Here & There – Saratoga 2018 postscript

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Wow, that sure happened fast. Saratoga Race Course closed shop a little more than two weeks ago, wrapping up a memorable 2018 meeting marked with rain, records, rain, races to remember, rain and more rain.

Our team is in the midst of readjusting to life away from The Saratoga Special office and at the track back home in Maryland, Virginia and in Saratoga. We cleaned out and packed up the office last week, stowing everything away for another winter slumber before digging it back out again next summer for Season 19 of The Special.

Keeping with recent traditions we present one final Here & There for the 2018 Saratoga meet, a little late but hopefully worth the wait. We’ve got numbers, quotes and a handicapper’s report. We’ll skip the office inventory again, since it basically boiled down to a few bikes, books, the big blue beanbag, some recycling, a lot of empty water jugs, a mini-fridge partially stocked with cold beverages and various other items.

Your guess is as good as ours about when racing will return to Saratoga in 2019 – everyone seems certain of this and certain of that – so we’ll just plan for a similar late July Opening Day. That means about 43 weeks to go until Opening Day 2019. We’ll stay busy between now and then. Take care and enjoy.


By the Numbers

1: Pizza delivered by a member of the Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour with The Little Guys during production of the last issue of the meet.

3: Cases of beer dropped off at the office by trainer Phil Serpe just before Closing Day.

10: Inches of rain that fell in Saratoga Springs – give or take – during the 40-day meeting.

21: Victories at the meet for leading owner Klaravich Stable.

46: Wins at the meet for trainer Chad Brown, breaking his and Todd Pletcher’s previous record 40 set in each of the prior two meets.

50: Races taken off the grass at the 2018 meeting, 23 more than 2017 and almost as many as the prior two years combined.

52: Victories for leading rider Irad Ortiz Jr., who won his second title and first since 2015.

478: Horses profiled in the 29 installments of the Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour, an average of more than 16 each.

1,196: Pages for the 29 issues of The Special in 2018, an average of nearly 42 per issue and a 6 percent increase from last year. The biggest? Travers Day’s record 80-page monster. We also rolled out 60-, 52- and 56-page editions during sales week.

$31,030,034: All-sources handle for Woodward Day, a record for the final Saturday card of the meet.

$52,086,597: Record all-sources handle for the Aug. 25 Travers Day card.

$659,083,459: Total all-sources handle for the meet, down 2.6 percent from a year ago but still the second best total in history.


Worth Repeating

“She gave me goose bumps to be honest. I had never ridden her in the afternoon.”
Mike Smith on Prioress winner Dream Tree

“You are the masochists I want to align myself with. You take something great, like horse racing, and ruin it for yourselves with all the work. Just like I did with beer.”
Joel Howard, founder of Winner’s Circle Beer, comparing the labor-of-love efforts of The Special with his beermaking

“Another great year.”
Trainer John Kimmel greeting our makeshift paper delivery staff the final Sunday of the meet

“These selections brought to you from the back pew of Holy Angels Church. Only a higher power could help me handicap a card with three claimers and four baby races.”
John Engelhardt, the Guest Handicapper for the final day of the meet explaining his monster success (see below)


Handicapper’s Report

No change at the top, again.

The Special’s handicappers plowed through another 40-day meet – making picks on the 404 races either in print on The Power Grid presented by Winner’s Circle Beer or online at – and once again John Shapazian came out on top.

Shapazian picked 117 winners at the meet for a strike rate of 29 percent, his sixth straight title. Charles Bedard duplicated his second-place showing from a year ago with another runner-up effort, picking 102 winners (25.2 percent) after a strong final two weeks of the meeting. Bedard also took home top honors with the biggest mutuel of the meet, tabbing $98 winner Won’t Be Missed in the final race of the day Monday, Aug. 20.

Tom Law finished third with 95 winners (23.5 percent) and Donald Phillips trailed with 74 (18.3 percent).

The Guest Handicappers stepped up their game in 2018, and none put on a better performance than John Engelhardt in the final issue of the season. Engelhardt, the former longtime PR man at River Downs known as “The Regular Guy,” picked seven winners that day.