Closing Time

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Jim Bond clicked his stopwatch, stuffed it in his jacket pocket, spun on his heel and made his way toward the clocker’s stand at the finish line of the Oklahoma Training Track.

Heat poured from an open window as Joe Williams and Dave Lynett looked out, ready to provide Bond with the time of his last two breezers of the day. Bond beat them to the punch before they could rattle off the splits.

“And as they say, th, th, th, th, that’s all folks,” Bond said, laughing at his impression of the timeless Looney Toons signature closing line.

The 3-furlong breeze by the 4-year-old Langfuhr gelding Mascarello was indeed all, for the day and for the year as offseason training in Saratoga Springs wrapped up Tuesday morning. The day, which started about as beautiful as can be in upstate New York for mid-November before becoming slightly cooler and more cloudy, wound up plenty busy.

Williams, Lynett and Bob Hamlin, the regular crew that share duties from the mid-April opening of the Oklahoma until it closes in the fall, clocked 22 workers Tuesday morning.

The group of 22, not too many less than the total number of horses left on the grounds the last week or so, included Coaching Club American Oaks third Flora Dora and the Bond-trained 2016 Saratoga allowance winner Waco. Mascarello, a maiden winner at Saratoga in his 14th start for a $40,000 tag, turned in an easy 3-furlong move in :39.87. Otto, a 3-year-old chestnut by Gio Ponti also trained by Bond, breezed just before him in :52.02 for a half.

Bond called them both maintenance works and all the workouts conducted this week were done in preparation for the horses shipping out downstate to Belmont Park, south to Florida and other locales depending on their ability and trainer’s prerogative.

Many of Bond’s trainees are already downstate or at Palm Meadows and more were headed that way. Others, mainly his New York-bred turf horses, were bound for his and wife Tina’s Song Hill Thoroughbreds farm in nearby Stillwater for the winter.

The clockers were headed for a break, much deserved after essentially working seven-day weeks for seven straight months.

Williams, who joked that he looks forward to the November 15 closing more than that April 15 opening, marveled at the racetrackers who do the same for 12 months a year.

“I don’t know how they do it,” Williams said. “We’re all done but they’ll go somewhere else and do it all again, day after day after day. They dedicated for sure.”

Signs of the end of training in Saratoga were easy to spot Tuesday morning at the Oklahoma.

Large piles and rows of leaves were everywhere, ready to be picked up in preparation for snow that’s sure to fall in the weeks and months to come. Nearly every stall on the grounds are empty, the large strings of trainers Todd Pletcher, Chad Brown, Bill Mott, Christophe Clement and Nick Zito were packed up and shipped out of town weeks ago.

Many of the visitors to the clocker’s stand were there to say goodbye and farewell for another season. Calls of “see you in the spring” ruled the morning.

Some brought coffee. Another brought some baked goods, baked that morning and still warm and steaming as it sat on Hamlin’s spiral notebook that recorded the works from Tuesday and scores of days before.

NYRA’s Tim McKinsey popped in, as always, and wished the crew a good winter.

“The fat lady is definitely singing,” McKenzie said with a smile as he walked off at the end of another season.

Saratoga is now closed for the season, another year belonging to the ages.