Thursdays have become known as Steeplechase Days. But the racetrack tried something new this Thursday that fell flat on its face.
The inaugural International Day, a promotional event aimed to replace and expand on the upbeat Irish Day, was a snoozer. Imagine belly dancers instead of cute little girls in bubbly wigs tapping in step with music to which you can clap your hands. There were nationalities other than Irish represented but they hardly had the same kind of connection to the sport or enabled people to pretend as if it was St. Patrick’s Day, a time for kicking up your heels and having fun.
Fans snapping shots of the belly dancers from Nataraja Dance Company of Clifton Park, NY.
Bagpiper Bill Munro, representing the Schenectady Pipe Band, played an American set in which "Do Your Ears Hang Low," a song heard every afternoon in the streets of Saratoga Springs from an ice cream truck.
One can applaud the authorities for attempting to establish the racecourse’s least appealing area as someplace to explore by situating the activities tent at the far north end of the grandstand. But hosting the countries of Armenia, India, Ireland, Italy, Taiwan and the Ukraine there didn’t whet the appetites of visitors for the paltry offerings that the constituents manning the booths of these countries had to offer.
Flags of countries represented in the International Day festivities tent have few people to salute them.
It was humid and overcast when the races began. Take Her Tothe Top, trained by Jack Fisher, won the $75,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps Handicap over hurdles. Fisher’s having an excellent meet. But there was an accident that resulted that put one jockey in Saratoga Hospital for a possible concussion. Archibald Kingsley Jr. was unseated when his mount, Hunter Forward, failed to clear the third fence. Two other horses left the course before attempting the ninth fence in the 2 1/16 mile race.
Jockey Joe Rocco, Jr., who like Fisher seems to be enjoying it here, rode the winner of the second race. Once the vet scratched Point Taken, there were only four horses remaining to run in race three. Speightcity finished last, 35 lengths behind. Windswept, a bay son of Arch, won the 1 1/8 allowance optional claimer event on the dirt with Jose Lezcano aboard.
Lezcano won the sixth, named the $80,000 International Day purse, too. Fittingly, he rode Kanturk Kid, a horse named after a town in the northwest of County Cork, Ireland trained by Kathleen O’Connell. Javier Castellano, a prior seasonal Saratoga champion, was aboard the winners of the fourth, fifth and ninth.
The ninth, by the way, was another of those New York Stallion Series stakes – this one in the “Statue of Liberty Division.” Frosty Bay, a dark bay 3-year-old filly by Frost Giant, finished fastest in the $100,000 race. The skies opened up in a downpour for the eighth leaving the turf course in a yielding condition. Race caller Tom Durkin wasn’t able to call Frosty Bay home. He left the booth early for SPAC to narrate a special segment performed by guest conductor Keith Lockhart and the Philadelphia Orchestra to honor the 150th Anniversary of horse racing.
Dennis Gort of Delmar, NY earned the $100,000 top prize with his final bet of the two-day Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship being held in The Carousel.
Vic Zast has attended the races in Saratoga for 49 straight summers. He’s of an Eastern European ancestry that wasn’t represented at International Day.