When Irish Eyes Smile

This summer’s best Saratoga book is Saratoga in Bloom by Glens Falls, NY-born and raised author and photographer Janet Loughrey. Although Loughrey’s illustrated 176-page masterpiece is not about horses or horse racing per se, it reveals plenty of factoids relating to the subjects. For example, did you know that long ago the track converted some megaphones from an old public address system into flower planters?

Apropos to Irish Day, Loughery’s book contains a chapter entitled “Lost Gardens of Saratoga” in which she writes about Chancellor John “Chauncey” Olcott, a legendary Saratoga resident so Irish that he died on St. Patrick’s Day.
Loughery provides details about a quaint cottage in the “Irish style” on Clinton Street that Olcott’s wife bought for him.  

The flower beds and pathways of Olcott’s residence greeted guests like President Grover Cleveland, Man O’ War owner Samuel Riddle, composer-conductor Fritz Kreisler and Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Yet, for reason of accommodating today’s theme, it is probably more important to note that Olcott composed “My Wild Irish Rose” and wrote lyrics for “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”

Eyes smiled when Irishman Brian Crowley booted Sermon of Love home to win the first race, the $70,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Hurdles.  The Irish love their jumpers more than the flat runners, so the coincidence had a delicious twist to it. Saratoga racing fans may remember that steeplechase horse Sermon of Love gave jump jockey Danielle Hodsdon her first-ever victory on the main course last summer. Hodsdon had a ride in the Kiser. But it wasn’t Sermon of Love and it finished fourth.  Guess the year 2010 isn’t the Year of the Girl.

Surprisingly, there was no horse running on Irish Day that was bred on the Emerald Isle or had any reference to Ireland in its name.  That made hunch bets irrelevant.  On the other hand, the co-featured $70,000 Lucy Scribner Stakes made using the PPs redundant.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott seems to win always on his birthday. Counting Devil by Design, the favorite that won the Scribner, he’s stood in the winner’s circle on 12 of his last 19 birthdays, and two of those birthdays were Tuesdays when Saratoga goes dark. Regarding the $70,000 Quick Call, there was more reason than rhyme to explain why Beau Choix captured the grassy mile.

Either a couple of Tony Soprano’s guys hi-jacked a trailer of Irish Day tee-shirts, or the State’s imposition on NYRA to be more thrifty forced the track into buying less than the number of giveaways usually provided. Not a free tee-shirt was to be had after 1:30 pm.

Even though the crowd was the biggest of the young season, it wasn’t that large that the track should have run out.  Now you’ve got to buy yours on O’Bay.

Vic Zast is a columnist for HorseRaceInsider.com.  He has written the Saratoga Diary for bloodhorse.com in five of the last six years. 


Leave a Comment:


Half Irish and I grew up sharing a neighborhood with the Italians. If Tony's crew want to jack some T-shirts I won't complain...but they better not get any ideas about going after the Guinness beer truck.

30 Jul 2010 9:52 AM
rory ruane

Irish eyes were not smiling  at 11:30 when the sign went up in the admissions windows "Irish need not apply for  T-shirts- all tickets are spoken for" NYRA planners were not  in good form on Thursday!

30 Jul 2010 8:42 PM
John T

I doubt very much if there is any

other race of people on this earth

who no more about a pint of Guinness and the thoroughbred than

the Irish.And sure hasn,t Zenyatta

herself figured out the best way

to win races is to enjoy a pint of


30 Jul 2010 11:50 PM
Janet Loughrey

Vic, thanks for your kind comments and for recognizing that "Saratoga in Bloom" is much more than a book about gardens. I look forward to returning to Saratoga soon for the races and everything else that the Spa City embodies in August.

31 Jul 2010 3:45 AM

Bill Mott....just love that guy, he's everything NICE!

31 Jul 2010 9:15 AM

That Olcott cottage, called Iniscarra, is still there I believe.  251 Clinton St.

05 Aug 2011 11:15 AM

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