Each morning, an attendant at Bunbury's Pub, the new tented simulcast restaurant in the backyard, sets out 18 tables. On most days, all but a dozen and a half are taken.
"Business is a little slow today," said Eric Harris, a former Siena College basketball player on the school's MAAC championship team, now serving as a waiter, waiting patiently for customers. Perhaps the $15 minimum per person on food and drink orders has caused them not to come.
There's a sign on the wall at Bunbury's that lists typical British pub food. The list includes steak and kidney pie, fish and chips, shepherd's pie and hot pot, but none of these menu items are available. Instead, one must eke his way to the $15 minimum on braided pretzels for $3.75, hot dogs for $4.75 and chef salad for $7.95 or, better yet, a gin and a beer.
The economic recession is causing pubs in the UK to close at the alarming rate of 52 pubs each week. But the count on pubs that remain open is 53,246. Fingers are crossed that Bunbury's will be a pub, albeit a North American pub, that makes it. In the meantime, how about moving those four LCD television sets on the pub's walls to the north end of the clubhouse where patrons continue to be plagued by fuzzy pictures?
A bit of the British way of life was on grand display in the first race - the Michael G. Walsh Novice purse at 2 3/8 miles over hurdles. England's National Hunt season doesn't swing into full gear until the weather gets cool and the ground is so soft that it serves as a pillow for fallen riders and horses. Yet, Saratoga features at least one steeplechase race every Thursday. Left Unsaid, ridden by the European Peter Buchanan, won this time.
Steeplechasing at the Spa isn't really steeplechasing. It's more a form of flat course jumping. But the Thursday that Saratoga doesn't schedule the jumpers for some short-sighted reason such as placating the gamblers is a sad day in more ways than one. Lou Raffetto and Bill Gallo tend to the sport like conscientious care-givers. You can read anything you'd like into that.
It was the 104th time Saratoga ran the Special. D'Funnybone, a lucky pluck from the Calder barn of Joe Calascibetta for trainer Dick Dutrow, Jr., will have his name added to a list of winners that include Native Dancer (1952), Whirlaway (1940), Morvich (1921) and Sysonby (1904).
Trainer George Weaver saddled Perfect Officer to win the Solomon Northrup Stakes. Weaver made the day stand as a triple with Manitoba Miss in the third and Golly Day in the seventh. Ramon Dominguez rode Perfect Officer and two other winners.
Whirling Thunder in the sixth and Cap the Thunder in the eighth appeased hunch players. The rain came and the thunder sounded after the fifth race. By 5:00 pm, it was gone.