by Vic Zast
The annual one-day fly hatching season came to an end with nightfall on Saturday. Leaving the track was like battling locust. The critters were pesky as mosquitoes in the Yukon as they flew into your hair and your mouth. They disoriented you.
High clouds through which you could see the sun if you really tried was the weather of the day Sunday. It was unseasonably cool, as it’s been most of the meet. But no one complained. More than 51,000 fans poured through the gates after paying $3, encouraged by the season’s third giveaway.
The racecourse presented the fans with the kind of giveaway NYRA should give away every time – a handsome, practical ball cap that advertises Saratoga each time it’s worn. Apparel, umbrellas, blankets and tote bags are good items, too. But, please no more with the knick-knacks that gather dust or the tricked-up contraptions that require instructions to use.
The cap was black with a simple yellow and red 150th Year Anniversary badge and red grommets.
A different kind of favorite won the opener. Carpetbagger jockey Mike Smith guided Art of the Game from gate to wire for a popular victory. Trainer Nick Zito gave him the leg up for owner Richard Pell. Smith won with nothing more all day.
The next chalk to win was Bashart. He got the job done in the fifth. A two-year-old bay colt by War Front, Bashart didn’t win as easily as expected. Nevertheless, he swung three wide at the top of the stretch from his drafting position, took the lead by a length and kept going until a pursuer ran out of ground. John Velazquez timed the happy ending for Todd Pletcher.
The two closest races were the seventh and the eighth. Neck of the Moon wrung a victory out of the seventh by a neck. Nellie Cashman won the eighth by a nose, or at least that’s how it appeared for awhile. After five minutes of judges’ deliberations, the daughter of Mineshaft was brought down and placed third. This unfortunate turn of events profited Rosie Napravnik, whose mount Caroline Thomas was moved up to first.
The eighth race was the Gr. II Lake Placid Stakes – a tedious 1 1/8 miles of Mellon Course. The loss for Nellie Cashman’s connections, especially jockey Forest Boyce, must have been very tough to take. Boyce’s transgression wasn’t especially flagrant, but she did interfere with the third horse and denied her a shot at the first. Young Boyce, a top rider on the Maryland/Virginia circuit, will ride again and win. She can ask Napravnik what that’s all about.
The ninth race was named the Coach Ray Waldron purse and members of the beloved man’s family crowded the winner’s circle like a team huddling before a game.
Waldron coached for 40 years in Saratoga Springs but found time to view more than 1000 horse races.
Seven of the 11 races were run on turf. This morning’s walking tour of North Broadway conducted by the Saratoga Springs Historic Preservation Society ran long, too.
The oldest house on North Broadway is still one of its finest.
Vic Zast has attended the races at Saratoga for 49 straight summers. He’s a friend of Brian Waldron, Coach Ray’s son, a caterer in town.