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Displaying items by tag: horse racing

Wednesday, 02 May 2018 20:00

Kentucky Derby

Doesn’t it feel like in any given year the banner ad for the Kentucky Derby is “one of the most competitive fields in history?”

By its very nature, the Kentucky Derby is an intensely competitive race for a bouquet of reasons: the random nature of the post draw, the field size, the horses’ questionable stamina, the weather, and the fact that about half the horses in any given year can win the race.

Even in 2015, the year American Pharoah—a.k.a. No. 12—won the Derby and subsequently the Triple Crown, that Derby was a firefight down the lane with Pharoah simply out-talenting and out-grinding Firing Squad and stablemate Dortmund. The rest of the Triple Crown was a bit of a cakewalk for AP12.

Point being no matter how you dissect the race, whether you use Racing Forms, Thorographs, or YouTube (the primary handicapping device of your correspondent), the race is always competitive. And it can often have deleterious effects on the horses. This race is traumatic. These horses, especially the ones that run hard, are, for better or worse, transformed for carrying that burden. Frodo Baggins was never the same after carrying the Ring of Power.

“They’re never the same after they win the Derby or the Belmont,” said Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Derby winner Bob Baffert. “They can never be the same.”

And who will thus be transformed and be the one with a shot at being No. 13? The Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg gave a mike-dropping breakdown of who he thinks will win the race and take the first of horse racing’s Infinity Stones (Spoiler Alert: It’s Bolt d’Oro), but we’ll get to him and others soon enough.

The Derby has essentially the same set of characters every year, which makes it fun and easy to handicap the winner. There’s the Horse or Horses Who Didn’t Race at Two, thus we must hear how nobody has done it since Apollo in 1882. 

There’s the requisite Dubai Invader, usually the winner of the UAE Derby. 

There’s the poor sucker who draws Post 1, who should, IMO, gallop around the oval and jog straight to Pimlico no worse for wear. 

There’s the yearly Todd Squad (say what you will, but Todd Pletcher is a mutant).

The equation is the same, only the names change. History stacks against a select few, but the two who seem the most likely to buck the trends are Justify and Mendelssohn, the unraced-at-two colt and the Dubai colt.

One ran a blisteringly fast race to win the Santa Anita Derby and the other won the UAE Derby and looked like Secretariat doing it. The latter is a globe trotter who seems to have not only the speed but the disposition to handle the rigors of 10 crowded furlongs.

We’d be remiss to skim over Pletcher’s herd, namely Audible. 

At this point the number of Pletcher’s Derby Starters to Wins Ratio starters, his “batting average” if you will, is a tired point and should be embalmed and entombed in the storylines of yesteryear. He’s transcended that very point by winning two Derbys with what turned out to be very average three year olds. And plenty of gifted and skilled trainers have gifted and skilled horses and never reach the Derby. Pletcher still pleases his owners every year giving them a shot at the most coveted race on the calendar. 

Audible, despite a fairly weak top and bottom immediate family, boasts Harlan’s Holiday as his grandsire, a winner of the Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes. 

Post 5 for the son of Into Mischief is a nice spot to be in near the fence but not too far.

Bolt d’Oro won a key race at two (the Frontrunner), a race won by future Derby winners in American Pharoah and Nyquist. Being the son of Medaglia d’Oro makes him look even nicer.

Bolt d’Oro also gets the services of Victor Espinoza, a three-time Derby-winning  jock.

“Victor said, ‘Wow, I’ve got my fourth Derby win,’” said Mick Ruis, Bolt d’Oro’s trainer. “I said, ‘I sure hope so.’”

With all the speed and tactical speed filling up the past performances, who’s the one to peak and break on through to the other side? Will we see a blanket finish with so many of the horses rationing speed? Or will one horse separate and win by daylight?

What we do know, if nothing else, is the race will be—you guessed it—competitive.

Brendan O’Meara is an independent writer and author of Six Weeks in Saratoga. He also hosts The Creative Nonfiction Podcast.

Kentucky Derby lineup

Published in Sports
Thursday, 29 June 2017 13:40

NYRA Announces 2017 Racing Season Giveaways

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The New York Racing Association, Inc. will continue its tradition of giveaways with four giveaway days scheduled for the summer 2017 meet at Saratoga Race Course. All giveaways are free with paid admission, while supplies last. The 2017 Saratoga Race Course premium giveaway schedule is as follows:

The first giveaway of the 2017 season will pay tribute to the theme of opening weekend - Hats! Racing fans gather to receive a red and white Saratoga baseball cap, presented by Saratoga Casino Hotel. In addition to the Saratoga hat giveaway, the day's festivities will include the 26th annual Hat Contest, presented by Hat Sationa! By DEI.

Racing fans will take home the second giveaway of the 2017 meet, a gray short-sleeve t-shirt featuring a red Saratoga Race Course logo. The giveaway corresponds with the weekly Berkshire Bank Family Mondays series, which features free children's activities and entertainment at the Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion.

SARATOGA COOLER BAG: Monday, August 21
The season's penultimate premium giveaway - a red and black Saratoga cooler bag - will kick off the countdown to the $1.25 million Travers, which will be run for the 148th time on Saturday, August 26.

SARATOGA CLOCK: Sunday, September 3
Fans will celebrate closing weekend of the 2017 Saratoga meet with the final giveaway of the 2017 season - a Saratoga wall clock, presented by Foxwoods Resort Casino. The clock features an image of thoroughbreds racing down the stretch against the iconic Saratoga grandstand and clubhouse roofline.

Guests will be able to redeem up to three vouchers at Saratoga Race Course's giveaway redemption areas, including the one they receive with paid admission and the two additional vouchers they are able to purchase at the multiple admissions line beneath the grandstand.

Published in Sports

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Galloping up and down the emptied corn filed behind Pitney Meadows Community Farm, “Claude’s Alley Cat” begins its preparation for the 2017 racing scene in earnest with some gentle exercises.  Before long, the two-year-old stallion will move onto the Oklahoma Training Track, across the street from the Saratoga Race Course, to begin more intense training. 

For trainer Melvin Winney, Claude’s Alley Cat, named in memory of his late father, looks to make his return to the horse racing business a successful one.  Running his first winning horse back in 1996 with “David Parson,” Winney went on to run eight winning horses during his career, including “Back Door Deal” and “Ms. Will a Way.”  Now, after five years away from the business, he sees the potential for victory in his latest horse.

“He’s been doing everything right from day one,” Winney said.  “He broke easily, quietly.”

Winney’s new horse was sired by celebrated stallion “Desert Party,” which currently resides at the Irish Hill Century Farm in Stillwater and was previously owned by Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum of Dubai. 

“Most two-year-olds will go out with other two-year-olds to keep each other company,” Winney said about his new horse.  “This guy, he doesn’t need any company, he’s very attentive, he’s focused.  He’s like an older horse for a baby.  He’s just a baby.” 


All photos by Photoandgraphic.com.

Published in Sports
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.

Published in Entertainment
Friday, 19 August 2016 10:05

Weezie at the Flagpole What a Week!

‘Tho Mother Nature thankfully blessed us with perfect weather at the start of the week for the Fasig-Tipton Yearling Sales, by midweek she was cursing us with the dreaded “h-cubed muggies”, and by Fourstardave Saturday, she was defiantly laughing in our faces! The annual Sales hold a very special place in my heart. It is there that my lifelong love affair and fascination with horses began. Since my childhood home (our Presbyterian Church’s manse) was literally behind the yearling stables on the north side of Madison, I could walk out my backyard on Fifth, cross over what was then a real alley, slip under a gap in the fence, and be in seventh Heaven! If I knew then what I know now, however, I would never have been filled with the joyful innocence of that little girl who believed that one day a horse like these could be hers! On the second night of the sales, a filly by Medaglia d’Oro, (sire of the great Rachel Alexandra and current star Songbird) elicited a bidding war between Mandy Pope and B. Wayne Hughes that resulted in the Sales topper at $1.45 million! Ms. Pope, who has been building a powerful breeding operation in Ocala for some time now, along with the reputation as a fierce player and bullish foe, outdueled Mr. Hughes in a spirited battle, as they sat close by to each other! It never becomes old to watch in wonder as these beautiful babies are led out to the walking ring, often and loudly displaying their dismay with all of the attention, and to then see their potential suitors fight over them in the Sales ring like jilted lovers! In the very same location on Friday morning, pillars of the industry gathered for the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. For many years, I’ve relished being able to attend this wonderful event that has always been open to everyone, but thank goodness I had a media pass this year, because for the first time, it was closed to the public! Sadly, this resulted in a much smaller crowd than usual, for what was perhaps their most decorated class ever. Even though I’m sure the Hall anticipated huge ticket requests from the connections of this star-studded class, it was common knowledge that they were mostly fearful of PETA protesters ruining their event because of the scurrilous and baseless allegations of abuse that were leveled by Joe Drape in the New York Times against Steve Asmussen. Thank goodness these trumped up charges, based on a dubious and highly edited video that was manufactured by PETA, were found to be false after lengthy investigations by both the NY and KY Racing Commissions. After two agonizing years of waiting, their findings opened the door for the Hall to finally and rightfully induct him. Steve’s wife Julie, who began as a hot walker in his barn, introduced him, and remarked that the most important lesson he has shared with their three sons, is that you never give up, and that you wake up every morning and give it your all, because effort is everything! Although it’s been said that Steve is rather unapproachable and can appear aloof, in an extremely emotional and heartwarming acceptance speech, he showed us a very different side. He made it clear that he owes so much to his wife, who stood bravely by his side in spite of battling cancer during this ordeal, and to his Mom and Dad, (a former Jockey and Trainers who were in attendance) who raised him and his older brother Cash (a former Eclipse Award Winner as an Apprentice Jockey) in the small Texas town of Laredo, to believe in their ability to succeed, and to understand the importance of family and hard work. Choking back tears, he thanked his Mom for her faith in him, and his Dad for being the essence of a “true man”. He also made a point to thank his longtime Assistant, Steve Blasi, who had been the focus of the PETA witch-hunt. He went on to explain that this honor belonged to his entire team, and to his owners that never stopped believing in him, and most importantly, to the horses, including greats like Rachel Alexandra, Curlin, My Miss Aurelia, Untapable and Kodiak Cowboy. I can’t recall ever feeling any more devastated about an athlete’s injury than I did after hearing the horrible news of the bad fall Ramon Dominguez had taken on the hard inner track at Aqueduct, that January afternoon in 2013. I was absolutely heartbroken that this could happen to not only such an amazing talent, but to such an incredibly fine human being. Praying incessantly that he would recover, and hoping beyond hope that he would be able to return to the saddle, as the months passed, I remained optimistic. When the final verdict was announced, that the 3-time Eclipse Award Winner had to retire, I cried like a baby, and continued to tear up each time I saw him after he finally returned to the Track that following summer in Saratoga. But this year, and this day, are different, as the tears of sadness have turned to tears of joy for a man who has accepted his fate with the same humility, class and grace that defined his career. To make it easier on us who are easily moved to tears, he engaged us with hilarious stories during his acceptance speech, and showed us all why he will forever remain on top, no matter where life leads him. The ever-entertaining Tom Durkin, who once again served as the MC, introduced each honoree with his usual flair, and when he did so for Ann and Jerry Moss’ incomparable Zenyatta, he lamented that he was never able to call one of her races. Moss, the founder of A & M Records, (hence Queen Z being named after the album by The Police) and wife Ann, were understandably ebullient in their praise of, and thanks to and for their superstar, who wowed her throngs of fans with her diva-like prancing in the Post Parades, bigger than life personality, and devastating come from behind thrilling stretch runs. As has become my routine, I have saved the best for last, and I say this unapologetically and unabashedly with pride, because Rachel Alexandra is one of my very favorites of all time! I’ll freely admit that my opinion is based on the fact that I was so blessed to see her greatness in person several times, and from Churchill Downs in the Oaks, to Belmont in the Mother Goose, and ultimately on to Saratoga for her iconic Woodward, she thrilled me like no other, and left us all breathless and in tears! My heart stopped when we almost lost her in childbirth, and broke when we realized she would never be able to give birth again, but the unbelievable memories of her courage, grit and determination will remain alive in my heart and soul forever! As her compassionate yet understated owner, Barbara Banke, remarked during her acceptance speech on behalf of Rachel, it is her amazing courage that will define her legacy. In what was arguably his greatest race call, Tom Durkin reminded us of how Rachel’s heart stopping Woodward literally raised the rafters and moved the crowd with her gutsy victory! I will never forget standing at the rail on the finish line, with bodies ten-deep pressed up against me, and with tears running down my face, as she returned to the Winner’s Circle! Thank You, Rachel, for creating these unforgettable moments! Anticipating a storm of epic proportions, NYRA wisely cancelled the last six races on Saturday’s card, putting safety first, and all eyes then turned to Arlington Park. At this point, NYRA had to be very pleased with their fortuitous decision to provide bonus coverage that day from AP during their Saratoga Live show, and since Gabby Gaudet was already there to cover the big races, they smoothly transitioned from the mess at home, and turned it into a positive Win-Win for their new national programming. In spite of struggling in his Saratoga debut this Meet, with only three wins to his credit before he headed to Chicago, Florent Geroux, the almost-30-year-old French Jockey, had a day to remember at his old stomping grounds at AP! He racked up five wins from eight mounts, with four of them being Stakes, and two of these being Grade 1s. He owes a huge debt of gratitude to his hardworking Agent, Doug Bredar, (husband of TVG analyst Caton, and a former Racing Secretary at Churchill Downs and Gulfstream) for securing mounts for him three weeks out, on very live horses, that were favorites in every race he won! His Stakes streak began in the American St. Leger, on Mike Maker’s 4-5 favorite Da Big Hoss, and continued in the Grade I Secretariat for 3-year olds, aboard Chad Brown’s classy Beach Patrol, a son of Lemon Drop Kid. In the $700K Grade 1 Beverly D, FloG rode Chad’s even money favorite, Sea Calisi, stable mate and training partner of the great Lady Eli, to victory, and ‘tho he didn’t have the same luck in the Arlington Million, he closed out his streak in the Grade III Pucker Up, where with a continued stroke of good luck, he was awarded the victory on Chad’s 5-2 shot when the apparent winner was disqualified and dropped to third! The up and coming young Trainer from the UK, David O’Meara, further elevated his rising star when his 6-year- old Mondialiste, a son of the great Irish Sire Galileo, captured the Million. Although O’Meara only got his Trainer’s license six years ago, he has opened eyes with a win in the Woodbine Mile and a place in the Breeders Cup Mile already to his credit. In spite of still maintaining a four-win lead in the Jockey Standings with 31, it was a pretty rough week for Irad Ortiz, per his usual high standards. He was shut out on Wednesday, and again on his Birthday on Thursday, and also on the shortened card on Saturday. He was able to manage one win on both Friday and Sunday, but was also disqualified in Sunday’s feature, the Grade II Special, following a scary moment when his wayward 2-year-old bumped Ricardo Santana’s baby hard, who then in turn, bumped Johnny Velazquez, but fortunately, nobody went down! Javi Castellano was not involved, and ran down Irad aboard Gunneveral, who with an impressive turn of foot in the deep stretch, won in a thriller! This was Javi’s fourth Win of the day, and it moved him into a tie with Johnny for second in the standings at 24, but he would move ahead with a win on Monday to 25. However, this would be short-lived, as José Ortiz had a great Monday with four winners, too, and bolted ahead of them to 27! Joel Rosario remains in 5th with 18, and a streaking Luis Saez, who has been on fire since his huge 55-1 upset in The Test, now has 17! Manny Franco has 13, and after a big Wednesday for José Lezcano with three wins, he now has 10. ‘Tho FloG kept his hot hand going in the 1st Race Sunday, upon his return that morning from Chicago, he still only sits in 14th place with 4 Wins, proving how extremely difficult it is for any Jockey to venture into Saratoga and win! Chad Brown has a six-win lead over Todd Pletcher, 23-17, and Kiaran McLaughlin remains in 3rd with 9, while a red hot Rudy Rodriguez now has 8! I cannot wait for Saturday’s Alabama and the chance to see the magnificent Songbird once again! The delayed Fourstardave will also be on Saturday, and the cancelled Adirondack will now be run on Friday. See you next week!

Published in Sports
Friday, 08 January 2016 18:45

Historic Sport Shop Hits 75 Year Milestone

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Alpine Sport Shop turns 75 this year, a milestone for the family­owned retailer that has served generations of winter sports enthusiasts in the Saratoga region, and was once home to the only “ski­tronic” indoor slope in northern New York. Alpine will commemorate their seven and a half decades of service with an open house event on January 14 from 4 to 7 p.m. at its 399 Clinton Street location in Saratoga Springs. 

Originally established in 1941 by Edwin Taylor, Jr. and his wife Joan, the first Alpine Sport Shop was located on Spring Street. After his father (who was a proprietor of another sports shop on Broadway) gave him his first pair of skis, Edwin excelled in the sport, earning himself a reputation as a “pioneer of American skiing” and founding Alpine Meadows Ski Area in Corinth. 

The current owners, Cathy (Woodcock) and Jack Hay, met during high school. Jack Hay’s family relocated to Saratoga Springs from Saranac Lake after his father accepted a job as the city’s first engineer. The two were classmates and members of the school’s ski team in the mid-1960s, around the time Cathy’s father, Thurlow Woodcock, was contemplating selling his auto repair business. 

“My dad was a great skier,” said Cathy Hay. “He started our family skiing in the 1950's at Darrow's rope tow on Locust Grove Road in Greenfield.  I was four years old.” 

With a talent for craftsmanship, the World War II veteran had built both the family’s home in Wilton, and his repair shop, Upstate Auto Bodyworks, himself. But being family friends of the Taylors, Woodcock saw an opportunity to change careers and become a retail merchant in a sport he loved.  

He and wife Dorothy purchased the Alpine Sport Shop from the Taylors in 1966. A local advertisement announcing the change in ownership read: 

“Jo and Ed Taylor of the Alpine Sport Shop take great pleasure in announcing the sale of the above business to Dorothy and Thurlow Woodcock who will take over June 1, 1966. Business will continue as usual with the same fine lines that have made this store Saratoga’s leading sportwear and ski shop for 24 years.” 

Skidmore College, which comprised approximately 60 percent of the Alpine Sport Shop’s business at the time, was in the process of relocating the campus from downtown to its current location off North Broadway. Woodcock followed suit, purchasing a plot of land closer to the new campus, but still convenient to downtown traffic. Then once again, he began to build. 

“If he wanted something, he built it,” remembers Jack Hay. 

This time, Thurlow wanted a chalet, as authentic as possible in design, to enhance the store’s ambiance and create a ski lodge atmosphere. 

“He could weld things, he was an artist...he liked challenges, he had a vision,” said Jack Hay.

By 1969, Woodcock’s vision had materialized into a massive, 5,000 square foot wooden structure, complete with exposed beams, vaulted ceilings, a wood­burning fireplace, and a full, concrete basement. Single­handedly designed and planned himself, Woodcock enlisted only the occasional help of his nephew in completing the project, which has since weathered more than 40 winters and endured numerous redesigns to accommodate the business’ changing needs. 

One such redesign took place in the 1970’s, when a change in inventory prompted Woodcock to erect a 42-foot-long indoor training slope made of thick AstroTurf to help teach the Graduated Length Method (“GLM”). Using silicone and polyethylene beads to simulate a snowy surface, lights were installed in different patterns for students to navigate around, enabling them to practice parallel turns on short skis, and graduate to longer skis as they improved. Invented by National Ski Hall of Famer, Clif Taylor, GLM was advertised the “fastest, safest, easiest” way to ski.

“It was a creative way to get more people to ski,” said Jack Hay. He and Cathy Woodcock Hay were married in 1971, around the time these changes were taking place.

In the early 1980s, snowboarding was still in its infancy. But Alpine saw an opportunity and endeavored to adjust their business again to stay on the cutting edge, a style which compliments the fearless nature of the active lifestyle they so passionately promote. The Hays discontinued use of the training slope to provide more space for retail, including a new snowboard section, which was one of the first in the area at that time. 

“Stratton was first among the local mountains to allow snowboarding, but only on certain trails,” said Jack Hay, a lifelong skier who began snowboarding in 1986. “When they first started allowing snowboarders [at Stratton] they had to demonstrate their skill before they were allowed on the lift.” 

According to SnowSports Industries America (SIA), approximately 30 percent of winter sports participants during the 2014-15 season were snowboarders. 

Alpine Sport Shop has grown to provide an impressive range of products and services for virtually any recreational winter need: outerwear, crossover clothing, equipment, accessories, rentals, fittings, tuning services and repair, GoPro cameras, and even local, domestic, and international group trips for all levels of experience. 

The company also caters to varying budgets, with options for single day or season long rentals, and day trips that include transportation, breakfast, and lift passes often for less than the retail price of a lift pass alone. The cost of going with Alpine to Okemo Mountain Resort, for example, is more than $30 cheaper than if you go alone. The Alpine Sport Shop’s full list of trip schedules can be found at alpinesportshop.com.

“Four generations of my family have done business with Alpine Ski Shop since its founding 75 years ago,” said Charles V. Wait, President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Adirondack Trust Company. “We have seen the shop as it was started by Ed Taylor, a veteran of the 10th mountain division, then its sale to Thurlow Woodcock, and now the ownership by my high school ski team classmates, Jack and Cathy Hay. In an age of faceless Internet retail price-cutters it's nice to be able to do business with a multigenerational, family-owned business, with people you can trust.”

As far as the shop’s legacy for the next milestone, the Hays plan to keep Alpine Sport Shop a family-owned and operated business.

“I [think] my dad would be pleased with how we have maintained the integrity of the shop by providing quality goods and service to our customers,” said Cathy Hay. “That would be at the heart and purpose of the business he would expect his family and employees to preserve.” 


For more information on Alpine Sport Shop or their open house event on January 14, visit alpinesportshop.com or call 518-584­-6290.


Published in News
Friday, 05 September 2014 15:35

We Will Remember

City To Commemorate 9/11’s Anniversary

By Arthur Gonick
Saratoga TODAY

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Mayor Joanne Yepsen and the Mayor’s 9/11 Memorial Committee is inviting the public to join them for a City Wide Ceremony and Remembrance on the anniversary of the Tragedy which befell our nation.

This ceremony will begin at 8:15 a.m. on Thursday, September 11 at the Tempered by Memory sculpture in High Rock Park. The ceremony is expected to last approximately one hour. A schedule and event program appears on Page 9.

“While 13 years have passed, few who were alive in the United States on 9/11/2001 will ever forget where they were or what they were doing.” Mayor Yepsen said. “It is best that we not forget, both personally and for the sake of our country as we share those thoughts and feelings with those who were just children. Please join me and other citizens of Saratoga Springs as we remember the lives of the men, women and children who were killed. And may we “Never Forget” or allow those around us to forget.”

A significant event on the program will occur on 8:46 a.m. when churches and other structures city wide are requested to ring their bells for one minute – to coincide with the timing of the first airplane impact on the North Tower of NYC’s World Trade Center thirteen years ago.

Schedule of Events:
Saratoga Springs 9/11 Ceremony and Remembrance
High Rock Park

8:15 - 8:40 a.m. Bag Piper – Peter Lounsberry

8:40 a.m.  Color guard- Div. of Military and Naval Affairs (DMNA) under the direction of New York State's Adjutant General, Major General Patrick Murphy.

8:46 a.m.  Ringing of Bells City Wide

8:47 a.m.  Welcome – Dottie Pepper
National Anthem –  Choraliers- Saratoga Springs High School
Pledge – Ken Klotz
Invocation – Rev. Coqui Conkey
Mayor Joanne Yepsen Remarks and Introduction
Matt Tully – Keynote Speech
Wreath Presentation 
God Bless America –    Choraliers – Saratoga Springs High School
Benediction – Rabbi Jonathan Rubenstein

Approximately 9:15-9:30 a.m. Taps – Erne Bellinger of Wilton

Published in News
Friday, 27 June 2014 17:05

Putnam Den: Alive at Five!

Ain’t No Jive… They’ve Done More Than Survive 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Any business that makes it to five years deserves props. But in the music business, you have to count it like it’s dog years. 


Suffice to say, Putnam Den (63A Putnam Street, Saratoga Springs), has in five short years, established something that was not seen in this town in, well maybe, forever. 


A music venue where the emphasis is on original artists. 


Notice that we did not state a genre. Putnam Den welcomes them all – from rock to reggae (and yes, even hip-hop sometimes). Notice further that we said artists, not just musicians – Co-owners Tiffany and Jonathan Albert have welcomed painters, poets and probably Papier-mâché practitioners inside their roomy, comfy confines. 


“There’s still a lot of misconceptions about what we do,” Tiffany said. “People think we’re a dance club, a hippie club, a this club, a that. They think we’re only a high-cover price venue, when in fact on those nights we have a national touring act the ticket price goes to the band. We have a very-high percentage of absolutely free shows.” 


Putnam Den is impossible to pigeonhole, and that’s by design. An example of a superior original free show series would be beginning on July 9, when Gubbulidis, a duo from Castleton, VT that featuring members from Twiddle Zdenek Gubb and Mihali Savoulidis establish a Wednesday residency throughout the summer. During track season local legends Half-Step will also perform on Thursday evenings – also free.


It would have never happened, let alone reach the precipice of a fifth anniversary, without the shared vision and acumen of Tiffany and Jonathan. Tiffany is one of the most discerning, dedicated evaluators of talent I have ever met; Jonathan has a background that is a mélange of expertise that ranges from hospitality management to the performing arts. But even with that going for them, they credit (more than) a little help from their friends. 


But not the banks. It was 2009. The recession. Banks weren’t lending money to hospitals, let alone a fledgling dream involving music; don’t even waste the paper and ink filling out the application! “We got our liquor license on a Thursday, opened the night after.” Jonathan said. “We had exactly $16 in our checking account” after they emptied their savings on permits, sound equipment, paint and supplies. 

“When we put our financial plan together,” Tiffany said, “our accountant at the time said ‘it’s my professional obligation to talk you out of this’, but I told him: ‘this ship is going to sail!’”


You don’t get to five, though, without some help, and the Albert’s received a lot from both the business and local government communities. They rattled off names in such rapid fashion I could barely keep up; some might be a surprise:


“Jake Hogan, Tony Ianello, Peter Beames, Bruce Levinsky, Patricia Berry, Kevin Saxton, Dan Cogan in the building department, Stephanie in the city clerk’s office, Steve Ellwanger our C.P.A., Dave Harper, Julie Francis…” they said. If I left anyone out, the fault is mine, not theirs. 


In addition to this, they salute the loyalty of their staff. “We have had surprising little turnover.” Tiffany said. “What makes me happy is that they make it more than a ‘bar job’. They buy into what we are doing, and use there work here as a platform to achieve their life’s goals.” 


An example of this is Brian Petroski, one of the “core four” on the staff during their five years. Brian is one of the most accomplished abstract painters you will ever see, and he’s living right here. In fact, he deserves a plug of his own: visit brianpetroski.artspan.com. 


Further, they have bona-fide crowd pleasers like Sam Bottini (who has been there from the beginning) and Lauren Cognato, as well as Emily Hill, who just had her second baby yet keeps coming back to the ‘Den’ family.


And so they have a lot of people in their crowd to thank. But this is a crowd that gives back. It’s a rare month on the Putnam Den calendar that you don’t see several benefits for one local cause or another, from fundraisers for established charities like Jake’s Help From Heaven to a neighbor family struggling to pay some enormous hospital bill. 


When I ask Tiffany and Jonathan about a vignette that describes their quintessential Putnam Den moment, neither of them gave me what I expected. 


Tiffany touched on the spirit and energy she felt “…when people say thanks. Thanks for bringing in this band, or that, yes. But, more importantly, thanks for opening our home to their cause. Often, we get out of there at 5 a.m. on Saturday night/Sunday morning, and re-open for a charity event at 11 a.m. But it’s at the only way I would do this.”


For Jonathan, that moment involves “hanging out with my son (Zion, age 3. They also have Anthony, who just graduated from Saratoga H.S. and Violet, 10 months) during the afternoons. We play with the soundboard, sometimes help with a band’s load-in.” 


He continued, “One time, Donna Jean Godchaux (a member of the Grateful Dead from 1972 to 1979) came in with her son’s band: Her son was named Zion too. He was maybe 45 at the time; my son was 2. They bonded big time- the eldest said it was the first time he had met another Zion.” 


These examples are instructive because, much like Putnam Den itself, it is often not what you think it’s going to be. 


If you’re a regular visitor, you already know that. If not, my advice is to suspend disbelief, don’t wait five more years to help them blow out the candles, and thank them for their seminal contribution to Saratoga’s cultural scene.


Putnam Den has a slew of events planned for their anniversary on Wednesday, July 2, throughout the summer and beyond. For more information on everything, visit PutnamDen.com or call (518) 584-8066. 

Published in News
Page 3 of 3


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