THE INSIDE RAIL | by Sean Clancy

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Florent Geroux leaned on a wooden rail after breezing El Guapo for Dave Carroll Monday morning and was asked a simple question.

“How’d you sleep?”

“Not too good,” Geroux said.

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Riley Mott unsnapped the shank from Lady Lara at the mouth of the paddock chute, turned and walked toward the clubhouse big screen to watch the Diana. Mott’s father, Bill, had two horses running in Saturday’s Grade 1 turf stakes. My Miss Sophia and Lady Lara had chances to land the feature.

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“Paaaaaaaaaaaapppppppeeeeerrrrrrrr”

Every morning for 55 years, the call wafted through the trees, from behind a barn, from the other side of the horse path, at the other end of the shedrow, down the alley. A long, lilting announcement that the Paper Lady had hit your stop on her daily paper route.

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I hand a robot-themed lunch box to the teenager who runs the front desk at day camp, turn and lean down to hug Miles. I pick him up, squeeze him tight and the long goodbye has finally come to a close. I set him down, wipe a tear out of my eye and look him in the eye. “I’ll see you in a few weeks, buddy.” The bravest 6-year-old (actually 6 ½-year-old as he reminds me most days) looks me in the eye and says, “Dad, it’s just few weeks. Don’t cry about it.” 

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The last morning. Off to Saratoga today. The end of summer. By the time I come home, Miles will be back in school, a first-grader. Doing the math, I’ve missed about six months of his life by going to Saratoga every summer since he was born in 2008. I wish I didn’t do that math.

Forty days of racing, from July 24 to Sept. 7. I remember when it was a month – the August place to be – you arrived hungry for racing and you departed, still hungry for racing. Now, it’s different. But, isn’t everything? Back then, it was easier to close a door and go to Saratoga, everything I owned was in my car. Now, there are details, so many details. And I wondered why parents were so stressed. 

OK, enough melancholy. It’s time for Saratoga – 40 days of racing, 34 editions of The Special. See you there.