‘Nothing short of amazing’

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With the 2021 Saratoga meeting all wrapped up, I’ve had some time to reflect on the opportunity given over the past two years at The Saratoga Special. I’ve never written a column before, but I hadn’t written a race recap before this summer either and things seemed to work out well.

Last winter, The Saratoga Special photographer and my friend of nearly 10 years, Connie Bush, told me the publication was accepting applications for an editorial intern. I was unsure if a writing position would be right for me after struggling through high school and college to find the drive and desire to write. Luckily, I decided to give it a try and said, “It can’t hurt to apply.”

Only a few days after my interview with Tom Law in March 2020, New York went into a state of emergency and the pandemic was in full swing. As the months of uncertainty went on, I assumed the racetrack would be closed for the summer and the internship at least postponed until the next racing season.

To my pleasant surprise, I was asked in the beginning of July 2020 to take on a smaller internship role for the summer with the meeting closed to the public and open only to horsemen and select media.

With the pandemic restrictions, I don’t think I had the same introduction to working at The Saratoga Special as past interns. But a quieter start helped me tackle many of the fears and uncertainties I had going into it.

Excited to get to work but with no real background in interviewing or writing, I was assigned my first story, a look at the fans that gathered outside the Oklahoma Training Track to watch workouts.

Honestly, I was terrified to do the story. I had met with Tom during Opening Week and he confidently turned me loose on Day 1, trusting me to get the story and to create my own angle. I had never been given so much freedom to do a job, but in the end, I think it made me a stronger and more confident writer.

By the end of the 2020 meet, I had written three feature stories and worked on some website features, keeping up with graduates of the Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour. It was odd not attending the races last year, but I was thrilled to be able to work from home and contribute in any way I could.

By the end of the 2021 meet, I had attended 39 of 40 racing days and was given the honor of covering my first Grade 1 when Letruska won the Personal Ensign Stakes. I look back on this summer and think about how much things changed from Opening Day to Closing Day.

The first race recap I wrote was a maiden victory by George Weaver-trained Thrill. I remember being so nervous walking into the winner’s circle, certain this would be the end of my internship and that I would not be able to handle the work. If you had told me then that five weeks later I would be previewing the Personal Ensign, I would have fled the scene.

The internship experience at The Special has been nothing short of amazing.

As a lifelong racing fan, I never dreamed I would be covering the races at Saratoga. I will always remember the kind people I met along the way in the press box, where I spent each day working alongside fellow intern Terry Hill. It was a joy to work with him, his humor and insight always making even the rainiest and grayest days fun and interesting.

To Tom, Sean and Joe, I want to express my gratitude for giving me the opportunity to grow and learn this summer at The Saratoga Special. Your guidance and support have given me new-found confidence and the motivation to continue my journey in the horse racing industry. I don’t think it would be possible to find a better group of mentors.

Thank you Tom, for being my day-to-day mentor and not pressuring me, but encouraging me to work my hardest. I don’t think I would have been able to do this internship if it weren’t for your patience and understanding.

Thank you to Connie for all your support through the years and for telling me to apply. It was an honor to be a part of the team with you. And thank you to Paul Halloran, who showed me how to cover a stakes race and always gave me great advice.

I’m not sure exactly what’s next, but I do know one thing: I am very glad I decided to apply for this internship, and I’ll owe all my future endeavors in horse racing to the team at The Saratoga Special. Thank you for giving me a chance.