Late Start Good for Some, Bad for Others

By Vic Zast

Finally, the breakfast brigade had a morning on which it could enjoy bacon and eggs railside.  The day was crisp in the manner required for those photos on postcards of horses emerging from the mist, their nostrils flaring with steam like locomotives.  But the rain had stopped, and everyone let out with a sigh.

On a dawn such as this, with the sky a spooky shade of violet, the light turns bright quickly, casting all that it strikes with the brilliance of summer.  Saratoga was back to its beautiful self.  Old friends ran into each other unexpectedly. They reserved catty remarks such as “She looks good for her age, doesn’t she?” for later.

What looks good for the first time in many seasons is the racetrack, its prettiness unobserved on the first two days of racing because of the priority of finding shelter. A new coat of paint on the façade of the grandstand, some new awnings to replace those that had turned pink and white, and generally improved housekeeping have worked in harmony to the property’s advantage. 

A maitre d’ named Manny, one of several with the same moniker, ushered a mish-mash of guests to the Porch.  Some were dressed in “Saratoga Trunk” finery; some in tee-shirts and shorts.  All were there to honor the tradition of watching the horses train.

Unlike other days, there was a long spell between breakfast and the first post, this being one of two “Twilight Racing Days” scheduled for the meet. Lefty and Patti McClellan from Plano, Texas, used the time to eat lunch at the Circus Café.  “We wouldn’t have considered being downtown for lunch if the first race was at 1:05,” Lefty McClellan said.  “But the late start allows us to do more in a day than we could with the normal start time. We’ll be at the Parting Glass tonight.”

Rob Sullivan of Boston, Massachusetts and Jason Bronfeldt of Princeton, New Jersey were concluding a two-day visit.  “The late start isn’t good for us, seeing that we’re leaving tonight,” Sullivan said.  “But I can see how it would be popular with people in Albany or for people arriving for the weekend who want to catch a race before settling in.”

Sullivan and Bronfeldt left Saratoga much richer than they arrived. “We went all in on Desert Party yesterday, and then gave a little back when the one beat our six by a nose in the sixth,” explained Sullivan.  In the day’s closest finish, Real Estate followed by Aquino and Visible Truth were heads apart.

In the Lake George Stakes (gr. 2), won by My Princess Jess, highly-regarded Mousse Au Chocolat, here from France, must have thought that the late start meant breaking slowly from the gate, not the post time.

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