THE INSIDE RAIL | by Sean Clancy

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It’s Saturday afternoon, as I sit down to write this. A blank page stares at me, the horses for the third race canter to the start, Tom Law handicaps Sunday’s races, Linzay Marks sketches a scene for an ad, Joe just walked in the office, he looks like a run-over dog, the interns – fresh off a 72-page deadline and a night out on Caroline Street – are at the races, ready to hammer out some of the words to issue number 29. As I write this, the Travers lies in wait, five hours away. 

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Of all the mornings on the backside of Saratoga, it might be my favorite. It was pouring, only the diehards had come out, huddled and hovered under the awning of the Morning Line Kitchen on Travers morning. All of us should have gone home, but somehow stayed, wasting and preserving time all at the same time. 

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We are at the stage where solitude is sought. So many conversations, so little sleep, so many late deadlines, so few square meals, so many requests, so little peace. 

Driving the golf cart in the morning has its plusses, you can escape, until someone grabs the windshield stanchion and won’t let go. You get stuck, listening to stories about their first time to Saratoga, fielding suggestions for things we should write in the paper, hearing about one more poor-poor-pitiful-me gambling lament. 

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“He’s the last one. The last good Flying Zee horse.”

That’s how Phil Serpe described Weekend Hideaway, winner of a Monday allowance race. It was said in passing, as Serpe walked toward his barn and my golf cart went wherever it was going. Looking back on it, I don’t know if it was before or after the 6-year-old son of Speightstown earned his 11th victory in a tough New York-bred allowance Monday, pushing his earnings to over $800,000.

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There is no walk like it in sports. Two thick red lines mark the path, as it burrows through bettors and drinkers under the clubhouse, descends a few feet, past the hand stampers and around the bend, past the red railing where the gate crew hangs, then slices diagonally right, past the bands and the dancers, between the food stands, through the charbroiled burger smell, then juts back to the left past the administrative offices, through the jocks’ agents and wives waiting for celebration or commiseration, then a hard right into the sanctuary of the Saratoga jocks’ room.