Veteran Days

The public may not know how well new NYRA CEO Chris Kay will do in leading the franchise toward an exciting new future, but by now it has a good read on how often he’ll preside at a ceremony.  Kay seems to enjoy the job of showering praise and leveling platitudes.  He has but one speech and it goes something like this – “On behalf of the men and women of the New York Racing Association, we are pleased to be honoring you.”

Honoring people is a Saratoga tradition more secure than the Travers Stakes (gr. I).  To wit, veterans and active duty service personnel will be honored on Wednesday with free admission and two ceremonies – one when the National Anthem is sung and another that will be organized in the winner’s circle following the Daily Double.  Men and women in uniform – well, in ball caps with military insignia, at least – will dress up the crowd. It’s a good thing.

Two veterans of clubhouse service, Dave Smith and Fred Quackenbush, wear caps that honor veterans of military service.

America’s servicemen and women should add to the track’s dwindling body count, which on Monday was announced as 10,300.  At least 3000 of the bodies were invisible.  It’s too bad because the 10-race program was strong with several wallet-padding betting opportunities, especially in the middle races. 

History of sorts was made.  Go Unbridled posted her second consecutive Saratoga Dew Stakes victory for 84-year-old Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen “The Chief” Jerkens.  Raced caller Tom Durkin announced, “Allen Jerkens has been winning races at this racetrack since Harry Truman was President of the United States.”  Now, there’s another definition of veteran.

Allen Jerkens (left), his wife, Elisabeth, and jockey Junior Alvarado accept the winning trophy for the Saratoga Dew Stakes. Credit: NYRA/Adam Coglianese.

“Take the concrete out of the track,” a fan in the back row of Section J shouted, as Spring to the Sky flashed to a narrow victory in a 5 ½ furlong dash on the grass to get things started.  The brown colt by Langfhur addressed fractions of :21.15 and :43.11 to post a final time of 1:00.81.

Who doesn’t bet a 4-1 Todd Pletcher-trained filly in her maiden start?  The trainer wins 32% of the time with this type.  The answer, of course, is the Aussie Ian Wilkes, a protégé of Carl Nafzger.  Wilkes saddled Ocean Boulevard to beat Domino Derval in the second race.  Perhaps the name Domino Derval was too much burden to overcome for the second place horse.

Repole Stable’s $350,000 gelding by Bernardini was claimed for $20,000 from the fifth race.  The financial loss doesn’t seem as bad as it sounds.  So Outspoken won $33,000 over his latest two starts and picked up another $10,000 for finishing third in the race he was haltered.  Pletcher obviously knew So Outspoken was worth only 1/7 of his purchase price.

In the next race, Repole lost another horse via the claiming route. This one, costing only $140,000 at auction, went for $45,000.  Sneaky Blowout, a son of Lawyer Ron, ran well in defeat, taking a second to Dedicated Deal.

Anticipating that the fans would remove the ferns from the upper Carousel on the day that the meet ended, management had the florists remove them early.

There have been complaints that the Travers canoe in the lake can’t be seen from the cheap seats.

The Travers canoe at the side of the infield lake in which it is moored on race days.

Vic Zast is a 49-year veteran of the races at Saratoga.  He is a seven-year veteran of the Saratoga Diary at

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