There was crazy talk Friday morning following a published piece in The Saratogian newspaper. Writer Paul Post reported that former state Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John Van Lindt predicted that daily purses at the Spa Course will reach $1 million once the Aqueduct racino starts up.
The Phish concert was held at SPAC Sunday. But last night it was Marvin Hamlisch and the Philadelphia Orchestra's turn, so you know it wasn't anything Van Lindt was smoking. Purses are averaging $650,000 a day, as it stands now. Meanwhile TVG-Betfair just upped the purse of the October 3 Beldame with $400,000 to help NYRA lure Rachel and the Zen-yenta.
Of course, NYRA CEO Charlie Hayward believes the purses will increase with VLT revenue, but he's not certain that stakes like the $1 million Travers will balloon. On the other hand, he's sure that additional stalls will be built to accommodate horsemen. Physical changes to Saratoga have been a part of its shifting tableau.
Just the other day, several men in the horseplayers' section of the clubhouse (Sections H and J) were reminiscing about the Wilson Mile Chute. The chute began to the west of the clubhouse, and then took a 90 degree left turn into the back straight-away. This allowed races beyond seven furlongs and less than a complete spin of the main track to be run on the 1 1/8 miles oval.
Richard T. Wilson, a president of the old Saratoga Association, was the guy after whom the chute was named. War Admiral, Tom Fool, Equipoise and Eight Thirty - the Horse of the Year in Seabiscuit's most lucrative year -- are horses that triumphed in the one-mile Wilson Stakes. In 1972, the Wilson Mile Chute was dismantled. Later, for brief periods in the 1980s and ‘90s, it came back into favor. Today it's a parking lot.
Five runners took to the sealed track for the first race in a downpour. The 6-5 Sapphire Sky, under a water-logged J.R. Velazquez, maneuvered the mud and the ear-splitting thunder to prove best in the Biogio's Rose Stakes for 3-year-old New York-bred fillies. All races after hers were run on an accelerated schedule; folks who stayed for all nine races got to go home at 5:01:26.13 pm. The $150,000 grade II Lake Placid was the lone race on turf.
Shared Account, a Sagamore Farm filly that finished a nose short of winning on a bouncy pitch the last time out, won the feature. The Daily Racing Form described the silks that Edgar Prado wore as garnet, white diamonds and sleeves. But fans with longer memories knew that they were really cerise.
That being said, how grand it was to see Alfred G. Vanderbilt's colors in the winner's circle. All that was missing was a backdrop of the grandstand's peaked rooftop festooned with flagpoles and streamers the way it was when the Wilson Mile Chute was used.