Well, sort of, in a limited sort of pre-meet way. On Sunday, Saratoga Race Course opened to the public for its annual open house; geared towards families, the day featured face painting, pony rides, and inflatables for the kids, while adults could partake of a variety of local food products. Musicians performed throughout the day, and five non-wagering steeplechase events took place.
The day was gorgeous, a welcome break from the intense heat and humidity of last week, and the crowd turned out accordingly. While at 12:30 a number of tables in the backyard were available, both the parking lot and clubhouse were packed, and the line for pony rides would put the betting lines on Travers Day to shame.
2006 Kentucky Derby contender Steppenwolfer was on the grounds (“And Steppenwolfer gets his motor running!” Tom Durkin memorably called in the Belmont) in his new career as a steeplechaser; making his third start over the jumps, he hit the board for the first time, finishing third.
Construction continues—here, New York City favorites Blue Smoke and the Shake Shack will set up shop…
…while the paddock tent will be replaced with the Paddock Bar, which will remain open after the races. Is it bad that among what I am most anticipating about this summer’s meet is my first drink in this spot?
And speaking of first drinks, I had mine at the track yesterday—Yuengling and Coors Light could be had for the low, low price of $1.75, with benefits going to the Beagle School; as a fellow educator, I felt something of an obligation to support the cause, so I forced myself to contribute.
In other Spa drinking news, the bar on the second floor of the clubhouse has been taken over by Woodford Reserve, and a variety of bourbon drinks will be on offer. I approve.
The open house kicks off a week of pre-meet events, highlighted by Thursday’s grand opening of Old Friends at Cabin Creek: the Bobby Frankel Division. The home of such New York favorites as Will’s Way, Thunder Rumble, and Cool N Collective will be dedicated at 4:00; the farm will be open at 3:00 that day to visitors. On Saturday evening, Old Friends will host a cocktail party/fundraiser at the Washington Inn. Tickets are $50. Other events are planned as well; check out the Old Friends website for more information.
Speaking of Old Friends, thanks to Thoroughbred Times for the opportunity to write about Thoroughbred retirement following the death of Black Tie Affair a couple of weeks ago. My commentary is here.
Also scheduled for Thursday is the annual Spa meeting preview at the National Racing Museum; it begins at 7:00 in the Hall of Fame. This year’s panel of speakers includes Linda Rice, winner of the 2009 Saratoga training title; Charlie Hayward, NYRA president; Richard Migliore, recently retired jockey; P.J. Campo, NYRA racing secretary; and Michael Veitch, turf writer and historian.
Not enough racing for you? Check out NPR’s piece on Zenyatta from last Saturday (and ignore Laura Hillenbrand’s mistake about Cigar’s consecutive win streak), and this article on the perils of children gambling from the Times Union (with thanks to Jessica Chapel for first posting about it). Contrast its perspective with this from the 2005 Saratogian, which offers a different opinion:
Lauren Giroux, who grew up in Saratoga, brought her boys from Maryland to see the races. She placed bets for all three of them and used the opportunity to show them how to read horse and jockey statistics and teach them some of the terminology, such as what a ‘longshot’ is.
‘It’s not about the money,’ Giroux said. ‘They are learning about the races. It’s a math lesson.’