Six more racing days. Four more issues. Then shut the lid, Saratoga 2009 will be over. Under the lid, this is what I’ll remember:
Travers Morning in the rain. It felt like my own private training center; just me, the horses and the trainers.
Rajiv Maragh petting a first-time starter filly for Jim Bond, after a race. She looked lost and frazzled, he rubbed her ears and steered her back to her groom. He could have snatched her around but didn’t.
Rescue Squad walking to my golf cart and putting his head into my chest, he would have climbed in and sat next to me if Jen Patterson hadn’t pulled on the reins.
Jonathan Sheppard agonizing over the decision to run Forever Together in the Diana Handicap. Rain lashed down, Sheppard turned inside out. He chose right, the champion conquered.
Mig winning the Test.
The year they wrote races for $20,000 beaten claimers on the turf.
Clocker Brian Walls – holding three stop watches, a pen, a spiral notebook – clocking a horse on the grass and never missing a beat while reviewing the Springsteen concert from the night before for a couple of friends.
The six-horse photo and the crowd’s reaction, they cheered and moaned over the replay, over each head bob; up you lose, down you win, up you lose, down you win. That’s why racing is a live sport and not meant to be watched at a teletheater or on a computer screen.
Danielle Hodsdon winning a flat race and a jump race at the meet.
The Special’s paper boys (and girl).
The jump race when Dynaski allowed a phalanx of horses to get to him coming to the last, only to pick up and seal the deal in a matter of strides after the hurdle, and jockey Peter Buchanan’s enthusiasm when thinking about the horse going to England to go novice chasing.
The year the Turf Writers lost its luster.
Henry Spiller of Godolphin, smoking a cigarette outside the barn the day before the Travers and explaining, “Stress.” They won two stakes and lost another through disqualification the next day. I can only imagine Spiller’s smoke as the stewards watched the head-on of the King’s Bishop.
Mine That Bird appearing every morning in the middle of the dirt track, his yellow saddle towel announcing that the Derby winner was in town.
Chip Woolley’s reaction to my nephews; they became fast friends.
The backstretch rallying to the cause when they heard The Paper Lady was getting roughed up by her distributor early in the meet.
Angel Penna trying to learn how to drive a golf cart; call him Lead Foot.
The year of the duck for some of the trainers I respect the most (still six more cards to go, I’m rooting for you).
Parity reigned in the trainer’s race; Linda Rice and Todd Pletcher are tied with 15 wins apiece at the top. I remember when a trainer won 35 races at the meet. I like it better this way.
The bay filly of Christophe Clement’s in the outside stall, she wants to be someone’s pony.
Dalyn Jones, 13, asking Sheikh Mohammed to sign The Special with Jones and his filly on the cover.
Julie Kagno, who worked for Sheppard during the summer, shipping Summer Bird, before the Travers, to the holding barn in her trailer.
Rutherienne hitting the board two more times in her illustrious career.
Listening to a jockey tell me all about a horse and a race and realizing about halfway through that the jockey had no idea of what horse or race he was talking about.
The tray of fried chicken delivered to the jocks’ room every evening.
George Weaver’s triple.
Beale Payne winning a race at Saratoga.
Salve Germania doing everything wrong before the Ballston Spa, and everything right during it.
Ramon Dominguez going about his business.
Hot Dixie Chick, Backtalk, Worstcasescenario and D’ Funnybone.
Fasig-Tipton flexed its muscles on both sides of Union Avenue.
Canadians went 1-2 in the Alabama.
Justenuffhumor ran his winning streak to six by bookending the meet with Grade II turf scores.
Tom Gallo won the Yaddo, and came to our house afterward.
Fabulous Strike struck paydirt in the Vanderbilt.
Steve Asmussen made the paper as a jockey – OK, an exercise rider who rode a few races.
Graham Motion won the Whitney, and celebrated by coming to our office.
Naughty New Yorker became a millionaire.
Ken Ramsey seemed to win the last every day.
Charlotte Clement wrote a column for The Special.
Billy Badgett won a bunch.
Belmont winner Summer Bird proved his mettle in the Travers.
Bobby Frankel was missed.
No blackouts – well, not yet.
Rachel Alexandra training every morning and . . . the Woodward memory will have to wait until Saturday night.
Miles Clancy, age 9 months, came to Saratoga.