Light bulbs are shining in attics. The yearlings are back and the bats are leaving the barns for a new cozy dark spot to live in for the next week or two. Homeowners experienced in bat control know that if they steal the night away the nocturnal critters won’t trespass. Failing that simple deterrent, they open a door and escort their prey out the house with a tennis racket.
Like unwanted pests, Saratoga’s faithful are being shunned from the best nesting places. Breeders, owners and organizational officials come first in horse racing’s hierarchy and they’re invading the city. NYRA has placed the purchase of all clubhouse boxes and reserved seats by second-tiered patrons on lock-down. The Fasig-Tipton Company has a customer-first reservation policy for the auction grounds restaurant. The top eateries in town – Maestro’s, Sperry’s, the Wishing Well and Hattie’s – are booked solid with strangers; well, at least visitors who come but once to the Spa in the summer as opposed to those who are here every weekend.
Considering the minor inconvenience, it all makes for a summit of sorts. Saratoga’s the best show on horse racing’s Earth, even when some of its riches seem unattainable. These are rare days we live in – rare, in that once August passes, it’s back to the typical grind. That withstanding, Friday at 11:30 am, Marylou Whitney dedicates a rose garden to Congress Park. Tonight at the City Center at 6 pm, Equine Advocates honors philanthropist Dick Duchossois and Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux.
A festive air accompanied the sport on Wednesday. It was Mid-Summer St. Patrick’s Day and all who wore green were admitted for free to the racecourse. Hunt Crossing broke his maiden in the second race wearing the green number five saddle cloth. After that, no other number five triumphed. In fact, a horse wearing the red number one cloth won the first, third, fourth and fifth races; horses wearing the orange lucky seven - the seventh and eighth races. Unbridled Heat, wearing seven, was a nose shy of winning the sixth.
The seven in the eighth race was Ibboyee. In taking the featured John Morrissey Stakes, the four-year-old NY-bred colt recorded his seventh career victory. As favorite, Be Bullish nearly went to the ground at the break and many in the crowd thought he would have won if not for his brief stumble. At the same time, Ibboyee raced four wide and made his move later than usual. Who’s to say what should have happened?
“Ding, dong, noses up and down,” noted race-caller Tom Durkin as Majestic Hope won his race, beating the chalk Worth a Buck by the slimmest of margin. Three more shippers from Churchill Downs ran in a manner the public didn’t expect. Ryan Curatolo, a promising apprentice rider at Belmont who’s been sidelined for six weeks, had three mounts. He, too, didn’t fare well.
Vic Zast is the author of “The History and Art of 25 Travers.” He has attended the races at Saratoga for 48 straight summers.