If in 1863 John Morrissey didn’t believe that change was
necessary, Saratoga horse racing fans would be watching harness races and looking
into the north at horses running instead of the south. The sun set in the west on another year of
splendid Saratoga thoroughbred sport, the third season of 40 long days in its
history and perhaps the second last remaining meet before the old plant gets a
facelift. It’s about time.
Average daily attendance dropped in most of the last 10
years and was up only marginally this year. This is something to consider when planning
expansion. Renovation, however, is
another issue. A good place to start
would be to peel off the layers of paint that have caked on to the building and
sandblast the splatters of white that some lazy worker let fall on the historic
iron steps. How much would it cost to
upgrade TVs or to make closed circuit messages audible?
If NYRA spent only a few million dollars on basic spiffying
up, most patrons would notice the improvement.
Does an overall brush-up need to await Board approval? The franchise’s operatives, while
single-minded and serious, are nonetheless conscientious. Now that money’s available, it’s time to get
on with it.
Regardless, even on its dreariest day, the nostalgic Spa racecourse
recalls a bygone romantic era. The gr. 1
Hopeful, even after 107 presentations, is about as good a name for a stakes for
promising two-year-olds as possible. And
Currency Swap, a perfect two-for-two colt trained by Terri Pompay and ridden by
Rajiv Maragh, won as if hope was for his opposition not him.
In the gr. 3 Glens Falls, which came next, Emerald Beech won
for the fourth consecutive time for trainer Jonathan Sheppard. Goldzar won at 31-1 for jockey Jaime
Rodriguez, his first triumph of the meet, in the Ecclesiastic, a stakes that
preceded the Hopeful. Eddie Castro,
Julien Leparoux and Maragh each rode two winners. Steve Asmussen and Kiaran McLaughlin each saddled
a pair. It may have been the 39th and
final day, yet trainers Josie Carroll, Ramon Hernandez, Leah Germati and Randy
Granger made the winning trainers list.
In the past several years, watching the last few races from
the grandstand was like watching TVG in your living room as the repo man takes
away some of the furniture. Food stands
began closing up shop by the fifth or sixth race. The hanging plants in The Carousel
disappeared one by one even earlier. This
year, you could feast at all food stations but Exacta Tacos to the bittersweet
end and there were no ferns to steal – a proper shutdown.
In the days and weeks that will follow there will be plenty
of dreams realized. But Belmont Park or,
for that matter, the new Aqueduct won’t match up to what just happened. Quite frankly, there is no comparison.
By the way, how does clubhouse box server Liz Hill of
Saratoga Springs, NY balance those drinks on her head? You’ll have to wait until next summer to ask
Caption: Clubhouse box server Liz Hill delivering a cocktail her own special way.
Photo: Vic Zast
Vic Zast has ended his
48th season of racing at Saratoga.