Only one week of Thoroughbred racing remains and for the thousands of visitors who descended on Saratoga Springs, NY for the sport, the 150th season has practically ended. After waiting so long through the build-up, Saturday’s Travers, with its startling and wan denouement, was justifiable cause for a hangover. Pass the aspirin, please.
On Sunday morning, one sensed an unusual vibe in the air, a kind of don’t talk too loudly or you’re likely to wake me mentally. Renters are gathering their things and surrendering their homes to their actual owners. At Five Points Grocery, the Sunday New York Times doesn’t disappear from the shelf before you can get there to buy one. Summer’s having its last gasp - transformation.
The morning activity is slowing down at Five Points Grocery.
Except for temps in the 40s from sunset to dawn, these upcoming days will be dog days – at least in the size of the crowds. Attendance below 10,000 people will be the new normal. Sunday’s program, with less than a handful of races worth watching, was a precursor of the less than stellar competition to come on Wednesday through Friday.
Bad racing luck struck Starlight Racing with another of its promising two-year-olds. In the day’s second race, Potosi’s Silver swerved sharply right from the gate, looked okay for awhile as she followed the pace and then was reigned in at the rail as the winner kept on. The winner was Gracer, a filly with one failed attempt to her credit. Credit jockey Joe Rocco, Jr. for nifty work and surviving the inquiry.
After the fourth race, NYRA honored retired jockey Ramon Dominguez in a ceremony that lasted as long as his riding career. Keith Chamblin of the NTRA gave Dominguez his Eclipse Award and Richie Migliore presented him with the Mike Venezia Award. The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund grew by $15,000, as NYRA CEO Chris Kay handed Dominguez one of those checks made for giants.
Dominguez receives a big check for PDJF. Credit: Adam Coglianese, NYRA
Favorites won the first seven races and it began to look as if they might sweep all 11. Then it happened. Zimzay upset the 4-5 Hillhouse High, paying $41.80, in the eighth race.
Gentlemen’s Kitten nipped Share Out at the wire in the ninth race. Two tragic accidents occurred – the first on the backstretch where the frontrunner Sarava's Dancer snapped his leg and then on the final turn where Kris Royal stumbled. Both horses were euthanized. The impact of these incidents, now numbering four, is being felt like a punch in the stomach.
Cal-based jockey Mike Smith was all smiles in the winner’s circle a race later aboard Royal Delta. The champion mare ran away with the Grade I $600,000 Personal Ensign Invitational. The Hall of Fame rider took the Bill Mott-trained runner to the lead midway on the backstretch and didn’t seem to care that she sped six furlongs in 1:10.76 even though she had nine furlongs to cover overall.
Cross Traffic, Mucho Macho Man and Shanghai Bobby registered good morning workouts.
Vic Zast has attended the races at Saratoga for 49 straight summers.