on Tuesday. 


With these and many, many other six-figure prices being thrown around, it is easy to forget (except, perhaps, for the buyers themselves) that we are talking about real money here. For most of the crowd that swelled the grounds of Fasig-Tipton, those numbers remain the stuff of dreams. 


Our Marilyn Lane writes about her approach to enjoying the sales without needing a loan from the World Bank.  


You don’t have to spend a million dollars to buy yearlings at the Fasig-Tipton Sales, and, in fact you don’t have to spend anything at all. At least, that’s the case for my longtime friend Marty Farnsworth and myself.  We came up with the idea at the 2013 Saratoga Sale to select yearlings for a fantasy stable. We each ended up with two fillies and a colt and their accumulated real cost totaled nearly $4 million.  If one of us had hit a “big horse,” that person was going to treat the other to a trip to the 2015 Breeders’ Cup.


If only one of us had chosen American Pharoah, we’d be going.  But we’re not.  Marty has had two starters from her trio and their combined earnings are something around   $150,000.  Neither of my fillies has made a start, and   my Indian Charlie colt has earned little more than a visit from the veterinarian to assure his genes would not be passed on. 


Last year, my schedule didn’t allow time for shopping the sales, but this year I needed a vicarious pleasure, so our little game is on again. Our goal is to identify horses that will earn more in their racing careers than their accumulative purchase prices.  That’s not an easy task.  And this year, we’re going to follow our mock purchases through their 4-year old seasons so we won’t know the lucky winner until New Year’s Eve 2018.


As soon as the sales catalog is available, we begin to analyze pedigrees and when the horses come to Fasig-Tipton, we start some physical evaluations.  One catch, we never ask a consignor to present horses to us. We have far too much respect for their busy schedules and besides the sales are already tiring enough for these young horses.  This is our fun and we would not want to make it intrusive —save all the trips in and out of their stalls for the real potential buyers. 


We’re already assured there are no weak individuals because the Saratoga Sale is a Selected Sale and representatives of Fasig-Tipton have pre-approved each pedigree and conducted conformation inspections of every horse before they were accepted into the catalog. 


Like any venture, this exercise is only as rewarding as the effort you put into it, so we work hard at it.  You would think we were spending real money. Well, there is one exception.  We don’t call upon the repository.  That’s a special office where the required radiographs of each horse are filed along with the results of their throat scopes.  These scopes reveal if there might be any blockages that might hamper a horse’s breathing later on.  It’s a standard part of the buying process to look carefully at these records or even have your own veterinarian take X-rays and/or do their own scopes.   Our game is a little handicapped for a lack of these records, but we wouldn’t dream of interfering with the needs of serious buyers.  


As larkish as it may seem, this is really a lot of fun and how can you not appreciate the potential of these finely bred Thoroughbreds?


Marty was first to see one of her selections go in the ring. This Old Fashioned filly (#14) was lovely and her consignors, Woodford Thoroughbreds, valued her more than the bidders.  She was RNA’d (Reserve Not Attained) at $145,000.


It was a different story when Denali Stud led Marty’s second selection in.  The bidding went fast on this handsome son of leading sire Tapit, and for $1.2 million Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse TB Partners and Robert LaPenta became the proud owners of hip number 34.


My first selection sold a few hips prior. Consigned by Bluewater Sales, LLC was hip number 32, a big and powerful son of Hard Spun.  He was a cribber (windsucker) and had I learned that earlier, I would have passed on him.  It’s not that cribbers can’t become nice racehorses, many do.  In fact, Game On Dude was a cribber…  but I find the habit annoying. My dampened spirits were at once lifted when Kenny McPeek signed the ticket for $160,000.  Many of you will remember that Kenny purchased Curlin as a yearling for $57,000.  If only this chestnut can run like that chestnut!


My hip number 49,  also a son of Tapit, was purchased by John Ferguson, bloodstock agent for Sheikh Mohammed for $750,000. His consignor was Hunter Valley Farm and interestingly enough they also bred, prepped and sold The Factor, whose oldest crop are yearlings this year.  The Factor is the sire of my number 1 pick in the sale, hip number 202.  And Marty also had a filly by The Factor (hip number 183) on her short list.  There must have been some kind of selection bias at work here, but it would be exactly that because the dam’s side weighs in so heavily in both Marty and my selections.


The dam, in fact, was key in Marty’s next selection, hip number 50 - a Quality Road filly out of Cayuga’s Waters.  This mare was a stakes winner of $194,422 and has already produced two stakes winners and the impressive Bill Mott-trained 2 year-old, Saratoga winner, Sage Hall.  This filly was from the consignment of an old friend of mine, and I think you’ll appreciate that the great retirement program Old Friends got its start at Hurstland Farm, thanks to the vision and generosity of my friend, Alfred H. Nukols, Jr. 


That summed us up for Monday night’s sale and Marty had to dash back to her home near Cayuga Lake to cut the grass and pet the cat so she’ll miss Tuesday’s live auction, but you can bet she’ll be following her selections on Fasig-Tipton’s live feed. 


I’m going for my first filly on Tuesday night.  Hip number 142 is by Pioneer of the Nile and out of a Pulpit mare.  This lovely filly is consigned by Eaton Sales.  Soon after Marty’s Curlin colt, hip number 146, will be presented by Darby Dan.  This colt is what Marty terms “a piece of work,” and none of the handlers over at Darby Dan seemed ready to dispute that.  He’s impish and immature, but that’s okay, the game goes on until the ball drops in Times Square for 2019.


I’ll have to stay late tonight to see my favorite colt of the sale go in just seven hips from the end of the 2015 sale.


In the end, hip number 142 brought $375,000, and Marty’s Curlin, hip number 146 was sold for $145,000.

And last but not least, that beautiful colt by The Factor (hip number 202) sold for $750,000.



Next we’ll look for everyone to name these babies, and in a few years we hope we’ll have seen some great racing successes.  But win or lose, these eight horses are ‘ours’, and with this surrogate ownership comes all the hope and sometimes the disappointment that goes with owning racehorses. 

Published in News
Thursday, 13 August 2015 10:35

Stories of Inspiration and Survival

Saratoga Regional YMCA Celebrates LIVESTRONG Program 

By Arthur Gonick

Saratoga TODAY 


SARATOGA SPRINGS – The skies had been gloomy all day, but the sun burst through just in time, sending shining rays of optimism down on all who were at the Union Gables Bed and Breakfast on the afternoon of Tuesday, August 11. The sunshine was welcome, but hardly necessary, as the attendees brought enough good cheer to brighten and enlighten anything.


The occasion was a luncheon gathering of well-wishers and participants in the Saratoga Regional YMCA’s LIVESTRONG program, who came together to share their experiences, but mostly to celebrate. Those who spoke, trainers in the program or cancer survivors, gave their own personal messages that were united in spirit under the keyword: HOPE.


LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is a 12-week exercise program, offered at little to no cost, to help survivors improve their strength and physical fitness, diminish the severity of therapy side effects, develop supportive relationships and improve their quality of life.   


Following a greeting by Interim CEO Kelly Armer, Lauren Frankford and Nicole Griffiths, two LIVESTRONG coaches, detailed their experiences. Frankford noted, “…for every story of hardship, there are 15 positive ones.” Griffith cited the inspiration of her father, who passed at an early age after a long struggle with cancer. “I now coach the program to give others what I wasn’t able to give my dad,” she said. 


Cancer survivor Carol Bataglia lauded the LIVESTRONG program at the YMCA, saying “… it was helpful on so many levels. It truly ‘takes a village’ of support to move ahead on a cancer journey, and this program provides it.” Her story shows “you should never be afraid to ask for help.” Survivor Cindy Swaba observed that the LIVESTRONG program at the Saratoga Regional Y was an aspect of their program offerings that she did not know about prior to having cancer, but, once enrolled, found the staff and program so motivating that “… no matter how I was feeling (because of her treatment) I made the commitment to go to my classes twice a week.” 


Other speakers who shared stories of inspiration and survival included: Ann Lawton, a community liaison nurse at St. Peters Hospital’s Cancer Center; NYS Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner; Ellen Salerni, who is both a survivor and chair of the event committee; Susan Rhoades, development director at the Saratoga Regional YMCA and John Higgins, LIVESTRONG project manager. 


The community at large was motivated to help the program, as evidenced by the afternoon’s 57 silent auction items, which Armer said valued $12,000 collectively. The proceeds of this afternoon’s celebratory luncheon would fund the LIVESTRONG program into the future, and guarantee some measure of sunshine for those in the community facing cancer’s darkness. 


For more information about LIVESTRONG at the Saratoga Regional YMCA and their other programs, visit www.srymca.org

Published in News
Thursday, 06 August 2015 16:34

Villa Balsamo's Opens its Gates

Southern Neapolitan Dining Available Nightly, Year-Round

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The once more-often-than-not locked gates of the upscale Villa Balsamo restaurant are standing open for unforgettable family-style dinners from 5 to 10 p.m. seven nights a week beginning the week of August 10. 

The facility has been open for private functions over the last three years, but “Ralphie” Balsamo and his father, Joseph “J.B.” Balsamo, decided it was time to begin offering a full nightly restaurant showcasing the culinary talents of a family renowned for authentic Southern Neapolitan cooking. 

“This is a place with a lot of people who have grown up with my father,” said Balsamo. “That’s very important. A lot of people miss his cooking. We want everyone to enjoy it here.”

Ralphie Balsamo makes no apologies for how long it has taken to open the restaurant for daily public use. He described the facility as a Sleeping Beauty. “You have to be very careful how you wake her up,” he said. “If she wakes up too fast, she could be angry. The timing has to be just right, slow and gentle for her beauty to really shine.”

The kitchen and operations will be led by the son, but when asked if it meant the senior Balsamo will enjoy some well-earned time to relax, Ralphie Balsamo answered, with some familial pride, “Him (sic) relaxing is him watching, smelling, tasting, seeing everything in the kitchen and throughout.” 

Balsamo described his father’s arrival in the late 40’s, early 50’s to the U.S. beginning with J.B.’s landing in Norfolk, Virginia with the Merchant Marines and making his way to Brooklyn with his entire entourage. “Then he built an empire,” said Balsamo. 

“When he saw this place,” said Balsamo, “it took him a year of driving up here from Brooklyn once a week and waiting for the owner to come out to collect his mail.” Joseph Balsamo successfully convinced the owner to sell, and Villa Balsamo began.

The man who runs the front of the house, head waiter Scott Urell, has been with the family since 2003. “This is a great facility,” he said. “The dining room is beautiful and the grounds are perfect for tents for weddings and parties. In future, there will be a bar in the basement and the upstairs will be rooms for a bed and breakfast.” 

“Yes, we’re thinking of calling it the J. B. and B.,” laughed Ralphie Balsamo. “Some of these projects will be finishing up in the fall, but we are definitely open for dinner year-round. We have free WiFi, too, so you can come with your laptop and sit with a cup of cappuccino if you like. You don’t want family-style? Someone in the family want something different? No problem. All you gotta do is let us know what you want, and we’ll get it for you.” 

As pricey as that level of service may sound on such expansive grounds in the high-end feel facility, the Balsamos intend to keep things affordable. “You can have a three-course dinner for two with wine for about a hundred dollars,” said Balsamo, “and still have food to take home with you.”

Workmen were still on the premises during the media preview tour on Tuesday August 4, putting the finishing touches on the refurbished and upgraded historic mansion boasting nine master rooms. The 14.5-acre site includes four ponds, natural springs, and a spectacular view from every window. The family intends the entire first floor suite to be available for weddings. 

“There are many houses for weddings in the Capital Region,” said Balsamo, “but they don’t have the original 1931 Sleeping Beauty that we have. We want to be the event place of Saratoga. The groom’s family can be on one end, the bride’s on the other, and they can walk out the door onto these grounds – and let me tell you, at dawn this place is majestic – you’ll step out feeling like all this is yours,” indicating the beautiful grounds with a broad sweep of his arm. “What could be better than that?”

He is especially proud of the menu. “All the favorites will be there,” he said. “The baked clams, the shrimp oreganata, the fettuccine prosciutto, and ocean-friendly sea bass – everything’s ocean-friendly. We will even have gluten free pasta available. Do you know, we have no walk-in freezers? Don’t need even need them. Everything’s fresh.”

Balsamo was clear that he owes much to the Villa Balsamo team. “I’m not a chef, I’m a cook,” he said, “and I’m very lucky to have a team who is with me, from the front of the house to the dishwasher beside me. My father knew the importance of that – and I tell you this with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat – do you know what it takes for him to build something from the ground up and have it last? You need the right talent working with us, not for us, and that’s very important. I even have someone flying in from Naples. I’m not saying who just yet, but just know that we are very proud of our team and very excited about the future and being open year-round.”

For reservations, call (518) 885-3227.

Published in News
Thursday, 06 August 2015 09:59

Handicapping Pharoah’s Next Move

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

Published in News
Page 6 of 25


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