Congress in Session

It’s not easy to tell when the Saratoga horse racing season begins. The official start is at 1:00 pm today.  But Saratoga horse racing is a lot of things that horse racing elsewhere isn’t, and some of those things have begun already.

Last night, for example, the 18th annual Earl B. Feiden Siro’s Cup, a party organized to raise money for the Center for Disability Services, rocked the night for 300 guests who came together to honor jockey JR Velazquez.

The night before, NYRA president Charlie Hayward, racing director PJ Campo, jockey Ramon Dominguez and trainers Todd Pletcher and Nick Zito answered questions before a couple hundred racing fans at the Racing Museum’s Preview Night.

On the day Belmont closed for the summer, Saratoga Racecourse hosted its Open House – a free circus, lawn fete and afternoon of steeplechase racing that drew about 6000 people.

In addition to the untold number of industry gatherings, political fund-raisers, jockeys’ basketball and baseball games and house parties that will take place in the next 45 days, 24 official galas, with tickets ranging in price from $45 to $1000 apiece, are scheduled for between now and the end of the racing season.

Layer on top of all this two weeks of the Philadelphia Orchestra at SPAC, concerts by music artists like Maroon 5 and Elton John and a few days of the Fasig-Tipton Company’s horse sales, and you can understand why the Spa is so popular. As for the actual horse racing, you couldn’t ask for better.

Take, for example, today’s stellar card.  The $100,000 Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes for two-year-old fillies has the potential to unveil the first of many equine stars emerging at Saratoga.  It’s a foregone conclusion that the ungraded $75,000 James Marvin Stakes, a prep for the Gr. 1 Forego, will have more quality runners than many graded stakes.

Pletcher, in search of a repeat as the meet’s leading trainer, is sending forth the 7-2 morning line favorite Caixa Eletronica, perhaps the sport’s worst named horse, against another horse he trains with a less than scintillating name, the second-choice 4-1 Aikenite. The 7-furlongs stakes features three other runners at 5-1 and four more with reasonable chances. 

Only the 50-1 Ravalo, 30-1 Escrow Kid and 20-1 Congressional Page seem unlikely.  Yet, on the same day that a staff member of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords office has arranged for the seventh race to be named in her honor, at least there’s a hunch-player’s reason to bet one of them.

By the way, pay no attention to the rumor that horse racing might be called off today because of the 95-degrees heat. Without stating the obvious – that the track can’t afford to close – on Wednesday evening, Hayward ran off a litany of reasons why it would be safe for the horses to run.

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