by Vic Zast
Someone who knows more about epiphanies can perhaps explain why The Jockey Club has risen from its marketing doldrums. Harvey Pack, the wise-aleck horse racing color man, used to joke that the organization’s Round Table Conference, held on Sunday for the 61st time, was for squares that couldn’t excite coffee. But earlier this week the announcement came out that a deal has been struck to televise ten days of horse racing on the new Fox Sports 1 network. And, no doubt, more in terms of reaching out to the public is likely. America’s Best Racing is building.
Speaking of America’s best racing, Saratoga on this generously accommodating weekend is where you would find it. Spinners arrived early to receive a free Fourstardave bobblehead doll with their paid admission. The bobblehead is a cheap figurine with the body of an action figure and a horse’s head half the size of its body, which, unfortunately, means twice the size of normal. But there you have it.
Sketchy Fourstardave bobblehead dolls present questionable fan appeal.
A couple venerable stakes races for two-year-olds – the 97th Adirondack Stakes (gr. II) for fillies and the 108th Special (gr. II) were run back to back. A life-ending injury to Charmed Hour made the former an occasion that most people would prefer to forget than remember. It cast a pall on the latter.
John Velazquez, who rode five winners and, unfortunately, the stricken filly in the previous race, summoned his fortitude to monitor Corfu through a frantic half mile plus a very stubborn finish in the Special. The Malibu Moon colt held Wired Bryan safely. Juveniles, not quite ready for primetime, competed in the sixth race. We Miss Artie from the Ken and Sarah Ramsey collection of high quality runners won a 1 1/16 miles maiden race on the Mellon Turf Course. So what else is new?
By the way, the question of which is Saratoga Springs’ finest restaurant hasn’t been answered. But the field of possible answers has grown by one. A restaurateur can’t import N. Michigan Avenue, Melrose Avenue or Manhattan cuisine and sophistication to restaurants that stay busy just six months a year, even if you’re the best of chefs. But Javier’s, created by the former maitre d’ of New York’s famed River Café – a recipient of a Michelin star – is attempting that.
After a starter of tempura veal sweetbreads or “Petrossian” caviar ($85), try the Branzino with fresh English peas or halibut with scallion rice at Javier Rodriguez’s new “Nuevo Latino” restaurant on Maple. The wait staff is a blur, moving about in the background like the cast of The West Wing and, despite the activity, the food presentation can take as long as Congress. Yet, the wait is worthwhile – so believes a young, hip local crowd, anyway. Visiting horsemen haven’t seemed to have discovered it.
Chef Brian Bowden and restaurateur Javier Rodriguez at Javier's
Jockey karaoke to benefit Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund will bring down the curtain for week four at Vapor tonight.
Vic Zast has attended the races at Saratoga for 49 straight summers.