In the final installment of her Spa Diary, Teresa Genaro looks back fondly, but perhaps a bit wistfully, on the just-completed Saratoga meet, and hopes that the words “See you next year” are accurate.
by Teresa Genaro
The Grade 3 Saranac was Saratoga’s final 2014 stakes race, and Graham Motion won it. Ring Weekend’s triumph gave Motion two graded stakes wins on the meet; his first was Main Sequence’s Grade 1 Sword Dancer victory on August 17 — 10 years and three days after Better Talk Now provided Motion his first win in the race.
The Mid-Atlantic was well-represented at Saratoga on closing weekend. Earlier on Monday’s card, Tony Dutrow’s I Spent It finished second in the Grade 1 Hopeful; he’d cruised to victory in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special three weeks earlier, joining his 2-year-old stablemate Big Trouble as a Saratoga stakes winner, the latter taking the opening weekend Grade 3 Sanford Stakes. There was no sweep of the 2-year-old stakes for Dutrow, but two out of three, especially with a second-place finish, ain’t bad.
Late Saturday night, in near darkness, Jonathan Sheppard took the finale with a $51.50 winner, his sixth winner of the meet, the fourth on the flat.
Neither Motion nor Dutrow nor Sheppard is a stranger to the New York racing circuit, but Saratoga is where they settle in, shipping north and staying for the duration. Dutrow and Sheppard have purchased homes there; the names of all three regularly appear on the meet-end list of stakes winners, and this summer was no different.
The convergence of trainers, owners, and jockeys on Saratoga in the summer is among the joys of being there. Familiar faces too seldom seen through the rest of the year become regular sightings, not only at the track but downtown and in restaurants, and despite the demands of a six-day racing schedule, the visitors make time to support the many charities that seize on Saratoga as a prime fundraising opportunity, attending events with what is surely enervating frequency, contributing to, among other causes, Thoroughbred aftercare, disabled jockeys, and backstretch early education.
They adopt Saratoga, and Saratoga embraces them, creating a central, concentrated, diverse racing community for seven weeks. We’re drawn there by the racing and by the beauty, and by the knowledge that we’ll see the people that we maybe haven’t seen since last summer – friends who travel to upstate New York on vacation, writers who don’t generally make it to Belmont or Aqueduct, or to Laurel or Delaware Park or Gulfstream.
There were a lot of good-byes at Saratoga this year. Friends and family bid their final farewells to Paul Moran and to Cary Fotias in ceremonies at the track. We saluted, celebrated, and mourned the late Dominic Galluscio and Elisabeth Jerkens.
We missed Allen Jerkens, who stayed in Florida for the first time, and last Sunday, we bid a happier adieu to Tom Durkin.
“See you next year,” said with confidence in younger days, now comes tinged with a little more hope and a little less certainty, and though there are more Saratoga days now than ever—and with the rumor of more to come—there’s also an urgency to enjoy each of them, to shrug off the relentless pace, to seek the friends who will pack up and head further away than Belmont and Aqueduct.
For the 40th time this summer, Billy Joel’s “A New York State of Mind” played after the last race was made official, serenading those who stuck around for the last race on the last day. It’s a fine sentiment, if inaccurate; inaccurate because the song is about New York City, and inaccurate because Saratoga celebrates racing beyond the borders of the Empire State. The Saratoga Special, the signature paper of the race course, is published by the Mid-Atlantic’s Clancy brothers, and while friendly regional rivalries might spring up through the meet, Saratoga brings together the best horses, trainers, and jockeys from across the country.
In mid-July, Saratoga stretches out almost blissfully interminably, offering deceptively abundant opportunities to check off everything on the long list of must-do Saratoga activities—watch a race from the backstretch, visit that farm, go to Lyrical Ballad book shop, get fried chicken at Hattie’s.
And then somehow it’s Alabama week, and the meet is almost over, and the list is still long, and then…it’s closing day, and we carry the list over, we hope, until the next time we all meet again.
CROWD CHEERS V.E. DAY FOLLOWING HIS TRAVERS VICTORY
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I heard the Billy joel song every day that I was there this summer but the last day I did not hear it played.
Am I the only one that missed it?