History Built

Building a viewing stand on the sleepy side of Saratoga Racecourse is the same as having a neighbor move in.  That’s exactly, in fact, what has happened. 

Beginning Saturday, for the first time in over 10 years, people without backstretch credentials will be permitted at least limited access to see the workouts at Oklahoma.  They can watch horses work out on the main track in the Clubhouse, where breakfast is served.  But now they’ll be able to cross Union Avenue and engage in the tradition differently – from atop a Victorian-designed replica of a judge’s stand that was lost in a storm and never replaced.

Paul Roberts, the British historian who’s been working to bring architectural improvements to New York Racing Association racetracks for nearly a decade said at the ribbon cutting, “NYRA wanted a physical memorial to the 150th anniversary celebration and the viewing stand will serve as a wonderful piece in a historic place.” 

A radiant Marylou Whitney, attired in a lovely citrine suit, natural straw flowered hat, pearl necklace and pearl and diamond earrings, teased her admirers with a little white lie. “It’s where I stand in the morning when I watch the horses,” she said.

Difficult to say which was prettier - Marylou Whitney and husband John Hendrickson or the new Whitney viewing stand.

Fittingly, the afternoon’s feature race was the John Morrissey Stakes.  Morrissey, a prize fighter and hack politician, devised the idea of a four-day meet within feet of the new structure.  A prize fighter extraordinaire in the fashion of Morrissey, the 7-year-old gelding Saginaw defended his title over only three rivals including Coach Bill Purcell’s Saratoga Snacks. The Drawing Away Stable, led by Sandy Levine, came en masse to the winner’s circle.  They ate turkey dinner with the trimmings at Winslow’s on Wednesday.

John Morrissey Stakes repeat winner Saginaw has now triumphed 21 times - an enviable record.

The co-feature was a 2 1/16 miles steeplechase – the Grade 1, $100,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Stakes.  A field of seven jumpers took off at around 1:30 PM, not at 1:00 as they usually do, and all seven came back without falling.  For the record and to the benefit of Mrs. S.K. Johnston, Jr.’s bank account, Mr. Hot Stuff, with Paddy Young aboard, came back fastest.  He’s a 7-year-old bay gelding by Tiznow that Jack Fisher trains.  Fisher trained the horses that won both ends of the Daily Double. 

The yearlings have moved into their barns between George St. and Madison.  The residents on the “doc block” of 5th Avenue heard them neighing at 5:30 AM. Farmers are familiar with an equine alarm clock.  But city folks aren’t.  The sound’s so enchanting – like ducks to a fisherman, only shrill like a trumpet.

Fasig-Tipton Co. will host two evenings of auctions on Monday and Tuesday.  But the fun begins way before then.  Equine Advocates held its annual fundraiser on Thursday at the Saratoga Springs City Center in hope of snagging buyers, consigners, head-turners and vets who’ve arrived early.

Vic Zast has attended the races at Saratoga for 49 straight summers.  He saw the guy in a kilt in the walking ring but it was too wet to trek over to meet him.

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