Let’s hope that Sunday’s open house at Saratoga is not a harbinger of things to come.
Perhaps due to a less-than-pleasant weather forecast (a forecast that it never occurred to me to check), the crowd seemed smaller—though no less enthusiastic—than other years, or perhaps more people were concentrated inside, where I didn’t spend much time.
The face-painting stations seemed to be the most popular spot, with lines threading back towards the paddock mutuel bay from the clubhouse; various local food purveyors and non-profits were on hand to sell their wares and collect donations.
Among those present was Homes for Orphaned Pets Exist (H.O.P.E.), about whom I wrote last summer when they were the featured non-profit at the track, and undeterred by the rain, three families left the track with a new furry family member, including my friend, Lisa, whose teenaged son convinced her (it didn’t take much) that their cat seriously needed a playmate. In addition to helping cats and dogs find new homes, H.O.P.E. helps low-income families get their pets spayed and neutered—check their website or Facebook page for more information.
The drizzle began in the early afternoon, its intensity waxing and waning; three of the five scheduled National Steeplechase Association races were run as planned, but races four and five were taken off the turf and run as workouts over the Spa’s main track.
Shortly before the fifth, the skies opened up in an epic Spa downpour. Though thunder and lightning made an appearance elsewhere, this was just rain. Lots of it. For a long time. Shoes were abandoned as visitors navigated puddles, surrendering in the fight to stay dry and getting soaked to the skin. Toddlers were observed to be gleefully drenching themselves; parents were overheard futilely chastising them.
The open house is the unofficial kick-off to the 2012 racing meet; let’s hope that we look back at it as an aberration and not as a trend-setter, that we are not about to embark on another drenched Spa summer of off-the-turf races and ruined sandals, that we get only as much rain as the thirsty greenery and crops nearby need to thrive, and not enough to turn the turf courses sodden and fragile.
One event is in the books, with so many more to come. Already, it’s tempting to count the days, to remember that our days here are few and precious, and that we need to save every single one, even as we hang our clothes up to dry.
Back tomorrow with a look at this week’s Spa-related events….