Full-tilt Boogie

The Reading Room was every bit the Pump Room when Liz Tippett used to drive to the Union Avenue clubhouse for lunch in “The Outlaw,” her lavish, black and yellow, horse-drawn road coach.  It isn’t that any longer.

Yet, Cot Campbell has enough of old-school savoir faire to make even a catered afternoon one of the classiest Saratoga gatherings.  Beneath the big-top in the Reading Room’s backyard, Campbell flitted about like a Southern-fried Michael Anthony, making certain that everyone was well taken care of.

The least comfortable at the luncheon was, of course, Vincent Garibaldi, the 16th Dogwood Dominion Award winner.  While a five-piece band named Reggie’s Red Hot Feet Warmers played background music, Garibaldi stood silently on the side, dressed harmoniously in a new ebony suit, crisp sky blue shirt and matching tie.

Katherine Todd Smith, a former winner of the unique prize for unsung heroes, explained why Garibaldi, 81, was being honored.  “When you’re a full-tilt boogie, you deserve it,” she said about the former New Jersey longshoreman.  The honoree was 17 years old and 132 pounds (almost a jockey’s weight) when the docks were his calling.  He was 61 when he mucked out a stall and hot-walked his first Thoroughbred.

Mary Jane Howell, who Campbell introduced as the “Mother Superior” of the event, was most likely responsible for selecting the perfect chicken salad plate for the warm, pleasant day.  She probably made certain the sponsor’s green with yellow polka dot silks were hung right behind the lectern. Except for Bloody Marys made with Clamato juice (ewww!), the details couldn’t have been finer.

The award presentation ended unofficially at the racetrack, with the fifth race – the Vincent “Vinnie” Garibaldi 2008 Dogwood Dominion Award purse.  Todd Pletcher, who earlier attended the ceremony, saddled the winner Double Domino, a New York-bred maiden by Stormy Atlantic.

In the co-featured eighth race, called the De La Rose Stakes, Edgar Prado drove Carriage Trail to the slimmest of victories, nipping Trouble Maker at the absolute end of a grassy mile.  In the following race, the seven furlong Fleet Indian Stakes for New York-foaled fillies and mares, J.R. Velasquez piloted Talking Treasure into the history books.

Paul Saylor, who owned Fleet Indian when she raced, is involved with the Race for Education.  To honor his mare, he established a $24,000 Fleet Indian scholarship, which is given each year to a financially-strapped New York State student with equine industry dreams. More likely, he gave the money merely to help somebody.

Hearing the stories about Garibaldi at the Reading Room, it’s probably something that he, given the same wherewithal, might have done also.

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