Saratoga’s backstretch was on lock-down Thursday morning. Even NYRA owners with horse racing licenses had to register guests with the gate guards. Just like everyone else that works on his feet instead of behind a desk, they found the task of filling out paperwork a pain in the “you-know-what.” This, too, shall p-ass.
Peggy Steinman, the doyenne of the steeplechase set, made her way to the Morning Line food stand along with many others. Visitors stood three deep at times as the National Steeplechase Association picked up the tab for free coffee. The work tab was heavy. The rail drew a crowd, too.
Connie Bush, an equine photographer that works for Sean Clancy’s Saratoga Special newspaper, took her spot where the horses line up before breaking off for a gallop. She had hoped to see Shackleford jog. But she missed him. Caught by surprise, nonetheless, Bush caught Mr. Cowboy – a two-year-old Stonesider colt that she owns. Mr. Cowboy was born still, but saved by a miracle.
The first race on the afternoon card was the $100,000 gr. 1 New York Turf Writers Cup, a 2-3/8 mile steeplechase. Divine Fortune, part of the Jonathan Sheppard-trained entry, caused Decoy Daddy to fall. Decoy Daddy’s tumble, in turn, caused a chain reaction that befell stablemate Sermon of Love, last year’s winner, and Straight to It to experience a similar fate. The development cleared a path for Mabou at 17-1 to win. Mabou was recently claimed by David Jacobson who, until recently, competed solely on the flat. It was the trainer’s first graded stakes victory.
Alydarla won the day’s only maiden two-year-old race. Gunman won the final turf race. All the races that were scheduled for the grass courses following the sixth were moved to the main track. Owing to some arcane rules relating to exotic bets that include switches in race surfaces, this prompted a Pick Four payout on 1-all-all-all and a Pick Six payout on 2-4-1-all-all-all. A NYRA board member explained that, of course, those who put a halt to the grass racing after these pools were closed knew of the consequences.
Carlos M. Sada, Consul General of Mexico, and his wife Maria-Elena were guests of Stuart and Donna Chenkin of Belmont Child Care Association in Virginia Kraft Payson’s box. Sada waited until the last race for which he could stay to do his best work at handicapping. He bet $10 to win on co-owner Michael Dubb’s Metrology and cashed $39.50. Sada bound down the steps of the clubhouse and into the winner’s circle, where he congratulated the BCCA chairman and his trainer, Mexican-born Rudy R. Rodriguez, in Spanish.
From left; The BCCA's Donna and Stuart Chenkin, Maria-Elena and Consul General of Mexico Carlos M. Sada and Maureen Zast at the races.
A controversial decision to transform Thursday evening’s Travers Celebration from a sit-down dinner/dance into a cocktail party/auction may have represented a changing of the guard. Many people there thought the party took a step in the right direction. But nobody really knew what to make of it.
The transformed Travers Celebration in the transformed At the Rail Pavilion tent.
Vic Zast is the author of “The History and Art of 25 Travers.” He’s attended the races at Saratoga for 48 straight summers.