Pool Sitting, Spinning and Hunch Playing

On hot, sunny Saratoga Sundays, it's easier to get a seat in the Clubhouse than a lounge chair at the Victoria Pool.  Saratoga Spa State Park is one of the treasures of the region and the pool, Olympic in size and grand in providing visitors the feelings of luxury and history, gets jam-packed before 9 am.  They say Bing Crosby and Sophie Tucker used to sunbathe there and, in more recent years, Cyndi Lauper and Liza Minnelli.  But today the person that causes the most curiosity is a man in a two-piece bikini.

In addition to the Victoria Pool, the park hosts the Peerless Pool,  the Roosevelt Baths, the Gideon Putnam hotel, a small opera house, 27 holes of golf, the Hall of Springs restaurant, an automobile museum  (which this weekend featured Airstreams) and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, or SPAC as everyone seems to call it.  Parking lots opened at 4:30 am to accommodate early arrivers for the Phish concert at SPAC.  There's no truth to the rumor that Catherine's on the Park, the restaurant and bar that adjoins the pool and the golf course, will be serving mushroom specials.

Despite the competition from these diversions, the racetrack was packed again.

It was free tee-shirt day and the lines of spinners began forming well before the racetrack opened officially.  Giveaways boost attendance about 30,000 people - at least that's the count which results from the turnstiles.  This year's shirt, a dandy gray one that featured the trademark Saratoga logo in black type with red accents, is more than useful. It's fly.

Good weather continues to bless NYRA.  But anyone who believes Mother Nature has provided the sole reason for attendance increases is short-changing the job track officials have done. In particular, the promotions department continues to crank out promotions that are imaginative and broadly-appealing.  The communications staff is turning out news releases faster than they can be read, causing an army of visiting press to report on even the most inane developments. Above all, however, the racing has been exceptional.

Sunday, however, the card was atypical.  Cheap claimers, state-breds and maidens offering marginal promise constituted many of the races. The 4-5 favorite Banrock won the feature - the $100,000 West Point Handicap for New York-foaled horses.  Like the day before, it was hard to hit exactas and trifectas despite the chalk.  Fourteen to one, 23-1 and 16-1 longshots, led by Pennington, finished second, third and fourth.

There were a few other races to get the blood pumping.  One Note Samba looked good in breaking his maiden in the sixth for Todd Pletcher and Anstu Stables.  Seattle Mission won at first asking for Barclay Tagg and Sackatoga in the seventh.  Two highly-regarded runners from Zayat Stables, B Z Warrior and J Z Warrior, failed to triumph in their races - not a good outcome for a Zast with a daughter named Biz and a son named Jon. 

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