Party Weekend

by Vic Zast

The weekend was party weekend in Saratoga Springs, NY.  You could spend every waking minute of your evenings at somebody else’s house, drinking in their champagne, eating lollipop lamb chops and hobnobbing with someone of status.  For party-goers still standing at the end of it, there was a turf writer’s film about four buddies who drove to the Arctic Circle to play golf at midnight at the Film Forum called Our Longest Drive and Bob Dylan, Wilco and My Morning Jacket at SPAC.  Both entertainment offerings, it seems, were for people of discerning tastes and eclectic curiosities.

Earlier in the day at the racecourse, it was hats’ on at the “Hat’s Off to Saratoga” hat contest.  Participants were more interested in fashion than horse racing, as several hundred women lined up beneath the clubhouse stands to wait for their name to be called and then walked past the judges in the hope that they’d be looked upon kindly. The theme of this year’s competition was altered to fit the 150th Anniversary theme.  Only hats with a Victorian spin were considered. Hometown girl Kathleen Christopher won top prize in the most coveted category called “Uniquely Saratoga.”

Several hundred people lined up to have their hats judged in the 22nd annual 'Hat's Off to Saratoga' hat contest.

Annmarie Mitchell of Stillwater, NY wore a 150th Anniversary cake hat, which she said took her the winter to make.

In addition to the hat contest, there was time to get a few races off. It’s not often that a $25,000 claiming horse comes out of the Starlight Racing stables to run at the Spa.  Vinny Goodtimes at 3-5 beat a weak field going 1 1/16 miles on the turf in the sixth race, including two steeplechase jumpers. The three-year-old gelding by Stormy Atlantic was haltered by Patrick Quick for the Paradise Farms Corp. after he triumphed.

Starlight’s big moment was to come in the $200,000 feature – the 99th Sanford Stakes (gr. II) for two-year-olds.  The stable’s All in Blue took to the post with the high expectations of his owners but encountered more trouble than a married man with lipstick on his collar.  NY-Bred Wired Bryan, another of Stormy Atlantic’s progeny, won. The victory, only the third in Irish-born trainer Michael Dilger’s career, came in his first stakes race and first race at Saratoga. He is a protégé of Todd Pletcher.  The Sanford’s six horses had triumphed in nine of the ten previous races they ran in.

Longshot winners of the equine variety dominated the rest of the card.  The best was Galiani in the tenth race, paying $141.50 to win.  But who would sneer at Rapscallion ($31.00) in the second, Marriedtothemusic ($19.80) in the third, Happy Fella ($58.50) in the fifth and Strong Impact ($24.40) in the eighth?

John Imbriale called the races as Tom Durkin was persona in absentia. 

Vic Zast has attended the races at Saratoga for 49 straight summers. He is the author of the prize-winning book The History and Art of 25 Travers.

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