The day began with a race – more specifically, a 5K through the streets of Saratoga Springs to raise money for the Healthy Transportation Network. And like so many of the races at the thoroughbred track during this rain-plagued August, it was lacking participants.
Only about 100 men and women partook in the event won by Catherine Rossi, a sophomore at Elon University (the North Carolina college that you see in all the crossword puzzles). Rossi ran the distance in 19 minutes flat. Runner Bill Springnether, pushing his two and a half- year-old daughter Ruby in a stroller, finished third.
“We are trying to get off-the-road paths for biking and walking and even to ride horses on,” said Pat Tuz, one of the 5K’s volunteers. Saratoga Springs is indeed a place for foot traffic. The Streaks of Saratoga Springs High School win New York State’s cross-country championship nearly every year. Rossi was a Streak before she became an Elon Phoenix.
Rossi wasn’t the only female to excel on Saturday. Trainer Elizabeth Gray saddled her first winner ever. She tightened the girth on the 2-year-old filly Obsequious in the second race. Obsequious, by Fusaichi Pegasus, was 7-1.
“I wasn’t shocked,” Gray pronounced afterward, shaking from excitement and keeping tears from flooding her luminous blue eyes. “She was ready for this,” co-owner Richard Brodie, a Michigan auto parts manufacturer, said about his trainer. Gray worked Roses in May in the mornings for Dale Romans during the stretch of 13 years that he employed her.
In the fourth, Fiona Freud had to beat a Linda Rice-trained filly in a 5 ½ furlong sprint to break her maiden after 18 frustrating starts, and she did. Richie Migliore, on only his 19th Spa mount, got the job done. Rice’s Sweet Bama Breeze finished second.
The fifth race was called the Jana’s Final Furlong purse. It honored the upcoming nuptials of Jana (pronounced Yana) Goertz and Joshua Seeley. Fourteen women in fancy hats had their photos taken in the winner’s circle once jockey Alan Garcia dismounted from Darley Stables’ Girolamo.
“I wanted a bachelorette party where we could dress up,” said Goertz, donning a broad-brimmed straw hat on which the words “Bride to Be” appeared in rhinestones. “We didn’t want strippers,” said one of Goertz’s guests in the At the Rail Pavilion. “We ARE the evolved gender, after all,” she insisted.
Not to be outdone by Tom Durkin’s reprise of his rolling Rs race call for Arrrrr in the sixth, Sam the Bugler played “Oh! Susanna” when the fillies took the track for the Alabama. The 129th running of the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) was won by Proud Spell. It was the best race of the meet so far.
Before the Alabama, Grand Couturier performed his own dazzling encore. He repeated last year’s triumph in the Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. I).