The best action of the day began in a cool, fan-packed room where about a dozen and a half heroes of the sport gathered to welcome six more to their circle. Calvin Borel and five horses, including Invasor - a Horse of the Year in three countries and a champion on three continents, became new members in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
The five horses were the most horses honored in one year in nearly 60 years. Two horses – McDynamo and Tuscalee - were steeplechase stars. The other horses – Lure and Housebuster - were stars on the flat. August Belmont II and Paul Mellon were enshrined as the Hall of Fame’s first-ever Pillars of the Turf – a new category.
Borel mentioned how proud he would be if his mom and dad, both gone, were to see him on the stage, as he accepted his blue jacket. All racing fandom can recall the cold-blooded Cajun urging the game Rachel Alexandra to keep running so not to be caught in an historic 2009 Woodward Stakes (gr. I). His acceptance speech was a plain-spoken speech, reminiscent of the one Earlie Fires delivered in 2001 – a reminder that hard work can take you far provided you have friends and family that will help you. Hall of Fame trainer Carl Nafzger honored the three-time Kentucky Derby-winning rider with a short, sweet introduction.
If the jacket fits, wear it.
Calvin Borel is all smiles at Hall ceremony.
A slimmed-down Tom Durkin was smooth as silicone as master of ceremonies. Nonetheless, the program ran long. There’s no Academy Awards orchestra to prompt presenters and recipients to shorten their remarks and a lot is stuffed in the hour and half that’s allotted. Thankfully, there was no keynote speaker – a hit and miss proposition anyhow.
NYRA’s been saying that the weather had been unseasonably hot for the opening three days and that forecasts of rain by local meteorologists were dissuading attendance. Well, for the first time in the meet, the excuse was legitimate. The rains came at 3:30 AM and continued ad nauseam, first as a deluge and then as trickle. Three fingers by bartender’s standards fell on the turf course and turned it from yielding to unusable. The main track was sloppy.
Scratches decimated the program. Only five horses ran in the first and third; only six in the second, fourth, seventh, ninth and tenth. Thanks to a ground-saving ride by last summer’s Hall of Fame inductee John Velazquez, Notacatbutallama won the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. III) at 1 1/8 miles on the main dreck. He beat only four.
Borel will appear at the Racing Museum on Saturday from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM to sign posters designed by the Travers Stakes (gr. I) artist Greg Montgomery. Proceeds go to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
Poster that Borel will sign at Museum.
Miranda Prather of Middletown, MD had her suggested name selected for the 150th Anniversary horse sculpture that stands in the clubhouse entrance and will be awarded lunch for two and a tour of the racecourse. The name of the sculpture is SPAtacular.
Vic Zast has attended the races at Saratoga for 49 straight summers. He wrote The History and Art of 25 Travers, in which many of Montgomery’s posters are portrayed.