It’s darn near impossible to keep up with all that’s going on in this town. Once the horses arrived, Saratoga Springs sprung to life like hydrangeas in season.  

The Hat’s Off to Saratoga Festival has begun.  The track’s hat contest is Sunday.

Women in search of a hat for the Hat's Off to Saratoga weekend find Joyce Locks' Hat Sational tent a convenient shopping destination.
Photo by Vic Zast

Joyce Locks, the racecourse milliner across from the trinkets and trash tent on the midway, is conducting a booming business. Broadway was packed to the curbside as troubadours played on the sidewalks. Putnam Market featured wines from an Umbrian village with a name that means “horseshoe.” The Horseshoe Inn, near the Nelson Avenue gate to the backstretch, rocked to the beat of the band Gravity.

The Thoroughbreds love the cool mornings. So, too, do the humans.  Runners (and walkers) emerged shortly before 8 a.m. to run in the Silks & Satins 5K for Special Olympics.  Held for the 16th time, the event brought out about 1,200 people to participate. Those who didn’t─the slugs who were still in pajamas─lined the streets to applaud the activity.  Mack Lloyd of Voorheesville, N.Y. won.

Runners pour past the homes on 5th Avenue on their way down the homestretch of the Silks and Satins 5K.
Photo by Vic Zast

The New York Racing Association tweeted before breakfast ended that the opening day problems were solved.  Unfortunately, by lunch time, the second day settled into a do-over of the first, as patrons in half the clubhouse and the grandstand watched the races in silence.

There’s no truth to the rumor that NYRA executives have never turned left as they face the grandstand upon leaving their office. But some were shocked to learn that the folks in the cheap seats were often unaware, because the public address system didn’t work in their sections, that horses had entered the track, loaded the gate or were running.  

A portion of the 21,948 paid attendance stayed to see a British-born Godolphin bay filly name Questing defeat Zo Impressive and In Lingerie in the grade I Coaching Club America Oaks Stakes. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and ridden by 19-year-old Irad Ortiz, Jr., Questing raced in second for six furlongs and then inched to the front until the race ended.  At the end, she had more track to her left than her right. But the finish was conclusive.

The next most impressive performance was turned in by Spurious Precision, a High Cotton 2-year-old colt trained by Rick Violette. In winning the second race in pretty fast time of 1:03.49 for 5 ½ furlongs, the horse broke his maiden at first asking and gave indication that the Hopeful Stakes (gr. II) may come next.  “He doesn’t do anything flashy, just does everything right,” said Violette, after watching the replay with fans outside the Jim Dandy bar.

Numbers 13, 12 and 11 came in first, second, and third, respectively, in the fifth race. Edgar Prado wrapped up his workday with three winners, with win payoffs of $31.00, $29.60, and $8.50.

Vic Zast is the author of “The History and Art of 25 Travers. He has attended the races in Saratoga for 47 straight years.

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