This week, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra came together in a strange sort of way. On Wednesday evening, a framed photo of the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, her halter and jockey’s autograph sold for $10,200 at the Belmont Child Care Association’s dinner and auction. On Thursday afternoon, only 15 hours later, the reigning Horse of the Year took some schooling in the Saratoga paddock.
Wayne and Tina Evans launched the winning bid on the Zenyatta collection. Then, without hesitation, the couple gave the precious memorabilia back to the people who sold it to them. It was generosity that drove the New Jersey horse owners to purchase the items, not a desire on their part to own them. The BCCA raised $310,000 at its annual fund-raiser.
About a couple thousand people rimmed the walking ring and flooded its center to see Rachel Alexandra take her spin of the premises. The fans should be grateful to trainer Steve Asmussen for parading the filly, not just limiting her time to standing around in the canvas-covered stall at the back of the property. If not for that, only the few and the privileged would see her.
Before racing began, the crowd of 15,588 sang “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie” to celebrate San Gennaro Day. The special day honoring Italians didn’t assemble the same kind of raucous gathering as an earlier day in the meet that commemorated the Irish. But it was fun nonetheless and a treat for the taste buds.
The Gr.1 $100,000 New York Turf Writers Steeplechase was race one on the nine-race card. Trainer Jonathan Sheppard and owner William Pape completed a sweep of every hurdle race of the season when Sermon of Love hit the wire barely ahead of Arcadius. As amazing as that was, the second race was even more jaw-dropping Trainer Dick Dutrow ran El Real Madrid for the second time in three days and the 5-year-old horse won his second in a row. It would have been three had he not fallen short by a neck of winning another race eight days ago. Too bad for Dutrow that Bill Cesare claimed El Real Madrid for $25,000. The horse may not run again until Wednesday.
The 10th Annual Travers Celebration raised about $100,000 for the Backstretch Employees Services Team and Double H Ranch. Guests entered the racetrack through a starting gate. The event featured a swanky cocktail hour, ballroom dancing, a few speeches and a toast to the connections of Summer Bird, last year’s Midsummer Derby champion. NYRA put on a dandy.
One downer to report: a 37-year-old drunk from Cohoes, NY pleaded guilty to punching a cop’s horse in the face on Caroline Street. Now the jerk’s off to spend 30 days in the hoosegow. As only horse lovers realize, the horse has forgiven him.
Vic Zast has attended at least a day of Saratoga racing in each of the last 47 years. He is the author of the award-winning book, “The History and Art of 25 Travers.”