Redefining Celebrity

Jack Knowlton of Funny Cide fame used to be known as the man who got the most for himself by the grace of one horse, but that honor might go now to Bennie L. “Chip” Woolley, Jr. the trainer of Mine That Bird. There’s no doubt that the lanky cowboy is a presence. 

From sipping a drink on his crutches while talking to the press opposite the Jim Dandy bar to paying The Parting Glass a visit, Woolley has parlayed two wins – one in a race at a quarter mile, the other at a mile and a quarter – into a productive career as a fan magnet.

There are plenty of other embraceable characters around besides Woolley.  His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is reportedly encamped at Greentree with Princess Haya and their five-month-old son.  The yearlings have moved into the barns on Madison Avenue and the boys with the big bucks to buy them have followed. 

Workers miraculously completed their task of freshening things up a bit at the Fasig-Tipton auction grounds.  Business next Monday and Tuesday evenings may not be as brisk as it was in the past, but the place where it’ll be conducted looks a million dollars…er, make that several million.

Fasig-Tipton’s been selling horses at Saratoga since the early 1900s. The sales then were held at the racecourse in what is now called the Auction Mutuel Building, the structure east of the walking ring.  Rumor has it that plans are to convert the current building into an edifice with historic relevance.  If you like that idea, call your favorite Saratoga preservationist.  But a warning – he may be busy fielding complaints about the temporary tent that’s been constructed for the sales company this weekend.

Change in horse racing goes down like a fishbone in the throat, but here’s one recent development that might be seen positively.  The Glen Sanders company has taken over the restaurant service at the Humphrey S. Finney pavilion from Blue Moon catering.  Blue Moon was adequate; in fact, very accommodating.  But Glenn Sanders handles the Hall of Springs Restaurant, Saratoga National Golf Course and house parties at Charlie Hayward’s.

At the racecourse on Friday, there were a few interesting races on display.  In the second, Show the Way J dumped Kent Desormeaux when loading in and held the start up by five minutes.  There were superfecta payouts in excess of $16,000 in the sixth and seventh.  Encore Saritta ran raggedly through the stretch but defeated the field in the seventh.

If these diversion weren’t enough to pique interest, the former Sword Dancer hero John’s Call, now 18 years spry, led the post parade for the John’s Call Stakes won by Solitaire.  Jockey Edgar Prado was unseated by Rogue Victory on the turn heading home.  Tom Durkin, track announcer and poet laureate, referred to the 10 horse as “the restive Lord Kipling.”

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