Fashion on Parade

Mechanicville, N.Y. has 5,000 residents. One in 10 attended Ray Price’s 15th annual “Stakes at Saratoga” party in the backyard of Saratoga Racecourse.  

“I started with 10 people,” Price explained. “By the third year I had enough people coming that I began to make tee-shirts.”  

Tee-shirts commemorating Ray Price's party hang between trees in the backyard.
Photo by Vic Zast

All 13 tee-shirts hung on a clothesline strung between trees, over tubs of beer and soda and near the food tent as you enter the track on Union Avenue.

“Everyone from Mechanicville is here,” said Susan Bolesky of─well, of Mechanicville.  

Susan Bolesky of Mechnicville, NY models this year's tee-shirt.
Photo by Vic Zast

A ticket to the party costs $60 and that includes drink, food, admission and a share of a betting pool managed by Price and some horseplayer buddies. The food ranges from steak to ziti to pasta fagioli to greens and beans. By the end of the eighth race, the amount in the betting pool stood at $8,000.

Price’s party is organized to such a degree that you’d want him to be the track’s new general manager. Attendance has increased each year as word of mouth promotes the event. “We love him. He makes coming to the track a ball,” said a guest who’s been coming to the parties for four years.  “I won’t miss one,” he declared, even though he played hooky from work to attend.

Fashion was on parade at the racecourse in more forms than tee-shirts.  Avram Freedberg, whose 6-year-old gelding Jess Not Jesse won the second race, wore a sport shirt made to look like the silks that his jockey wore, only 10 sizes larger. The artist Frankie Flores sported a vest with a dynamic blue horse’s head on the back.

Saratoga Springs artist Frankie Flores keeps up with the fashion parade.
Photo by Vic Zast

Even the undefeated champion My Miss Aurelia had her mane up in braids. Give credit to jockey Julien Leparoux for keeping his cool despite the 88-degree heat and having My Miss Aurelia stumble while leaving the starting gate. Leparoux relaxed the 1-5 favorite, let her settle into last place, swing four wide and then run on her own through the lane. The heady ride put the talented filly on top at the end of the 6 1/2 furlong, $100,000 Mandys Gold Stakes.

“Serve notice here, the champ’s back,” announcer Tom Durkin said when the Eclipse Award and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner crossed the finish line. Still, My Miss Aurelia looked tired, with her head down as she walked past a couple dozen fans on the rail en route to her stall at Oklahoma after getting her picture taken. 

Maureen O’Brien, the wife of a sportswriter, wagered on Sportswriter to win the $100,000 New York Stallion Series Stakes. And he did, defeating the odds-on King Kreesa. That’s how you take home money.

Away from the racecourse, Planned Parenthood held its annual “Race for Choice” fundraising luncheon at Union Gables.

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

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