The Daily Racing Form handicapping seminars that used to be televised from Siro’s have been mercilessly transplanted to the Carousel Restaurant. Now Saratoga gives its patrons tips on the horses in the conventional format that all other tracks do – three suit and tie-wearing people sitting on a stage, talking in code, giving opinions to anyone in public address system distance.
Two of the three featured handicappers, Jason Blewitt and Andy Serling, repeat much of the same information on closed circuit TV each time horses gather in the paddock for races. Blewitt and Serling speak so quickly their sentences contract into stream of consciousness. There’s an attendant on guard to apply the Heimlich maneuver in case one swallows a comma. The volume’s turned up so high that it gives you a headache. Where’s the beauty in any of this? Communication’s an art; it’s more than information.
When the crusty, satiric Harvey Pack emceed the seminars at Siro’s, his shows flowed with delightful imprecision. The audience related to his witty remarks because they spoke to the frustrations that common gamblers encounter. Going a little out of your way to attend the seminar a block away from the track made the information seem more worthwhile, more insider.
“How you bet the last race today will determine whether you’ll be dining at Siro’s on steaks and lobsters or eating a hamburger with me,” Pack would quip at the end of each show. It was then that his audience would shift in its plastic chairs, put away its notated newspapers, dust the cinders from its members’ shoes and disperse satiated.
The steeplechase racing fraternity that met in Saratoga’s walking ring for the first race on Thursday probably doesn’t even know that Pack existed. But, in their own manner, these gentlemen from Pennsylvania in blue blazers and chino pants and their ladies from Virginia in plain summer dresses and flats lend a charm to the Saratoga spectacle.
William Pape’s 10-year-old gelding Mixed Up spurted to the lead after making his final leap and went on to defeat Preemptive Strike in the Grade 1, $105,723 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase by less than a length. His victory made jockey Danielle Hodsdon two for two at the Spa course this summer and presented Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard with a second Grade 1 triumph. Sheppard saddled Forever Together to win the Diana.
Three jockeys dominated the balance of the action. Ramon Dominguez and Edgar Prado won three races and Kent Desormeaux won two. That left only one race that the trio didn’t conquer. Julien Leparoux took that.
Law Enforcement, an aptly-named 4-year-old son of Posse, circled five wide to catch the 3-5 favorite, Driven by Success, in the final stages of the 6 ½ furlong John Morrissey Stakes for New York-breds.