Maidens No More

Among the promising newcomers that this Saratoga season has produced are Stay Thirsty, Valiant Passion, Uncle Mo and Nicole Russo. Only Russo’s a human.  She’s the 23-year-old turf writer from the Rochester, NY area who has caught on at The Pink Sheet. Russo’s daily reports on the two-year-olds continue to constitute a reading requirement.

Four races of the 10 races on Thursday were for maiden two-year-olds. In the second race, Wascally Rabbit, with blinkers added, gave a rare win to trainer Gary Contessa and jockey Mike Luzzi. In the fifth, Garrett Gomez got the jump on J.R.Velazquez and Skips Prospect with Floating Alone about a furlong and a half out and that made the difference.

Technique, a bay colt by Speightstown, carried the burden of favoritism in his first start and lost. But for his second go at racing – the seventh race, he was 3-1 and that was a load he could carry.  Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado had the perfect Technique to nose out Cane Garden Bay, for whom Wind River Stables paid $500,000. In race 10, Theresmyeverything won. You can say that about any maiden that’s no longer a maiden.

The field was fairly bunched with one furlong remaining in the first division of the $70,000 Riskaverse.  Then Awesome Maria edged ahead of Snow Top Mountain and the two three-year-old fillies put distance between themselves and the others.  Awesome Maria returned to the races after 10 months of competitive inactivity.  Credit her new trainer Todd Pletcher, the meet’s leader, for having her ready.

As for the second division, the bartenders at The Horseshoe didn’t have to worry about running out. Lisa’s Booby Trap took care of that.  Owner/trainer Tim Snyder drained them dry celebrating when his Finger Lakes filly won several weeks ago. But that wasn’t the case this time.  The name Queen of the Creek was inscribed on the trophy. It’s back to wine country for the spinners of one of the meet’s feel-good stories.

A questionable crowd of 9589 resulted in the closing of the upper Carousel restaurant.  That meant no open garbage bins out in the aisles, a relief to the fans that have to smell them.  The weather was so hot, even the Salvation Army bell-ringer stayed home. “Is it always this empty during the week?” asked Roland Stearns from Blue Mountain Lake, NY. In September?  After 35 racing days?  Yes.

In the evening, the media attended a pre-screening of the movie “Secretariat” at a Wilton Mall cinema. With an 8:30 pm curtain, there’s was no time available to drive out Route 29 past Schuylerville to the Ice Cream Man. Carvel ice cream aficionados will abandon their brand in a hurry once they try the Ice Cream Man’s homemade soft-serve.  It’s only $2.60 for a medium cone that is twice the size and almost half the price of Carvel’s and much creamier.

Vic Zast has attended at least one day of racing at Saratoga in each of the past 47 years. He writes a Monday morning column for

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