The emphasis was on good racing again, the day after the circus left town. Oh, sure, the NYRA marketing team trotted out a nifty cooler tote giveaway to inflate the attendance numbers. But people who love the sport were treated to one of racing secretary P.J. Campo’s better cards – this, with only one day left on the Saratoga docket.
Tomorrow, admission to the grandstand and the clubhouse will be free. Today, people paid to get in. But, in return, there was something to do with your Sunday besides reading about Sarah Palin in the newspaper or doing the last-minute back-to-school shopping at Target. Horse racing can thrive in a market with no other professional sports. Saratoga is proof if it.
The leaves on the trees on the first turn are changing to red and ochre. The grass is all gone where the picnickers have trampled it to dust in the backyard. It hasn’t rained in nearly two weeks, except for a sprinkle or two here and there. Sweet – the taste of vine-ripened tomatoes and freshly-picked corn. One day until September.
There are 330-odd days until the historic track on Union Avenue opens again, however, and for many fans its Opening Day isn’t soon enough. There was worry in the handicappers’ minds, on the other hand, that the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) winner was coming back for a race too soon. But trainer Steve Klesaris said running Mani Bhavan with only 18 days between starts was a Hobson’s choice.
“I almost had to put the saddle on her the day after she ran,” Klesaris was quoted by the Daily Racing Form writer David Grening. The 2-year-old Storm Boot filly broke on top, as August Rush dwelt, and then repelled a challenge from Jardin. The time was slow. Alan Garcia was aboard. Mani Bhavan has never been headed at any time in her three career starts.
In the co-feature Saranac (gr. III), which immediately preceded the Spinaway, Marlang didn’t exactly stop watches either. The winner of Canada’s Belmont Stakes equivalent – the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes - went unchallenged from pillar to post for 1 3/16 miles on the Mellon Turf Course in 1:53.10. Jockey Richard Dos Ramos traveled to Saratoga Springs from Toronto this morning, and it wasn’t because he had nothing fast to ride at Woodbine.
Jacqueline Davis, the 21-year-old daughter of retired jockey Robbie Davis, made her professional riding debut in the first race. She’s a member of the first graduating class of Chris McCarron’s Lexington, Kentucky-based North American Racing Academy. McCarron recently was named this year’s recipient of the Joe Palmer Award, presented each year by the National Turf Writers Association for meritorious service.
The track handled about $350,000 less today than yesterday, although the official head count yesterday was about 36,000 fewer than today.