THE INSIDE RAIL | by Sean Clancy

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“Cheers Sean…Just got out of op not feeling to bad now!”

That was the text from Jack Doyle, delivered at 12:02 Friday morning, after a crashing fall from Rudyard K in the novice stakes at Belmont Park Thursday afternoon. Doyle suffered two small fractures in the front of his pelvis and a fractured coccyx (tailbone). Atop the standings, Doyle is now grounded with rides like Rawnaq going up in flames, Doyle’s name scratched off today’s overnight like yesterday’s sandwich special.

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And then there was one. The last page in the last paper, I think I’ve been here before, trying to find the words for the long goodbye. 

It’s down to this, the pressure of one final deadline and the levity of one final deadline. Tomorrow, I’ll watch races but my voice recorder will be at home, I won’t scramble around trying to figure out where the winner’s watching the race, I’ll simply enjoy a race like everyone else. I’ll laugh at things people say, but I won’t wonder if I can print them. I’ll eat a real meal at a real table and go to bed when I want, instead of when the paper allows. That goes for Tom, Joe and the rest of The Special team who have brought you this year’s volume of work, our 16th loop on this crazy ride.

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It’s that time of year. Time for the annual – or at least occasional – ‘I’ll miss, I won’t miss,’ from Saratoga. I have a list, you have a list, everybody has a list as Saratoga fades away for another season. With all its energy and charm, Saratoga brings stress and angst. There is nowhere else where we are so on for so long. It’s not love/hate, as I will never hate the place, for me, it’s miss/won’t miss. 

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The Salvation Army rings its bell. A woman in a slinky black dress and six-inch heals unfolds a baby carriage, while holding an infant, bumps her arm and shows it to her man, he kisses it gently, they walk into the races. 

A security guard waits in the shade. Louie, who played catcher on the last softball team I played on, tells me about a photo he took of a bathing cat. Chad Brown wins another race. A grandmother takes a photo of granddaughter and grandfather, the grandfather takes a photo of granddaughter and grandmother, then an EMT steps in and takes a photo of all three together, they smile and thank him. 

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“What did you think of Saturday?”

It was a simple question, asked Sunday morning, after a long Saturday and longer Saturday night.

Like a lawnmower starting on one pull, I said what I thought of Travers Saturday. It lasted awhile. 

“Are you going to write any of that?”

I hesitated. 

“I should,” I said. 

“Yeah, you should.”