Fenced Out

Years ago, when the practice of saddling the horses under the trees in the backyard was abandoned, Saratoga went from having the best saddling viewing to the worst. The erection of a new fence that stands five feet high around the paddock makes sight lines for fans even less accommodating.

“I stand up on my tippy toes,” explained Amanda Vogue, slightly taller than five feet, of Liverpool, NY, “or duck under the top and peak through the holes at the bottom.”  Said her friend Kate Killeen of Troy, NY, “You’ve got to get here early and then wait until the horses parade past – then you’re looking up and can see them.”  The young women, both of Russell Sage College, came to the track for College Day.  They were part of a pretty big, 2:30 pm first post time crowd that resembled a spring weekend day at Keeneland.

A new fence that is too high to see past is making saddling tougher to watch than usual for fans. Photo by Vic Zast.

Deaf ears and stubborn attitudes at NYRA prevent a partial solution to the viewing problem.  What could also be done is to label the trees out in front for the 1-2-3 numbered horses instead of 12-13-14, and so forth, to bring at least a few horses closer in front of the fans instead of behind the owners who jam the walking ring.  Long range, there are plans to build bleachers. That will help.

Friday’s card was one of the weakest, if not the weakest, of the young season.  It takes chutzpah to write that. The competitiveness of the fields this summer was borne out by selections in The Saratogian.  Five guys picked three horses for each race and the Best Bet and Best Longshot and not one of their 10 Best Bet and Best Longshot picks was the same.  The Saratogian’s perennially best handicapper Bill Taylor (not a professional, mind you) is leading the standings with 24 from 69 picks.  No surprise there.

Bill Mott dispensed with his annual birthday victory at the first opportunity.  He saddled the 12-1 Reach a Decision, a Juddmonte gray three-year-old maiden colt by Aptitude, to win the second race, a 1-3/16 mile spin on the turf course.  Trainer Neil Howard split up stable mates Wilkinson and Prime Cut, with Wilkinson taking on older horses, including the once formidable Ice Box, in the third race and Prime Cut sticking with horses his age in The Curlin, a $75,000 1-1/8 mile stakes for three-year-olds.

Darley’s Convocation, a bay colt by Pulpit, won the third race. Bridlewood Farm’s Turbo Compressor, a bay colt by Halo’s Image, won The Curlin. Without stars, “evenly matched” are the words being used to describe the stakes fields. A blinding rainstorm dampened fans at the end of the day and created a rainbow. 

Some noteworthy runners have worked out in recent mornings including Finger Lakes’ Lisa’s Booby Trap, winner of last summer’s Loudonville Stakes; Uncle Mo, the juvenile champion, Friend or Foe, Tizway and Morning Line.

Vic Zast is the author of “The History and Art of 25 Travers.”  He’s attended the races at Saratoga for 48 straight summers.

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