Six Fingers Up

Early Sunday morning, in lieu of the morning workouts, three turf writers introduced a maiden first-time golfer named Micah to words that they wouldn’t dare use in their columns.  The lesson in blue language took place at the Saratoga Spa Golf Course.

Early morning on the Spa Gold Course is where you'll find turf writers now.

Photo by Vic Zast

In recent years, the Spa course, as a result of the massive removal of trees, has improved in the quality of the greens and the tee boxes to the point that players must think seriously about the choice between paying nearly $200 plus cart to golf at Saratoga National or $44 including cart there.

Incidentally, the golf course amenities are improving while the racecourse amenities are regressing.  Bill Richardson, the Director of Golf, knows what it takes to make a business go.  If, for example, a round of golf required a public address system, he’d install one that works.

Regardless, except for the occasional $2 Nassau and $1 a yard skins game, you can’t bet on the links with the same vigor as you can on the horses.  If there’s one area in which Saratoga has thrived it’s in handle.  Contributing mightily to the meet’s revenue production are well-balanced fields in which longshots have as much chance as favorites.  On the second last day of the meet, the toteboard promoted exceptional value.  Nearly $18 million was wagered.

Ticket stub fashion.
Photo by Vic Zast

A fleece blanket giveaway inflated attendance to 59,187.  Mike Iovino of Schenectady, N.Y. passed through the turnstiles 20 times to stockpile a load, which should tell you a thing or two about the real count.  “You can buy one from me on eBay for $15,” he joked.  He was charging triple the price for which they are selling now.

Mike Iovino with his stash of fleece blankets in the backyard.
Photo by Vic Zast

The heavily-favored Teen Pauline came a cropper in the 121st running of the $300,000 Spinaway Stakes (gr. I). Stonestreet’s juvenile miss set a track record in her first start but couldn’t hang on to victory in her second. Maggi Moss’s So Many Ways remained undefeated by beating Sweet Shirley Mae to the finish line.

Right before the Spinaway, jockey Ramon Dominguez rode Unbridled Command to victory in the 1 1/8 miles Saranac (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies.  In winning the Saranac, Dominguez registered his sixth victory, breaking the record of 66 wins in a Saratoga meet held by John R. Velazquez. Later, the NYRA publicity department let it be known that Dominguez really broke the record a race earlier.  It was all very confusing.

Dominguez faced the cameras with six fingers up like a contestant on American Idol.  Once photographers snapped their shots, he made two quick signs of the cross and dismounted. Javier Castellano must ride 17 winners on the closing day card to tie him for the jockey title.  It’s possible, given the lengthy programs that director of racing P.J. Campo has written.  But not likely.

Boredom caused the white cap in Section E of the clubhouse to fashion hats from the ticket stubs she collected when seating folks.

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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