Restaurant Wars

Allen Jerkens, who saddled Onion to upset Secretariat in Saratoga’s 1973 Whitney, was honored last night at Siro’s.  The occasion was Earl B. Feiden’s 17th annual Saratoga eve party, called the Siro’s Cup. Feiden, an appliance dealer in nearby Latham, NY, created the soiree to raise money for the Center for Disability Services.  There’ll be more of such fund-raising events ahead, but this was the first one.

Less than a couple furlongs away at the Racing Museum, the Saratoga Preview, a panel discussion involving NYRA officials, trainer Linda Rice, former jockey Richard Migliore and turf writer Michael Veitch, was held simultaneously. Usually the Saratoga Preview takes place a couple days in advance of the meet’s opening. But with the first day of racing a Friday instead of a Wednesday, the date was changed, thus causing the conflict.

Competition might be something that the new owners of Siro’s – an eclectic assortment of businessmen, horse people and celebrities including Entourage actors Kevin Connolly and Kevin Dillon - had better get used to.  Restaurant wars are brewing and the Siro’s gang doesn’t have the only joint in town with star power.

Officials at NYRA decided in March to open a branch of Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke and Shake Shack restaurants on the track grounds this season.  Today, a spanking new 5000 square foot Tom Frost architecturally-designed building to the right of the walking ring goes curtains up for these two famous New York eateries. Fronting the Blue Smoke’s electric blue neon sign, a red and white striped tent-covered Paddock Bar will allow barflies to mingle with horseflies.

By the way, the neon sign is the least obvious thing that these spots have in common with Siro’s. The Paddock Bar will stay open with dancing and simulcast betting until 7 pm and until 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. 

Amidst the uncertainty of whether or not there would even be a Saratoga it’s more than mildly entertaining that so much money is being spent all around it.

As for the predicted lack of quality in the racing, Day One features three low-level claiming races and two races for state-breds.  On the other hand, six of the ten runners in the $75,000 James Marvin Stakes are graded stakes winners - proof that owners would like to win here more than anywhere. Repole Stable’s Stopspendingmaria, to be ridden by the Jersey refugee John R. Velasquez, heads the $100,000 Grade 3 Schuylerville for two-year-old fillies.

Vic Zast is the author of the award-winning book “The History and Art of 25 Travers.”  You can read more from him on Facebook and Twitter.

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