The Inside Rail

It’s the moments that make Saratoga. The minute and the magnanimous moments in time that stitch together the Saratoga quilt. They start early in the morning and don’t stop until late into the night. They are the reason you’re here, the reason we’re here. Each year they’re the same and they’re different.

So far this year…

When the proprietor at AJ’s Cleaners welcomes you back to town with “Hello Seen.” And you simply say hello.

When you walk past the shoeshine stand and see the man who rode Ruffian sitting in the chair.

When you jot down notes “Bay JJ…Bay Delacour” on two horses who look good breezing on the Oklahoma. And they turn out to be Holy Helena and A.P. Indian.

When you go for a drink at the Paddock Bar and reunite with two Special graduates, both working in the game, loving the game.

When you walk into King’s Tavern and a woman calls you a “literary genius.”

When you finish the 5-mile Trail in the State Park, look around and think about the magic of the New York state park system.

When you leave out a Kelly from a story and a valet, a trainer, a TV producer and a gambler let you know. Sorry, Kevin Kelly, glad you’re on the team.

When you walk into the bar at Jacob and Anthony’s for a late-night dinner after the CCA Oaks and you see Jimmy Barnes eating chicken parmigiana at the bar, he waves you over and then hear about his journey – from the time Point Given got loose to the time the Prince gave him his Maserati.

When you watch the Monday opener from the office, see a 99-1 shot hanging tough turning for home and the whole office jumps on to get him home, then he gets home and you look to see he’s trained by D. Wayne Lukas. When Tom Law does his impersonation of D. Wayne Lukas. When you hear that the horse’s groom had $11 in his pocket and bet $10 of it to win on the $232.50 bomber. 

When you see Paulie from the jocks’ room of the early ’90s.

When tellers wish you good luck after placing a bet.

When you move into a rental and the woman across the street introduces you to her cat named Tony.

When Scott Everett stops you and suggests that you write a story about the miniature pony who was on the track for nearly 30 years.

When Tom Law texts the cubs, “Merrill Scherer, American original,” after the venerable trainer wins the second race Monday.

When rainy Tuesdays are celebrated, actually, high-fived and fist-bumped.

When a gaggle of 12-year-olds ride their bikes to Spring Street Deli expecting a quick sandwich order, then see a line out the door and say, “I hate track season.”

When a man riding a bike stops and offers a million-dollar smile for an impromptu Barbara Livingston Saratoga Smiles photo shoot.

When the president of the Saratoga Stryders (Tom Law) convinces you to run in a race for the fun, the camaraderie, the laughs and you find yourself alone in the woods for 4.9K of the 5K distance.

When Shayna Tiller and Madison Scott smile and laugh, simply because they are in Saratoga.

When you make plans to play the par three at SPAC, knowing you’ll never have time to play the par three at SPAC.

When you think of how you’re going to finish a Thursday paper early to see the Honey Dewdrops at Caffe Lena.

When you see a lead pony high step on the Oklahoma track and learn he’s 16-year-old son of Tomorrow’s Cat. When you send a cub reporter to find out about him.

When you talk Greek heritage and culture with Dennis at the Morning Line Kitchen.

When your college roommate calls to ask if he can bring his clients from Brooklyn Brewery to the races.

When Alfred Nuckols calls and tells you to get in a win photo Friday.

When a bar sign reads, “Since Dust Commander was a yearling.”

When Rick Violette conducts a NYTHA board meeting on a stage with American flag balloons waving from the rails.

When a guy tells you – again – that you have to read his college paper on H. Allen Jerkens.

When the Diana offers another 9 furlongs of moves and counter moves that land three horses on the line together. When fans on three floors, of all ages, of all walks of life, stand and clap for Lady Eli when she gallops back after winning the Diana.

When Mike Smith takes off his helmet and kisses the sky.

When Leah Gyarmati checks to see if the hoofpick (By the Numbers last year) is still on the roof.

When jockeys sign T-shirts still on the backs of fans.

When you meet a dog named Kelso.

Click here to read the entire Saratoga Special.