Hot Start

Steam began rising from sidewalks as street lamps dimmed with the dawning of opening day. Dogs were walking their people by 6:00 AM. The streets emptied of canines and humans two hours later, the temperatures too high for staying outside. Activity ceased at Oklahoma, as if a neutron bomb struck.

New NYRA CEO Chris Kay didn’t deserve such a hellish start. On Wednesday, he first faced the questions of a dubious press about running on a day this hot and he didn’t have much personal experience to call upon. By Thursday, all he had to depend on was a phalanx of vets at the ready, buckets of water and hoses to cool the runners down, 50-pound bags of ice for the patrons and Mother Nature’s good graces.

Except for a hitch here and there, the day went swimmingly well for nearly 22,000 people. An elderly woman gave into the heat going home after the fifth race and left by an ambulance. But Pat Taney of Troy, NY had two battery-powered fans that kept him and his family of eight cool. “I bought two of them in case the batteries ran out,” Taney boasted. 


Pat Taney of Troy, NY uses a battery-powered fan to keep cool in the backyard.

Another man in the backyard - Mike Dack of Waterford, NY - said, “Missing today never entered my mind. We have plenty of water and adult beverages.”  Dack led a posse of squatters that sat under a banner that read “Run for the Tables.”


A traditions is maintained despite sweltering heat, as group of friends make the "Run for the Tables."

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez got off to a hot start, booting home two odds-on favorites in the first four races.  Just the other evening at the Horse Racing Hall of Fame’s annual preview event, Velazquez explained his success by saying it’s owed to good horses.  He left no doubt about that.

Stopchargingmaria, a dark bay juvenile filly from Mike Repole’s powerful string, won for Johnny V in an $80,000 maiden special weights 5 ½-furlong race at odds of 1-2.  Trainer Todd Pletcher remarked, “It looked like she did everything the same as she had in the morning,” which explained the short price.

A race later, trainer David Donk presented Velazquez with Hessonite, 3-5 as the winner of the $100,000 On the Bus Stakes restricted to NY-Bred fillies and mares. She won handily.  Shakeira was checked badly. An inquiry ensued. It resulted in nothing.

To prove he can win with any kind, Velazquez rode a third winner, the Bill Mott-trained 11-1 New Line to victory in the seventh race. Michael Dubb, who is expected to challenge Repole for the meet’s leading owner distinction, notched The Gr.111 James Marvin with Sage Valley.

Brazen Persuasion and Bahnah finished in a dead heat in the Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III) for two-year-old  fillies.

On a day such as this, a dead heat was destined.


Ellie Brown, 14, of New York, NY hands over bottles of water for $1 apiece to two thirsty customers on East Avenue as her business partner Alison Genevitch, 15, of Saratoga Springs, NY looks on.

Vic Zast has attended the races at Saratoga for 49 straight summers. In addition to these daily musings, he is posting real-time photos as viczast on Instagram.

1 Comment

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Michael Finneran STL Mo

Dear Mr. Zast:  As a lifelong horse racing fan, I have been fortunate to visit many of the finest racing facilities in North America, and a few in England, too.  Saratoga, unfortunately, is not yet among them, but, an extended visit some August is high on my list of things to do.  In the meantime, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy keeping up with the highights of the meet, both on-track and on, through your "Saratoga Diary" on Bloodhorse.com.  I look forward to it daily during every Saratoga meeting.  All the best!

21 Jul 2013 3:40 PM

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