Joe Moran of Boston, Mass. visited Saratoga for 45 summers before passing away a couple years ago. His tradition has been taken up by his son, another Joe Moran, who’s achieved a third of his old man’s record of coming here─15 straight summers and counting now. Moran and his friends rent a house in the Five Corners section every Travers week.
“We wake up in the morning, read the information and walk to the track every day,” said Moran, as his group awaited bread pudding at Winslow’s on Thursday evening. The roadside restaurant ran out of roasted turkey for the main course, which is why the men went there. But the men seemed unflustered and happy.
Joe Moran (left) enjoying an evening of Travers Week friendship.
“When we tell friends that we’re going to Saratoga, they ask why we’re going to Florida in summer,” Moran laughed. A light-hearted fellow, he scattered his dad’s ashes in the paddock and made up tee-shirts to celebrate his life.
Another group of men called the “Mohicans” began their Travers week with golf at Saratoga National. They attended NYRA’s $175 a ticket celebration on Thursday evening, grilled Italian sausages on Friday night in the 5th Avenue backyard of their group leader Bob Devlin, and will watch the Travers from the Clubhouse Terrace restaurant and spend whatever wampum is left at the Wishing Well afterwards.
Michael Devlin hangs flag from the balcony over the patio where Mohicans met.
Devlin, the silver-haired guy with the Panama hat who drives to the track in a red ’58 Mercedes Benz convertible, quit the life of a high-flying insurance executive several years ago and now owns Curragh Stables. A ride at a different altitude. Moran is an insurance salesman.
Those folks who went to the track Friday had a choice of watching Gregg “Free Beer” Daniels and Chris “Hot Wings” Michaels host their radio show in the morning, sampling beer at the “Battle of the Brews” in the backyard or knocking themselves out trying to make money despite favorites winning.
Popular radio show hosts engage a large breakfast crowd at the track.
Glasses being filled at the Battle of the Brews in the backyard.
Several horses resisted the starting gate. The second half of the first Daily Double, a maiden 2-year-old fillies claiming event, was a frustrating race. Bozique was a late scratch. Desert Traveler and Go the Distance wouldn’t load. Star Black took the turn wide.
Ramon Dominguez proved in the third race why he’s the meet’s leading rider. He took the rail on the far turn with a horse that broke from the far outside. The move easily represented the 2 3/4-length margin by which Reserved Quality won.
The $500,000 Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) marked the first time for Todd Pletcher to saddle and John R. Velazquez to ride Turbulent Descent and they made the first time a time to remember. Last fall’s Sentient Jets Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (gr. I) favorite had no real competition in crossing the finish line first. JR gave her a hand ride.
Vic Zast is the author of The History and Art of 25 Travers. He has attended the races at Saratoga for 47 straight summers.