Guest Column: Special days at Saratoga

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Early in the meet I sat on a picnic table by the coffee shack on the backstretch of Saratoga Race Course and reflected on how my interest and participation in horse racing have brought me many wonderful experiences. Saratoga has played the central part in these experiences.

In 2013, my wife’s work colleague Donna Jones asked me to join a claiming partnership with trainer Ian Wilkes. As someone once said, “Some moments are nice, some are nicer, some are even worth writing about.”

So here goes.

On Aug. 12, 2013, Elusive Act and jockey Joe Rocco Jr won a $35,000 claiming race at Saratoga at almost 9-1. The next year we were back at Saratoga for another win with Street Shark, also at 9-1 under Luis Saez. After two wins at Saratoga I thought I had racing all figured out and it all seemed so easy. But, anyone who has ever owned, bet, trained or ridden horses knows that isn’t the case.

My racing experience has had the inevitable disappointments and loss of money, but there is an untold joy that racing gives its participants. I cannot own the Ravens or the Orioles or the Mets or the Jets. I can own all or part of a horse that runs – and even wins – at Saratoga, considered by many the greatest place in the racing world.

To paraphrase Howard Cosell, Saratoga on any given day is jammed packed with 20,000 people plus – just people, people from all walks of life, people who are young and people who are old. Celebrities are here in profusion, one after another.

Cosell’s words were used to describe a Frank Sinatra concert at Madison Square Garden.

These same words describe Saratoga on any given day.

Win or lose, Saratoga is special for the horsemen, jockeys, owners and fans.

The Saratoga Special helps to make this so. It is the paper of record for the Saratoga meet and I certainly hope you read it daily.

This past summer the Clancy brothers gave me the opportunity to sell ads for The Special. Selling ads is like horse racing itself. There are good days and days you want to forget.

I especially want to thank Terry Meyocks and John Velazquez of the Jockeys’ Guild for their weekly interview segment. I have spoken with and met many people from farms, Thoroughbred associations, insurance companies, bloodstock agents, racing partnerships and makers of racing equipment. All have told me how much they rely on and appreciate the reporting of Joe and Sean Clancy, Tom Law and their staff.

My sincerest thanks go out to The Saratoga Special staff for opening up another way for me to love Saratoga.

By the way, it’s too late to buy an ad this year but it is certainly not too early to buy an ad for next year.

Kevin O’Keeffe is a practicing attorney in Maryland who handled advertising sales this past summer for The Saratoga Special. In addition to being a licensed owner, Kevin is a board member of the Kentucky Equine Education Project’s KEEP Foundation in Lexington, Ky. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kokhorseracing.