Paddock Postings

Post position isn't supposed to mean much in a 1 ΒΌ mile race at Saratoga.  Yet, quite a media gathering took place in the paddock at 11:00 on a perfectly sublime Wednesday morning to learn which horse will be starting where in the Travers on Saturday.  

The suspicion is that most on hand were interested in hearing about the nitty-gritty surrounding Mine That Bird's defection - either that or they came for the free eggs and bacon that NYRA served beforehand.  No mention of the Kentucky Derby winner, other than emcee Dan Silver's brief apology, was evident.

In two fell swoops, the Travers has gone from being the race of the summer to just another Midsummer Derby.  A week ago, when it seemed possible that all three Triple Crown race winners would meet, officials were predicting a turnout of 50,000 fans.  Then the owner and trainer of the Preakness champion chose the September 5 Woodward Stakes instead.

If great horses produce big crowds (a doubtful premise), there'll be 40,000 fans in attendance. To most people on the grounds, that will seem the ideal.  It'll be easy to move around, make your wagers and see a horse or two, if you're lucky.

Once the numbers were drawn, Silver called upon several trainers.  Tim Ice, Scott Blasi, Ian Wilkes and Kiaran McLaughlin, dressed in ball caps and jeans, stepped forward and spoke with some insight.  No, that's not right - with some words for the cameras.  The event, of course, wouldn't have been this informal in 1936 when the 24-karat Man O' War Cup was made the official Travers trophy.

Last weekend, Jeff Cohen and Beth Daly, two visiting owners from Windsor, Ontario, talked a little about history.  It was at Windsor's Kenilworth Park on October 12, 1920 that "Big Red" defeated Sir Barton in a match race.  Mrs. Samuel Riddle, the owner's widow, bequeathed the gold bowl that was given to her husband following that triumph to the Saratoga Association - that's how it all began.  By the way, the Man O' War Cup, on display prominently at the draw, had more color than any of the ceremony's participants.

Check that. Jess Jackson lurked under a nearby tree and was rushed by the press afterward.  He referred to the Santa Anita surface as an "industrial track."  He called for a horse racing league and a national commissioner.  He said Rachel Alexandra's "legacy is to take on everything that comes along" and, in keeping with that, she would contest the 2010 Breeders' Cup.  In addition, it's Ken-say, not Ken-sigh.

Staying with the Japanese theme, Sumo won the $70,850 Pleasant Colony Stakes.  Wildcat Nation, a half to Visionaire, beat a highly-touted field of maiden colts in the seventh.  Fiddlers Afleet gave jockey Ramon Dominguez his fourth winner in the featured $150,000 Albany Stakes. The kids of Anna House were the evening's biggest winners as donors came out of the woodwork for a fiesta-themed fund-raiser that honored McLaughlin and Edgar Prado.

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