Ulysses S. Grant is moving down on the Top 10 worst presidents lists. He went from being the second worst to being the eighth worst. Pretty soon he’ll be in the meaningless middle of presidents you can’t get excited about in one way or the other.
Regardless, the move didn’t dissuade General Grant, aka Lance Ingmire of The Friends of Grant Cottage, from presenting the trophy for winning the $100,000 West Point Stakes to Richard Santulli. Santulli’s Straight Story, a Giant’s Causeway colt, showed his tail to 10 impostors for most of the 1-1/8 grassy miles that they ran. Banrock was attempting to win his third West Point Stakes in a row and couldn’t.
By the way, it takes a special brand of man to wear a heavy wool three-piece suit, knee-high leather boots, felt Stetson and cravat in 85-degree heat. There were seven such brave blades in Grant’s entourage, three women in long dresses and some kids, who most likely had wished they were home. In addition, five uniformed cadets from the West Point Academy Glee Club weakly warbled their school song.
It was a shame that the faux Grant didn’t arrive in the winner’s circle on horseback. But all the horses in the vicinity were either racing or chasing horses that should have been racing and decided against it. Three outriders took four tries to collar the runaway Pretty Mr. D before the fifth race. The unruly two-year-old dumped his rider in the post parade and then ran free of human burden clockwise, then counter-clockwise, then clockwise again to the delight of the crowd before ending the chase.
Mountain Town, owned by Marylou Whitney, won the race eventually. Among a whole lot of things, his victory represented the reunion of the Saratoga socialite and trainer Nick Zito. Apprentice Frédéric Lenclud deserved credit for the ride of the day. His mount was behind a wall of horses when deep into the stretch, looking helpless. Boldly, sighting an opening, the jockey then swung to the rail, came rushing up and triumphed.
Most other races were puttanseca - a little this and a little that, which when put together resulted in a tasty sauce. For the most part, not many fast horses were recruited to run. Yet, the races were thrilling. Jonathan Sheppard didn’t get his chance to keep his streak of winning all the Saratoga steeplechases alive. The customary Thursday hurdle race didn’t fill and was cancelled. Javier Castellano rode three winners.
And while on the topic of puttanesca, when evening came, winner Whitney and John Hendrickson put their imprimatur on Augie’s Italian restaurant in Ballston Spa. With their usual posse (sans Oxleys) in tow, they dined with Maureen and Ed Lewi, Tracy and Carol Farmer and The Saratogian’s society writer Jeannette Jordan and her Augie. It’s not true that Whitney hired a Sherpa to carry her d’Augie bag home.
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."