The Summer of '69

I hate getting personal, but somehow I am unable to avoid it when thinking, talking, and writing about Saratoga. It has been a state of feeling for 45 years, a place around which my entire life has revolved, and now it is time yet again for my annual pilgrimage to this Mecca of Thoroughbred racing.

So, bear with me as I embark on another cathartic moment and think back to when it all began.

It was a glorious summer, the summer of 1969. My life was at a crossroads as I neared eight months of unemployment. My Wall Street career was over by design, in good part to a total disdain of anything that had to do with stocks, bonds, selling, buying, and cursing out people on the other end of the phone; a practice drilled into you by your superiors.

So, there I sat each day in Battery Park in lower Manhattan, feeding the pigeons and reading Sam Toperoff’s addictive book “Crazy Over Horses,” which became my bible, and trying to imagine what sort of career awaited a Wall Street reject with the skills of a hamster. I pretty much was a loner and the prospects of one day living in a cardboard box on 10th Avenue seemed all too real.

But it was summer, and that meant a trip to my newly discovered wonderland, better known as Saratoga, which had become the most special place on Earth since my first visit a year earlier. My favorite horse, Arts and Letters, was the overwhelming choice for the Jim Dandy and Travers, and my favorite filly, Gallant Bloom, was racking up victory after victory.

Job or no job, I had Arts and Letters and Gallant Bloom, and Shuvee and Gamely and Dr. Fager’s kid sister Ta Wee, and, yes, Saratoga and the old Victoria Hotel on Broadway, and walks up Lincoln Avenue every morning to indulge on a steady diet of workouts and scrambled eggs and bacon on the track apron. I had the Pink Sheets and daily films and replays at the National Museum of Racing, and fried chicken and potato salad from Chicken Sadie, whose small stand was located just off the jocks room. Not even the flies all over the potato salad bothered me. Why should it? It was the summer of ’69, I was in Saratoga, and my future could wait. What better place to put your life on hold than glorious Saratoga, where the rest of the world seemed so distant and removed?

My friend Fred and I took the Trailways bus up to Saratoga for the second weekend of the four-week meet. That meant the Jim Dandy Stakes on Friday and the Alabama on Saturday. Arts and Letters, following his two narrow defeats at the hands of Majestic Prince in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and runaway victories in the Met Mile against older horses and the Belmont Stakes, getting his revenge on Majestic Prince, was now America’s equine hero.

To me, he was a welcome successor to my beloved Damascus, the horse who started me off on this journey of adventure into a new and wondrous world.

Fred and I couldn’t wait to see the son of Ribot return in the Jim Dandy, which amazingly was run only eight days before the Travers. Watching the fans line up four and five deep around Arts and Letters’ saddling tree in the backyard made me realize just how popular the colt had become. The crowd let out a roar as Arts and Letters drew off in the stretch to win by 10 lengths. There was no doubt now that a star was born.

The next morning I woke up on my little single bed with the air conditioner blowing right on my head and feet. I took one swallow and realized I was in big trouble. My sore throat eventually turned into something bigger and I barely made it through the morning’s activities before coming to the realization that I needed to take the next bus back to New York City, which meant missing seeing Shuvee in the Alabama. My father picked me up at the Port Authority bus terminal and drove me home and right to bed.

Although I hated not seeing Shuvee win the Alabama, which Gallant Bloom skipped, I was too sick to fret over it and was still on an Arts and Letters high.

One week later, it was Travers day, where Arts and Letters, coming back in a week, would be the overwhelming favorite over Claiborne Farm’s stretch-running Dike. He would continue his dominance, beating Dike by 6 1/2 lengths, equaling the track record.

Not far from Saratoga that weekend, on Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm, there was a little four-day party going on that was known simply as Woodstock. The country and its culture was about to change forever.

But my mind was on the Travers and Arts and Letters, and the tiny town under the elms. The closest I got to Woodstock was seeing the exit sign from the bus on the New York Thruway heading up to Saratoga. Two totally different events; two totally different worlds.

Little could I have known that those two worlds would one day be linked and that the wheels soon would be in motion, guiding me to a future I could never have envisioned, even in my wildest dreams.

At Woodstock that weekend with her boyfriend was a beautiful, long-haired blonde from New London, Conn. who fit right in with the flower children that took over Yasgur’s farm in droves; the type of girl who was well beyond my scope and would make me tongue-tied in her presence.

Two months after the Travers and Woodstock I was hired as a copy boy at the Morning Telegraph, which was the Eastern and main edition of the Daily Racing Form.

Nine years later, having begun to do freelance writing for several European publications, I met that beautiful, long-haired blonde from Woodstock, who was working for the public relations firm that handled the New York Racing Association. After months of talking on the phone, we had lunch in Manhattan, where I, yes, became tongue-tied and could only muster a few frivolous sentences, such as, “How many floors in your apartment building?”

Somehow, I survived that first meeting and a year later I proposed to her in--of all places--Saratoga, where she was working as public relations coordinator for NYRA. That night we broke the news to her family at the Wishing Well restaurant. The following year we were married in New London.

Four years later, we had the most wonderful daughter any couple could ever hope for. Mandy would celebrate her first birthday as guests of the Migliore family at the Wishing Well, continuing the Saratoga legacy. Family trips to the Spa followed almost every year, and as a teenager, Mandy took a two-week intensive with the Briansky Ballet in Saratoga. On Aug. 1, the day before the Whitney, Mandy and her fiancé will be moving to Albany, just a stone's throw from Saratoga. Ah, Saratoga in the fall and winter.

I still often ask myself how all this happened. Nerds like me don’t get the gorgeous girl and have a beautiful, talented daughter. But somehow, this nerd did. Perhaps the stars were aligning during that summer of ’69, leading me, ultimately, to this precise moment, sitting at my desk at home the day before Saratoga opening day and not giving a hoot whether I look like a fool for writing this self-absorbed probe into my own psyche and path in life, as if anybody cares.

I realize as I conclude this “column” or whatever you wish to call it, that the culprit behind these words is Saratoga and the spell it still casts over me after 45 years. The days of Arts and Letters and Gallant Bloom and Shuvee are long gone, as is the introvert I once was. But each year around this time I feel compelled to journey back to the summer of ’69 when, in many ways, my life actually began.

56 Comments

Leave a Comment:

sonny hudson

Great recollections, funny how life is.  Only one problem Majestic Prince was a much better horse than Arts and Letters.  I guess thats an east coast bias,ha ha!

17 Jul 2014 2:34 PM
Soldier Course

Love this column, Steve. Sent me back to 1969, the year I graduated from college. Never been to Saratoga, but that doesn't matter. It was a great summer. "Goodbye, Columbus" at the movies. "My Cherie Amour" on the radio. Apollo 11 moon landing on the television.

As an introvert I have learned a lot about this group from the recent book "Quiet" by Susan Cain. Redefines "introvert" and examines how introverts have been misunderstood and short-changed in our society. I think you'd enjoy it. Lots to think about.

17 Jul 2014 2:42 PM
Karen

You certainly do not seem self-absorbed and I'm pretty sure that many people do care. Thanks for sharing your story!

17 Jul 2014 2:46 PM
FlyingJ

"Back in the summer of '69, oh yeah, those were the best days of my life."   Thanks for the time travel Steve, it was a great ride wasn't it?

17 Jul 2014 2:59 PM
sceptre

Steve,

Very pleasant read. Seems you should credit brains and enthusiasm for your seemingly charmed life. Unlike most of us you did, as Campbell advised, follow your bliss-and it worked!

17 Jul 2014 3:01 PM
slee

Oh, Steve, those of us who lived through 1969 know where you were and why, and think about where we were.

Can't believe we were both at Saratoga that summer.  I will never forget Ta Wee working out of the backstretch one misty morning.  Mere mortals have strode before her, 2 years olds playing with their bits, older horses working steadily, but Ta Wee blasted by on 4 pistons, bothering to touch the soil only by tradition, not because she felt it was particularly necessary.

It was a great summer, all in all, and how wonderful we ended up with you.  Wall Street's loss is our inestimable gain!

17 Jul 2014 3:14 PM
smarie

You're not self-absorbed at all. Who doesn't look back at their past?

Someday I hope to visit Saratoga too.

17 Jul 2014 3:29 PM
Ta Wee

Great piece Steve, everything sure was changing.  Being from Dearborn, Mi. right next to Detroit, the Motown Sound was starting to give way to Cream, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix. I recall the summer before after just graduating from high school, I was heading to Arlington Park with a buddy to witness you know who in the Wash. Park Hcp. when his fuel pump broke down on the way. Watching all the greats of the 60's, starting with Kelso, really got me enthralled.

As the decade was coming to a close in '69 we were able to witness as good a crop of 3 yo fillies as there's probably ever been. Gallant Bloom, Shuvee, and ahum-myself were pretty darn good.  Process Shot as a 2yo filly could sprint with all of us. Dark Mirage from the previous year was also exceptional. Gamely was a hall of famer and I'm still not convinced she was better than Politely.

As far as Arts and Letters, it's often thought that if he wasn't around, that Majestic Prince would've been a triple crown winner. Heck, if Majestic Prince wasn't around, Arts and Letters would've had a season for the ages just a year removed from the previous standard.  I'm not saying he was going to take the Doc by any means, but the list of his stakes wins would've been something to behold.  Man, racing sure was good back then.

Anyone who has made historical racing memories live as you do, deserves the the best.

Thanks again for letting us remember.  

17 Jul 2014 3:36 PM
dance with fate

Thank you Mr. Haskin for sharing these memories & emotions with your readers. You've led a charmed life indeed but had the courage to search out, & talent to make real, that life. So true that the horses can hold the travails & tragedies of life at bay for awhile to allow some healing.  Saratoga seems like a beautiful, magical place to me (haven't visited yet but not for lack of wishing it so).  Peace, love & horses are a natural trifecta.

17 Jul 2014 3:55 PM
poormansracehorse

I think someone should sponsor a contest for an afternoon in Saratoga during racing season with Steve Haskin as your guide.  Okay I'd really like it to be a week or the whole season but I'd settle for an afternoon<G>.   One day I'll be able to make the trip.

17 Jul 2014 4:06 PM
Kelso1966

What a wonderful story. Glad you could live it..

17 Jul 2014 5:32 PM
derbylin

Loved this! "Back in the summer of 69"  Always liked the song too.  For me, the Derby and Churchill Downs will always be the timeline of my life.  '67 Proud Clarion and my HS graduation.  '73 Secretariat when I got married. '75 Foolish Pleasure first child born etc.

It is my biggest wish to visit Saratoga someday before I die.

17 Jul 2014 5:38 PM
Old Old Cat

God has blessed you with a wonderful life, allowing you to enjoy your passions.  Many more happy years and memories to you.  Thank you for sharing.

17 Jul 2014 5:40 PM
Danette

Enchanting.  

17 Jul 2014 6:13 PM
DLee

I loved reading this.  I grew up just outside Saratoga as a horse crazy (but horseless) girl. Our class went to field trips there (I was the only one who knew what "scratched" meant when some old guy giving us the tour asked) and I got a bent aluminum shoe to treasure. My Dad took me to the morning works breakfast for my birthday in July, one of the birthdays that still stands out to me to this day.  I was a bit oblivious to the "Saratoga" that the rest of the world knew for a long time.

My extended family still lives there, growing apples and making pies, and I go back every year now to visit them and the track where my little girl horse dreams were nourished. Thankfully I am no longer horseless and haven't been for a long time but there is something about Saratoga that takes one back to the beginning, for sure.  Enjoy your Saratoga and keep your eye out for Mourningkill Bakeshop pies. :)

17 Jul 2014 6:24 PM
lam1970

Wonderful...Mr. Haskins, just wonderful!! You have proven, once again, that if something doesn't feel right then it shouldn't be (as in your Wall Street career) and you never know where life is going to take you. We have to follow our passions and see what magic we can make happen...and when that passion is the  amazing horses that bring us to tears just being in their very presence(it's always about the horses, really) then what magic there is!

17 Jul 2014 6:45 PM
Jen W

I love it!  I'm so happy you wrote this story!  I know so many people whose life had just begun when they found the horses...me being one of them!  Thank you!!!!!

17 Jul 2014 7:00 PM
BelmontBarb

Dear Steve ~

What you have done:

touched a moment of recollection and personal emotions that you so freely shared with all of us here and for me personally - Saratoga has been a huge part of my life and the best part of my life -  early mornings of dew and later rising dust from sun dried dirt seeking the silence of trees and the breeze of country air - stillness that was awareness of huge, powerful figures of racing like Arts and Letters (my very favorite too)- giants amongst us - so small we were - so quiet to never make a sound to disturb a blade of grass -

What you have done:

you have given us hope

strength to prevail

and shown us a "track" of life that changed your destination

that led you to the "tongue-tied" knot that would close the gap of the furlongs you ran alone - you did your 1 1/2m and have touched the hearts of many ~

Yes, the "spell" of Saratoga is intoxicating  and the "journey" is never over - each time it is taken life begins over again.

Thank you ` for being you and for all you do right here!

17 Jul 2014 8:42 PM
tjconway

Although I was only 5 at the time, I remember alot of stuff from that era growing up in Chicago. I don't believe microwave ovens and dishwashers were created yet! But it was the golden era of horse racing.....I wish I was born a little earlier! I've never been to Saratoga yet, it's one of my top priorities!

17 Jul 2014 9:39 PM
Bob C

Ironic.  I too walked away from a secure job with a Wall Street firm in the summer of '69.  A lot of uncertainty at the time, but all of these years later I have no regrets.  By the way, I think Majestic Prince was better than Arts and Letters too.  When Bill Hartack returned from Hong Kong, he did an interview with the old "Sport" magazine and said he was the best horse he ever rode.  "The epitome of a Thoroughbred" Hartack said of "The Prince".

17 Jul 2014 9:43 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, this was delightful! First of all, Wall Street's loss is our gain. Secondly, you have such a tremendous heart, how you even got close to a place like Wall Street is amazing to me. You certainly made the right decision to be a journalist instead of being just another cog in the money making machine. Instead, you are a renowned/world class writer with a loyal following. A life altering decision on your part and exactly the right one.

I especially loved you recalling how you met your wife. I think we can all understand how your beautiful wife fell in love with you. No surprise at all. I was born in Lawrence Memorial Hospital in New London but I can't say I know the city well.

Saratoga is one place on my bucket list. It is beautiful and from the pictures, it seems to have a strong "personality." Lots of history there. Maybe someday.

17 Jul 2014 9:55 PM
Steve Haskin

Barb, beautifully put; thank you for sharing your feelings in such a poetic manner. All in all, I don't think readers are interested in personal stuff like this, but I felt good writing it. From now on I'll stick to more conventional stuff.

I'm glad at least there are others who have fond recollections of that summer.

Paula, thank you very much. I really appreciate the kind words.

18 Jul 2014 9:33 AM
Quinnbit

Master story telling is an art told from the heart. Your ability to weave the soul of the horse into the interwoven macrame of life is a quite miraculous magic.

Have a grand time at Saratoga! You're a lucky man.

18 Jul 2014 9:36 AM
prudofrompuertorico

You are not a nerd not lucky, you simply are an intelligent person with a lot of foresight, you figured out wall street many years ago and your intelligence and intuition got you to marry the woman of yours dreams, with the excellent result of a marvelous daughter.

Your passion for horse racing is something I understand real well, on my case I call it my harmless addiction and my emotional therapy.  

18 Jul 2014 10:03 AM
Steve Haskin

Wow, Quinnbit, that was brilliantly said and I really appreciate your words. Thank you.

And thank you, Prudo. I'll always have some nerdiness in me, but I've learned to hide it, except to my wife. LOL.

18 Jul 2014 10:16 AM
gen.duke

Arts and Letters was a good horse but Majestic Prince came up lame for the Belmont and should never have been in the race.  

18 Jul 2014 10:30 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

I'm nearly at a loss for words I was so mesmerized by this true story of rags to riches in the sense of rags and riches in an emotional sense and success in the realm of what life is really all about, peace of mind and joy with what you do and who you are and enhancing the lives of other people you are personally involved with and who you enthrall in a public sense, those you come in contact with incidentally and those you never meet whose lives are enriched with your writings and insights. However it happened we are very happy it did happen. I can feel the pain that Wall St gave you. That wasn't you, and you had the courage to face hardships to pursuit who you were even at the risk of homelessness. Congratulations Steve on your belief in yourself and determination and courage to pursuit life on your terms without fear of failure to be who you are which is a human being to be admired.

18 Jul 2014 10:43 AM
steve from st louis

Steve, sounds like you won a huge "pick one", your wife. That's a ticket only you would ever cash. Thanks for your memories and great fortune, more than they ever pay out at the windows.

18 Jul 2014 11:04 AM
Steve Haskin

Wow, Dr. D., you blew me away. Thank you so much for that.

18 Jul 2014 11:05 AM
AngelaInAbilene

Mr. Haskin, thank you for keeping the memories alive.

18 Jul 2014 11:30 AM
Love 'em all

Mr. Haskin, your many fans have 'stayed tuned' for years hoping you would "get personal" by revealing the above wonderful love story, which was even more wonderful than most of us had imagined.

Thank you for sharing .... 'the rest of the story'; it sure has been worth the wait!    

18 Jul 2014 11:34 AM
Back Home in LA

Dear Steve,

And I say "dear Steve" because you are very dear to your readers. Your sentimental journey back in time to your beginnings is a special gift to all of us who love you. It has always been refreshing to read someone who does write with his heart and his passion for the sport, the horses and the people who love them. I am grateful that you allow us a share in such sentimental insights. You have become a treasured friend, with your musings, and in this electronic age we live in, we are allowed to let you know that you have contributed to our lives, too. Sometimes, I forget that I am sitting at my computer because you are the portal to a world, that becomes, at once, personal and fascinating. Thank you for your cathartic moments.

Saratoga is on my bucket list!

18 Jul 2014 1:42 PM
longtimeracingfan

Steve, don't ever stop telling your own side of places and events... it's what sets you apart and brings you closer to your growing crowd of readers and fans. It's the personal experience that brings people closer to racing, and horses. TV is great, and magazines are great, and online sites are great, but the personal on-track experience is what brings people back again and again, to the track, to the horses, to the websites, magazines, and TV channels... and your personal experiences and contacts over those 45 years have particularly rich and in some cases fortuitous, so that we too can share some of the ambiance, the excitement, and the history most of us don't have. You've been one lucky schmuck, and may your luck continue and grow for many more years.  

18 Jul 2014 1:53 PM
Linda in Texas

I have to agree with longtimeracingfan. Even to the mention of you being a lucky schmuck! :)

You waited to find the right job that fit. You waited 9 years for the pretty lady you had seen at Saratoga who became the right partner for life. You waited for 4 years to have the perfect daughter. And you continue to keep all of us entertained and educated and interested in the greatest sport of all. And i hope you were fibbing when you said you won't do it again or to those words. Anyone who has been to Saratoga knows what you mean. I was there on a cold January misting/raining afternoon. It was quiet, hardly anyone around, Hattie's was closed, darn it. I could picture the track during a race and people cheering Dr. Fager or Damascus on. And Steve, i left my heart there and when i leave this earth, i hope the other place is just like it! Horses, old time feeling of history, more horses, and all that goes with the character and quaintness that makes The Spa the nicest and most memorable place i have ever been. And Mandy and fiance, lucky kids you are to be moving to Albany. A short ride away from Saratoga. I know you will keep the spare bedroom at the ready for visits from your mother and father. Like Father, like Daughter and Like Mother also. The best is wished for your family Steve,

And thank you. Linda  

18 Jul 2014 2:59 PM
Glorious Goodwood

Very nice article Steve. The 60's had 3 horses I truly respected and love.  Seabird, Sir Ivor, and Fort Marcy.  Fort Marcy beat Damascus(sorry) in the Washington International, and then the great Sir Ivor waltzed into Maryland in 68 and took down the big prize.  Seabird...well he is IMO the greatest ever, but his Arc and Derby win in 65 were hands down the best turn of foot I have ever seen.

18 Jul 2014 6:55 PM
Steve Haskin

Poormansracehorse, when you do make that trip to Saratoga, let me know and I will be happy to be your guide for the day.

18 Jul 2014 7:59 PM
Steve Haskin

I can't thank everyone individually for their wonderful comments, so I thank all of you who shared your thoughts and feelings on here.

Paula, my wife was also born in Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Imagine that coincidence.

18 Jul 2014 8:07 PM
BelmontBarb

Just an additional note in re of the "conventional stuff" ~ Steve

~ every bit you wrote here was deeply moving to all "as far as I can see" and gained responses of personal joys, memories, and a whole lot of respect and admiration for you and your work - you "felt good writing it"- and we felt good reading it - This is just as real as the blood running through our horses and the "conventional stuff" some times needs a kick from the real "stuff" to awaken spirits through the river of racing - be it on the track or on the street (even Wall Street) ~ this is how we get to the finish line ~ and anyone who reads between the lines can find the answer they've been looking for - even if it's a bet at Saratoga.  This has been inspiring and soothing - no need to "stick" to the "conventional" stuff-iness.  

18 Jul 2014 8:43 PM
Paula Higgins

That is a coincidence Steve! Two of us born at Lawrence Memorial Hospital! My grandmother was a pt. there (lung cancer). They did an amazing job and she survived almost 4 more good years. Just so you know, I also married a "nerd."  I consider myself very lucky to have married a nerd who makes me laugh every day, who has also fallen in love with horses, has a brain and has a heart much like yours. I think your wife and I are both lucky women.

18 Jul 2014 11:25 PM
Pedigree Ann

How I envy you folks with memories of going to Saratoga in those days! In the summer of 1969, I was out in Thoroughbred-less Minnesota, able to learn about racing only via Triple Crown broadcasts and infrequent newspaper articles. That summer, I was a 17yo counselor-in-training at a YWCA camp up in the northwoods - swimming, canoeing, living in tents, cooking all our meals over campfires, etc. Didn't even see the moon-landing - listened to it on a transistor radio while gazing at the moon from a clearing in the birchwood. Came back from our 2-week canoe trip in the Boundary Waters to discover there had been a really bad hurricane named Camille down on the Gulf Coast.

19 Jul 2014 5:20 AM
ksweatman9

I have to agree with Sonny. The Prince was the best in 69, he wasn't 100% in the Belmont. Too bad, he was indeed "majestic", he was perfect to wear that Triple Crown. A real shame. Johnny adored him, it was written all over his pug face. Quite a team, those two. I think most of us would love to jump in a time machine to a golden place in our past. Funny, the 1960's were the best years of my life, as well as the saddest, the war, the loss of our beloved president and his brother. It was mixture of the best and the worst. There was no other time in history like the 60's. The sport of kings was wonderful, as it always is. Through the highs and lows, the ponies are always a joy to my heart. Thank you for sharing. I think I'll make potato salad today, minus the flies.

19 Jul 2014 4:05 PM
Deltalady

I love it when you get personal! These are some of my favorite columns.  I love reading about your travels through time and your reflections on times past. Thanks for the window into your world of horse racing. Truly a magical place to be, and I hope soon you will put these reflections into a book. This was a great read!

19 Jul 2014 4:32 PM
Windolin

Hi Steve, so glad you opted out of Wall Street and that Woodstock did not lure you in. A win win for all of us who look forward to all your posts.

Ahh..the summer of 1969. Apollo Moon Landing, I was just captivated watching on TV. One of my all time favorite albums and songs, "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells was released that year.

"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", Newman and Redford, unforgettable! Sunday afternoons after church at the County Lake. Paddle Boats, music blaring from the juke box. I can still smell the hotdogs and popcorn at the snack bar and the suntan lotion.

Gas, 35 cents a gallon.

Bonanza, Bewitched,Beverly Hillbillies and Gunsmoke on TV.

My favorite football team, the New York Jets won the Super Bowl that year.

Bittersweet times, the protests against the Vietnam War. Reading headlines in the hometown newspaper of the death of an older brother in Vietnam of my classmates in Junior High.

Thank you for taking us back to 1969 and for sharing your memories of racing, Saratoga and meeting the future Mrs Haskin. It was a post that I was smiling the entire time I was reading it.

I know that you will so enjoy Mandy living so close to Saratoga.She is so lovely and so accomplished as a dancer. My one granddaughter (age 10) has a passion for dance and just completed a two week intensive in ballet.She dreams of dancing in "Swan Lake" in New York

Canada and Saratoga, New York are on my bucket list as a "someday" trip to take on the train.

Beautiful memories, thank you for sharing yours and rekindling mine of 1969!  

19 Jul 2014 7:09 PM
Windolin

PS...A side note, at the start of Saratoga in 1969, Somethingroyal was in foal to Bold Ruler.

19 Jul 2014 7:36 PM
Quinnbit

Deltalady,

I second the motion, what a delightful read that would be!

19 Jul 2014 11:20 PM
Determinato

I remember sitting in my parents car as we drove on the New York Thruway heading to Lake George that same week and seeing all the "hippies" in the cars next to us on their way to Woodstock! I can still see the giant vat of lemonade just outside the entrance to Saratoga and the sights and sounds of that beautiful sunny day there! My dad won a bundle on a longshot named Judgeable that weekend and he rented a speedboat with some of his winning, what a week! Reading you recollections, all the memories of that vacation come alive, thanks Steve!

20 Jul 2014 7:41 AM
Racingfan

Steve, thanks for the wonderful story!  Please feel free to add your "personal touch" whenever you like.  It seems to me that your readers are thrilled, so no need to stick only to the "conventional stuff" (although that is always awesome too).

20 Jul 2014 11:35 AM
Fran Loszynski

That's why you're the tops in reporting horseracing Steve. When Saratoga adopts someone it's racetrack, the woods and springs around it never let you rest. I remember the Spring of 69 the Kentucky Derby when my Mom died just before she got to see the winner from her hospital bed, "Majestic Prince" and I guess horseracing adopted me that day. Boy are we lucky to love these racehorses Aren't we?!

20 Jul 2014 12:02 PM
Needler in Virginia

NEVER hate getting personal, Steve. THAT'S the way you make memories for us! I came late to the Spa party; my first year was 1977 and every year after that until 1998 when we left the Northeast....... the biggest mistake I ever made, but I won't go there. My favorite, strongest memory is watching Fourstardave in the saddling paddock as he plodded around pretending to be a cart horse, and then, as his first hoof touched the track surface his head came up, his ears pricked and he began to tap dance. I saw him do that year after year leaving the saddling enclosure and walking that path by the Carousel; he was so close we could have reached out and touched him (but didn't) as well as smell him as he walked by (we did). I saw him get DQ'ed and that just about broke my heart. The entire Spa experience is really not of this world; it's a trip to another world that should not be missed by anyone who loves racing. Because we didn't have tons of money, we'd stay in Albany and drive up early every morning, but one year we stayed at the Gideon Putnam and THAT is a real trip back in time in itself.......lovely, grand old classic hotel with all that implies. I even wore a little black dress, and felt fairly wonderful, except for NOT being able to wear jeans or a t-shirt! I miss having it so close, and want to go again since Old Friends Cabin Creek is near there and THEY have Zippy Chippy!

All about the Spa is special and each corner brings back memories: the Oklahoma track, the backside, breakfast watching the works, talking with trainers as they hung out at the rail in the morning, eating in the track kitchen, getting a personal "meet and greet" with the Phipps horses almost by accident. I'm gonna shut up now, 'cause I know I'll never see Saratoga again and I can't bear it, but thanks so very much for your personal memories of the Spa. You made me smile, and cry a little.

Cheers and VERY safe trips.

21 Jul 2014 4:03 AM
wjfraz

Wonderful story and one that elicits a bit of envy.  In 1969 I was entering the final tour of duty in Vietnam.  Prior to my naval service I had been a jockey and so I had friends send me copies of anything to do with horse racing.  My only bit of sanity came from reading about Arts and Letters, Ta Wee, Kelso, Roman Brother, Gun Bow and a host of other greats of the turf.  You are entitled to dwell on those great memories and share them.  Somewhere someone is reading this story on the Internet and they are getting a bit of sanity in a world gone crazy.  I did make it home somewhat damaged but am totally involved training f few horses in California, the best being a Tapit mare. Thank you for the memories.

21 Jul 2014 6:42 AM
ML/NJ

Thanks for the memories.

My recollection of Woodstock is wondering what all those hitchhikers were doing along the Mass Pike as I made my regular (long) weekend journey from Hartford up to the Spa.

21 Jul 2014 8:33 PM
nobledancer

One of the many advantages of advancing years is that life acts as a filter, sifting through milestones and memories until what remains is the truest part of ourselves.  When you share those remains with others, it is a priceless gift.  Steve, you write that you hate getting personal.  My hope is that there will be will be many more such occasions in the future.  

Even the words "The Summer of 1969" conjure powerful images for those of us who are fortunate enough to be a part of your generation.  The iconic "Class of '65" was graduating from college, and most of us felt at loose ends and pivotal crossroads.  My graduation day, which I had imagined would be one of pomp, circumstance, and smiles, began in tears as I watched my Majestic Prince dream dissolve in the dust of the Belmont homestretch.  Many of my classmates were about to be shipped to Viet Nam.  Others would answer the clarion call of our generation to assemble at some obscure place in upstate New York known as Woodstock.  Your magical summer of 1969 culminated in a life-long love affair.  How lucky for the rest of us that it did.  Write on, Steve, write on!

22 Jul 2014 10:49 AM
Old Timer

Steve, what a super tale you tell. Isn't it funny how when one door closes, it always seems like another one opens. I did not meet the love of my life in 1969 (that came later in 1974). However it was indeed a fun summer. I was at Belmont when Arts and Letters got his revenge on the Prince. I had him to win and he will always be one of my favorites. I spent many weekends at the track that summer. I also remember Shuvee taking the "Triple Tiara". She was also one of the greats.  Later, when Woodstock and Saratoga were going on, I was in California visiting some loved ones. I actually had made enough money at the races that summer to pay my way out there (something that has been rare ever since).  Ah, to be that young again! Great story and great memories. Thank you.

22 Jul 2014 7:35 PM
Bill Two

The atmosphere at Saratoga has always been magical and never more so than in the late sixties and seventies. The intimacy of Saratoga in those days was remarkable.  You could go to Pop Dewell's store to buy the Telly and run into any number of stars. Eat at Siro's and have a table next to Laz Barrera and company.  Head down to the outdoor paddock and get to almost arm's length of some of the sport's biggest stars - equine and human.  The entire sport was very accessible then.  Nobody was even thinking about the kinds of problems with security we are now used to seeing on the evening news.  It was a time to remember fondly.

23 Jul 2014 1:54 PM
Bellwether

Picked out Woodstock that summer and need I say what a trip that was...Didn't realize how close to Saratoga I was at the time...I finally made it to the Spa the summer of 2006 and had another great trip...Hope to make it back up there before I punt...ty...  

23 Jul 2014 4:37 PM
falbrav

Great story Steve.

Watching Arts and letters win the Dandy on you tube

a cold shiver hit me,the date was 8th August 1969

the night of the slaughter in 10050 cielo drive

26 Jul 2014 1:11 PM

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