NYRA held two off-campus gatherings this week – the first which was billed as a public forum and the second a board meeting. It was the first opportunity for new CEO Chris Kay to present what he’s done in his first 60 days.
Despite his non-racing background, Kay seems to indicate that he’s cut from the same cloth as his predecessors, guys who always placed profits before pleasure. Locals cringed when the franchise’s leader dismissed their concerns that the meet runs too long with a reply that was rooted in bean-counting. Hope existed that Kay, an outsider, would bring change. But he’s listening too much to the left-brained staff he inherited. Beware of a longer season.
Ushers are serving as bean counters for Chris Kay, keeping track of fluctuating attendance during the long afternoons. Kay is hinting that there are even more races in Saratoga's future.
Two jump races initiated Thursday’s 11-race program. The first, won by Bluegrass Summer, took on noteworthy consequences when Constant Contact dumped his rider and Call Me Sonny, after hitting the support railing of a hurdle on the backstretch, knocked another railing off its moorings on the next hurdle trying to squeeze through a hole that didn’t exist.
The second race was a $75,000 stakes called the Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords. Mrs. Jeffords had her own name. But, unless you knew her personally, no one knew what it was. The winner, British-born The Grey Express, was conditioned for the 2 1/16 mile race by Hall of Fame trainer Janet Elliot, who was wearing a neck brace.
Paddock analyst Maggie Wolfendale, dressed in a tempting off-the shoulder top that you don’t see very often before cocktails, worked the jump races with steeplechase expert Joe Clancy from the NYRA handicapper’s kiosk instead of somewhere off to the side where she usually does. She made up only a few words (e.g. “appeasing to the eye”) in a flattering stint reminiscent of Jan Rushton.
Sheryl Schwartz, aka Mrs. Barry K Schwartz, the owner of Little Rocket – the third race’s fastest competitor – brought pizzazz into the winner’s circle, as well as the 21st century, by wearing tight black cropped leggings and a leopard print tunic and fabulous earrings. Mike Luzzi rode his first winner since returning to riding last week after being injured in May.
Then things reverted to ridiculous. A guy from Everything’s Cricket Racing, the stable that owns Jess Not Jesse, winner of the sixth race, wore a shirt that looked just like the jockey’s silks – only bigger, much bigger and uglier.
The $300,000 With Anticipation (gr. II) has a brief but successful history. Horses that have run up the track have become serious Triple Crown contenders. It’s your guess if the winner Bashart will travel in that direction. But the two-year-old son of War Front made his mark at Saratoga. It was his second win here.
Don’t be shocked if trainer Mike Maker, with 11 winners at the meet, wins for the first time on dirt in Friday’s third race, a seven-furlong sprint that brings Saginaw up against Caixa Eletronica, two horses with a record of 43 victories in 103 starts. He’ll saddle Bernie the Maestro. Friday’s card is a twilight event, with a first post at 2:30 PM.
Vic Zast has attended the races at Saratoga for 49 straight seasons.