Dead Heats

The backyard is a dust bowl.  There is hardly a blade of grass on the picnic grounds. On Sunday, a cloudy start caused a smaller crowd than usual for the running of the fans. It's too bad, because if there was ever a day to run, this was it.

Dashing to reserve one of 150 tables is the ritual that begins the Saratoga experience.  Survival of the fittest has been the law of the arid land.  But, as in everything the world has to offer, that behavior, too, will change eventually.  As a matter of fact, it has already.

NYRA has a new policy whereby people have been invited to enter a lottery to win the right to pay $100 for one of 15 tables set aside for the Travers.  The proceeds will go to charity.  Imagine the lottery to be a kind of "Early Bird" seating like the one at Southwest Airlines. Whatever it is, there are some people who don't like it.

"You can't take something that was free and force people to pay for it," said Allan Goldberg, who prefers the stampede to an orderly assignment. "That's a shakedown," he wrote on, even though the fund-raising program invites voluntary participation.  It was 1978 - the year of Affirmed and Alydar - when NYRA began scattering picnic tables on the apron at the top of the stretch and televisions in elms.

Televisions played an important role in two of Sunday's 10 races. You had to watch the replays closely to determine the winners in several races. There were dead heats in the fourth and eighth races.  The first resulted in seconds for Spina and Lily Meadow; the second in firsts for Prize Catch and Codetta.  If you weren't a horse racing fan before the eighth race, you are now.  At the finish line, seven horses bunched up like a mini skirt.

Position Limit won the Gr.2 $150,000 Adirondack Stakes for Starlight Partners. She won handily despite the willies in the paddock and losing a front shoe while turning home.  Alas, the confident way that the Bellamy Road filly ran in only her second start must have Jack and Laurie Wolf thinking back to Ashado and Octave.

Lastly, there's more than meets the eye regarding the death of Thiscatismine and the collarbone injury that retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens incurred in a morning workout, according to one authority.  Stevens was to ride in a former jockeys' race at Arlington Park this week.  He wasn't licensed in New York State to exercise horses when the accident happened.  Oops, a no-no.

Vic Zast has attended at least one day of racing at Saratoga in each of the last 47 years. He is the author of the award winning book, "The History and Art of 25 Travers."


Leave a Comment:


Vic< I noticed the 47 years, and [if my math is correct] 1963 was my first experience of The Travers, and I can still visualize that race in my mind. Like going to your first Major League game. Like Mickey Rooney, I lost $10 and have been chasing it since.[oh yeah, I bet Chateaugay that day[across the board], and Braulio[the best of his time on the East Coast] got the 'Derby winner up for 3rd. No exotic wagering back then.

16 Aug 2010 10:11 AM

For the first time ever, NYRA upped the price of the Labor Day picnic during the Sartoga meet (This is on top of the increase made before the meet started.)  Then they stuck on a service charge of $10.00

16 Aug 2010 10:49 PM

its to bad that the powers to be who are already fat and have no need to join the rank and file in the picnic are eager to take away thier favorite spot. why not replace the everyday fan for those who come once in awhile. after all your saratoga and people come like sheep. but how long will they take your unneccesary changes. but dont worry you have a good spot to watch the races. the rank and file afterall are not that important, or are they?

17 Aug 2010 7:36 AM

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