JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 766
Displaying items by tag: racing
Shifting Gears: Balancing the Sport of Motherhood and Racing
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Rachel Uccellini, 38, kickstarts her mornings jumping into her full riding gear, gathers the kids, makes sure they're fed, dressed, and buckled into the car to shuttle them to morning drop off. Yes, dressed head to toe in her full cycling kit. She’s got about three hours left to scramble back home, hop on her bike and begin her intensive training. After miles are biked throughout town, she jumps off her bike and back into her car to pick up her youngest from pre-school and resume mommy duties. That is an average morning for this dedicated Category two cyclist balancing her passions for the sport and her passion for her family.
"For me, the juggle is looking at my week, and just fitting all of that in, in a way that does not take away from my kids being kids,” said Uccellini, who bikes 200 to 225 miles per week in preparation for her next road races.
Ten years ago, Uccellini purchased her first road bike and would spend her free time biking around town with her fellow cyclist friends. A few years later Uccellini decided, almost on a whim to try her hand at a race in Killington, Vermont and thought, "Oh this is fun, something to train for, not having any idea what racing was like."
With little to no formal training, Uccellini came in second place and thus, her passion for competitive racing was sparked. With help from her husband Tommy, Rachel got connected with local T3 coach Kevin Crossman who aided her in learning the technicalities of competitive cycling.
In the spring of 2016, she began seriously competing and training and noticed early that she had a lot more to learn. From having her bike properly fitted by Steven Fairchild to learning proper gear ratios to shift in and out of, and proper racing etiquette.
"The best way I’ve learned in cycling is in a race,” said Uccellini. “When you make a fatal mistake out there, you're sure to never do it again."
Uccellini is currently coached by Kyle Wolfe, a level one USA cycling coach of Finish Fast Cycling. In a short span of time, Uccellini competed in several races with some wins and some losses. But if you ask Uccellini, she’ll tell you that she’s never truly lost a race.
"I never lose, I learn. Cause honestly, I’ve lost a lot more than I've won. I've had a lot of successes in a short period of time, but I’ve definitely lost. And you have to take away from that situation…so much of bike racing has to do with being smart, not strong," said Uccellini
Labor Day weekend, 2019, the largest professional/ amateur stage race in the region The Green Mountain Stage Race took place, and for Uccellini, it’s her most anticipated race of the year.
“We were to leave Thursday, and my daughter fell off the monkey bars on Wednesday and broke her arm. I spent that entire day in the emergency room with her - I didn't really sleep that night.”
Dedicated to both the wellbeing of her family and her passion to compete, Uccellini fastened both her athlete and mommy helmet. As she had to juggle tending to her injured daughter, wake up early to head to the race, pack activities for her kids, get them packed away in the car, register for the race, pre-ride the course and then get her head in the competition.
With the support of her family and teammates, Uccellini not only tackled the race with all of her drive but came in second place – resulting in her athletic category upgrade to a two. Uccellini has an ambitious goal to make an upgrade to becoming a category one cyclist by the time she’s 40.
"I have these aggressive goals in this aggressive timeline because my children are getting older. My daughters are gonna start having interests...it’s not gonna be summer of Rachel anymore. They're gonna be soccer camps and practice and weekends are gonna be completely dictated by their schedules because I’m not gonna cheat them of that. I realize my daughters are gonna have dreams and passions too."
With two more years, two achieve her new goal Uccellini uses each of her passions to fuel the other.
"This is a hobby at the end of the day. I love it, so much, but you can't lose sight of what's truly important. My husband and my daughters are a big part of what inspires me to do this. So I have to make sure all of that is paid forward."
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.
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!
Raucci's Corner: The Collector, The Historian
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/
Off to Russia: Martin’s Ultimate Goal 2016 Olympics
GLENVILLE — In 2006, Hannah Martin had thoughts of quitting judo. This Monday, May 20, she’s headed to the fourth annual World Judo Masters in Tyumen, Russia and ranked No. 1 in the United States in her weight class.