Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Spa Daze

Saratoga, one of the premier meets in the American TB flat racing year, is about to begin. Though always called “the August place to be” it’s actually turned into the July-August-through Labor Day only place to witness the best racing offered in the country, maybe the world. There is no other track quite like Saratoga, with its’ rich history, huge purses, and a constant parade of fashionably-bred two year old colts and fillies, starting out their promising careers.
The magic that is Saratoga fills the air and is the most intoxicating at trackside, in the early morning hours.Whether you are at the main track, or across the street at Oklahoma, the energy is invigorating. Horses go out in sets, often accompanied by trainers. There are workouts on the turf at Oklahoma, several days a week. Horses are excited to be there, as are most of the exercise riders. You can see it, you can hear it, and you can feel it. There’s happy chatter; horses are feeling healthy and strong and looking to do more. Spring water may have been what brought people here a hundred years ago, but there is something about the cool Adirondack air that just brings out the best in horses and in people. If workouts lasted all day long, I don’t think I would ever leave. To me, it’s the best part of the day. It’s electric and soothing at the same time, and it’s what makes the Saratoga experience so special.
My a.m. routine at Saratoga seldom varies. I usually leave the track around 9:30, but it’s never easy. If I stick to plan, I try to get in a quick walk through downtown, maybe - a stop into Impressions or Saratoga Saddlery for a look see, and most definitely a little shopping at Putnam Market for some goodies to bring to the track. Amazing how hunger grabs you right after the first race! I like to get back to the track before noon, so I can position my chair in the back yard near the paddock, weather permitting. It’s the time for me to connect with friends, many that I haven’t seen in a year. It’s fun to people watch, as well as watching horses schooling in the paddock before the races begin. That hour or so before the first race is the best time to settle in, and reflect on how lucky I am that I made another year at the Spa. Oh yes, there is the wagering, and it takes a sharp eye and a knowledge of pedigree to come out ahead at the Spa.…But with all the betting we do year round now, it truly takes a back seat to how it feels to be at Saratoga for a day of racing. Nothing beats live racing, especially here. So cancel your NYT for the next 6 weeks, forget who was leading trainer for the Belmont spring meet (yes, there should be an * by his name) and let’s not hear the name “Cuomo” till after Labor Day. You are not allowed to utter the word “Lasix” unless it’s “FTL”. Leave horseracing’s woes behind for the next 6 weeks and enjoy the magic that you can only find at the Spa.

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