After 28 years of lending a public face to the Travers Stakes with his iconic posters, exile is the thanks Greg Montgomery is getting from NYRA. The NYRA hospitality department reportedly has entered into some contracts with Centerplate, the food service company it uses, and with seven different artists, situated near the Union Avenue entrance, that prohibits Montgomery from setting up shop on the concourse where his thousands of fans can find him.
Give props to the Broadway retailer Impressions for clearing some space for Montgomery at its racecourse location in the Boutiques at the Grandstand. The shop isn’t easy to find. But you’ll get there eventually. Montgomery’s work has done more for stamping the Midsummer Derby with a classy look than anything that’s ever been done, and some one-dimensional thinking has caused it, alas, to be hidden.
For the last 28 years, Greg Montgomery was out in the open with his Travers Stakes posters.
Regarding additional behind-the-scenes goings-on, ushers were asked to count the people in the reserved seats during each race for the rest of the meet. They are counting the people who are standing behind the seats, too. The exercise no doubt is to find out how much is too much in the course of the day and how the scheduling of racing should change. Seems like a job that could be out-sourced to unemployed teens. Moreover, with 10 more days of the assignment to go, the count has already turned into an estimate.
On the racetrack, Italian Wedding, an eight-year-old gelded son of Alphabet Soup, was declared the winner of the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Steeplechase Cup (gr. I) after racing 2 3/8 miles and jumping a whole lot of fences en route. Only four trainers saddled the nine horses that ran. With four horses in the race, Jonathan Sheppard was likeliest to saddle the winner, and he did.
For all that the New York Turf Writers represent as an organization today the race should have been called the New York Turf Writers Memorial Steeplechase Cup. It seems like every steeplechase race is a memorial to someone. As the underwriters of Saratoga’s biggest and most lavish parties in its prime, the storied organization became non-existent a few years ago. But rumors persist that a revival is near.
A Group I winner in his native Brazil, Vitoria Olimpica, made his dirt track debut in the third race a winning one. Trainer Todd Pletcher knew that his horse would be up to it. The race was the $100,000 Alydar Stakes at 1 1/8 miles. Following that, a first-time starter named Sandcat, a bay colt by D’wildcat, made a daring run along the rail to capture the fourth race.
Former child TV star David Cassidy, who has raced NY-Breds, made the funniest crack of the season when arrested for drunken driving – no laughing matter. Upon noticing the name Tom Jones written on the badge of the arresting officer, Cassidy asked “What’s up, pussycat?” when told to present his license.
Vic Zast has attended the races at Saratoga for 49 straight summers. He co-authored the award-winning book “The History and Art of 25 Travers” with Greg Montgomery.