Brien Bouyea, the Director of Communications for the Racing Museum, is planning for a capacity crowd at the Fasig-Tipton pavilion on Friday morning to see seven new members have their names permanently inscribed in the Hall of Fame. The frequently tedious show will be telecast live throughout the grounds of the yearling barns for people who aren’t able to squeeze into the building.
The careers of jockeys Randy Romero and Donald Pierce and the horses Azeri, Best Pal and Point Given aren’t exclusively tied to New York racing. But their legacy is strong in the sense that each had some grand shining moments at Belmont Park or the Spa and those should be enough to make their enshrinement seem sort of a homecoming. As for trainer “Buster” Millerick and horse Harry Bassett…well, someone might just as well mention them in passing, kind of like when they give Oscars to movie extras.
In regard to the leading men and women, when trainer Bob Baffert steps forth to receive the award for Prince Ahmed Bin Salman’s “Big Red Train,” New Yorkers will remember the 2001 Travers. As J. Michael Paulson takes the podium on Azeri’s behalf, the fans will recall her memorable 2004 Go For Wand Handicap. Regarding Romero, the great Personal Ensign defeated males in the 1988 Whitney Handicap with him in the saddle. The oft-injured rider missed being aboard her in just one of her 13 victories.
Low-priced horses were on the agenda again at the racecourse. That meant 5-1/2 furlong sprints, low-level claiming races and the Statue of Liberty Stakes. Even the Thursday afternoon steeplechase was a cut below standard. Nevertheless, fields that are full to capacity seem the norm, and the action’s aplenty. Good weather, albeit cloudy on Thursday, has made the month enjoyable.
On weekdays, Saratoga is now Target and not Neiman Marcus. Yet, despite the incongruity between product and retailer, the second race on the 10-race card attracted more than just one filly that was bought for a premium price tag. As luck would have it, however, it was not the $325,000 Inflation Hedge or the $200,000 Town Flirt that won, but a first-time-out two-year-old that sold as a yearling at the Keeneland September sale for $11,000. Although she ran green, Valiant Passion looked like a million bucks winning.
The best finish of the day was the seventh. With apprentice Aadil Khan riding bravely, Surfing Ian - a shipper from Finger Lakes - grabbed the lead in the stretch, appeared to have lost it for good at the sixteenth pole and regained it before he ran out of racetrack. The fourth race wasn’t much, but the resignation in Tom Durkin’s voice when Fagedaboudit Sal failed to hold on was ne plus ultra.