The long held practice of keeping track of the date in flowers at the head of Union Avenue each morning was abandoned by the city of Saratoga Springs in what must have been a cost-cutting measure.
The result of this action is that no longer can one enjoy the dreamy satisfaction of knowing it’s a new day by walking past the garden toward Uncommon Grounds for a latté or pedaling a bike to Congress Park for a sip of the natural spring waters.
Some misdirected horticulturist, believing that something is better by being easier, ordered the ill-advised change. Let us hope now that Saratoga Race Course doesn’t fall prey to the same crass expediency.
Already gone are the fenceless saddling areas, the winner’s circle drawn in chalk and the grassy infield as a viewing ground. It was eery when no bell sounded on Labor Day to inform riders that it was time for work. In disagreement with the slightest evolution, Joe Palmer wrote about Saratoga long ago, “A man who would change it would stir champagne.”
It is incomprehensible that waiving the $3 entrance fee would have prompted so many people to show up for the races, but the closing day crowd numbered 28,578. If that’s all it takes to pump up the volume, why not do it always?
Families brought the kids to cavort on the inflatable rides. People, who never watched a race from a seat in the clubhouse before, found their way into the privileged sections. Betting was brisk among the hardcore. As the day worn on, handshakes blossomed and tears pooled.
Nevertheless, on the basis of pure aesthetics, the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) wasn’t worth a farthing. Munnings, the beautiful $1.7 million yearling that breezed easily to victory earlier in the meet, broke awkwardly. Cribnote, the New York-bred colt that broke its maiden against state-breds by 13 ½ lengths, swung extra-wide on the turn and fell shy of victory. Vineyard Haven won the Hopeful, earned the jockeys’ crown for Alan Garcia, and concluded a superb meet for trainer Bobby Frankel, whose black and white diagonally-striped silks are sartorial.
As for the supporting stakes, the $81,750 Loudonville for 3-year-olds and up on the main track went first, and Tommasi, a New York-bred from the James Bond barn won. Next, the $84,000 Quick Call went to Salute the Count in a four-horse photo. The $108,900 Glens Falls Handicap (gr. II), a 1 3/8 miles turf race for fillies and mares, belonged to Hostess.
Of further note, trainer John Kimmel took his winning streak to seven straight with Premium Gold in the third. Kiaran McLaughlin clinched the training title when Cobblestone Way scooted home in the sixth.
For the first time in recent seasons, track employees didn’t begin to dismantle the track in the middle of the afternoon of the last day. Instead, it was the patrons who got a head start on the demolition. First to go were the potted ferns that hung from the Carousel restaurant’s roofline. Like guests at a wedding, the fans snatched them up as if they were centerpieces with no further purpose.
“This makes my entire season a success,” pronounced Roland “Whitey” Gerber, who lives near the Saratoga battlefield. “My wife is a big gardener. If I come home with a plant, she’s going to be happy,” he explained.
Considering that gardens are the love of many, perhaps someone should rethink the one on Union Avenue and plant the letters “d-o-n-e” in petunias.