University of Lukas

Party people who witnessed the last cocktails poured in the Caroline St. bars must have loved that some pilot in a Piper Cub airplane was buzzing the skies above Saratoga Racecourse at 6:00 AM.  Whoever scheduled the noisy reconnaissance had no knowledge that horseplayers asleep in their beds would soon be handicapping a 14-race card and that they needed their rest.

Peace was to be found among the 47,597 fans at the queen mother of all racecourses, where the pace was relatively slow compared to the throng that was gathered.  Jack Spagnola of Schodack, NY escorted his family of five through the Union Avenue gates at about 12:35 PM, an hour after the first race was run.  “I didn’t realize that they were starting so early,” Spagnola said. “What’s the reason for that?” he asked.

Fans jammed the concourse.

Sam the Bugler Grossman missed the day of calling the horse to the post entirely. He was set down by the chief steward in charge of good behavior, NYRA CEO Chris Kay, for incurring a DUI arrest at 1:30 AM.  Bethanny Dixon of Baltimore, MD and Ryan Resky of New York, NY were called in to play their musical breathalyzers without him.

Bugle players Ryan Resky and Bethanny Dixon.

The way things have been going, if you don’t bet a horse with a kitten name when in a turf race, you are squandering a winning opportunity.  The third race, won by Bobby’s Kitten, a Ken and Sarah Ramsey two-year-old colt, performed in the manner of future greatness.  He outclassed his rivals by a comfortable margin on the backstretch, eased a bit on the far turn and ignited the afterburners in the homestretch.

Jockey Jose Ortiz was the replacement for Joel Rosario on the winner.  Rosario’s tumble from the saddle on the day before proved a costly proposition for the foot-injured rider.  In addition to Bobby’s Kitten, Mike Smith triumphed with Celebrated Talent in the second and David Cohen with Frac Daddy in the eighth, two additional horses he was scheduled to ride.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer brought a very fine filly with him from Del Mar.  Sweet Lulu remained four-for-four perfect following the Grade I Test Stakes.  She battled back after being headed at the 1/16 pole.  Three longshots shocked the odds board, producing a $16,639.00 trifecta, in the King’s Bishop (gr. I), as the unlikely winner Capo Bastone, trained by Todd Pletcher, produced an electrifying run.

For all that Pletcher has learned from D. Wayne Lukas, Saratoga’s leading trainer may still have one lesson remaining.  The summa cum laude graduate of the University of Lukas entered the Travers with two short-priced horses and his professor entered a horse that few people expected to triumph.

The lesson learned is that a person must come to realize that hope can lead to the wildest dreams.  Will Take Charge, trained by Lukas, won the 144th Travers by a nose from 31-1 Moreno at 9-1.  It was only the second winner Lukas has had at the meet.  The 21-year-old Panamanian Luis Saez had the ride.

Travers program has an historic look.

Fans hold cameras up at start of 144th Travers.

The game of golf was represented at the festivities by two of its biggest stars.  Arnold Palmer and the producer of Golf Channel’s Our Longest Drive were in attendance.

Vic Zast has attended the races at Saratoga for 49 straight summers. He wrote the award-winning book The History and Art of 25 Travers.

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