The questions and follow-up statements used to pop up all the time.
“What was it like growing up in Saratoga? What’s it like up there in the off-season? What do people do up there the rest of the year?”
Followed by, and not necessarily in response to whatever answer I provided, “I bet you’re glad to not be there in the winter anymore.”
I know the answer to the first question, being born at Saratoga Springs Hospital and raised in a typical suburban neighborhood on the city’s west side. I sort of remember the answers to the second and third questions, having lived in Saratoga until 1998 when a job in Kentucky came calling and fulfilled, to that point in my 28 years on the earth, a lifelong goal.
As for the follow-up statement, I got a refresher over the holidays what Saratoga can be like in the winter. The conclusion? I’m guessing it’s like a lot of places, good and bad.
Bad because it’s cold, not rising above the freezing mark any of the six days I was there before and after New Year’s. Bad, too, because in addition to being cold there was snow. Lots of snow. So much snow that a normally 4 ½-hour drive from Buffalo to Saratoga took more than six hours. So much snow that my sister got her rental car stuck. In the driveway, no less.
Good because, even though there was all that snow, it allowed for some good cross-country skiing in the Saratoga Spa State Park. Talk about cross training, an hour of that was like running a half marathon.
Most importantly it was good because even though we are four months removed and still nearly seven months away from live racing at the Spa, an unbelievable energy envelops the small city regardless of what’s going on.
Sure, walking up and down Broadway for the First Night Saratoga event, or running down the Avenue of the Pines and around the trails in the State Park, or grabbing a pint at 9 Maple did not exactly have the same feel (or crowds) that are around in say mid-August. But it offers something else for this transplant that has lived in Lexington for nearly 15 years but will never feel like a Kentuckian despite what my tax return or driver’s license might say: it is home.
Who knows, and apologies for the use of the cliché, maybe you can go home again. Regardless, I’m ready, excited, and grateful for the opportunity to take on this next great adventure and challenge.
Ok, so you’ve probably reached the point in this column and are asking, “I thought this is written for a racing news website, where’s the racing info?”
Well, I can report that both the Saratoga Race Course main and turf courses, Oklahoma training track, and Fasig-Tipton sales grounds are resting comfortably under several inches of snow. At least they were a few days ago. Maybe it’s warmed up and knocked a few inches off, or maybe more snow has been added to the top. It doesn’t matter, really.
There are still about four months to go before the Oklahoma opens for training, and 191 days until opening day (we think).
Check back in this space as we get closer and closer to live racing at the Spa, and come along for the ride as one of the city’s native sons gets ready to move back home from Lexington, with some stops first in Central and South Florida along the way.