Most of the usual suspects and familiar faces were combing the sales grounds Friday in advance of today's start to the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale along with one man who is recognizable to just about every sports fan in America.
Laurence Leavy, better known as Marlins Man and known for being at just about every major sporting event in the country, was in and out of the Fasig-Tipton barn area before heading up to Saratoga Race Course for the last few races Friday. He's always in the front row at games, perfectly centered for the television- and still-camera shots.
Leavy wasn't in Saratoga Friday for a photo op, or at least it wasn't his primary purpose for hitting town.
"I'm here looking at horses," said Leavy, a lawyer from Miami who always wears orange and often sports a Marlins visor worn sideways. "Of course I'm buying. Last year I bought three horses. The funny part of the story is before I came up here I made a list of the horses that I liked. I looked at 20 of them and I liked 11 of them. They all passed the vet. All 11 went too high and I didn't get any of them.
"The girl who I was dating for the last two years, I brought her with me and she picked three horses. Those were the three I bought. Two I still have and one I bought post-sale from Denali. He RNA'd for $26,000 and I bought it for 25. We sold at the (OBS) June sale for $125,000 and it went to Japan. After that I'm like, 'I need to do more of that.' I need to buy a bunch more horses for 20s and then sell them for 100s.
"I want to spend somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000. I either want to buy two horses for $100,000 or four horses for $50,000. And then I want to run them through sales to see how I do. I can't pay the big bucks that people do at the earlier sales. I only like to race in Florida and they haven't raised our purse structure like they have in other states, like New York."
Leavy works with Becky Thomas, a successful yearling-to-juvenile pinhooker and owner of Sequel New York in Hudson. He's been an owner under his Starship Stables banner since 2000 and races primarily in Florida.
"He's an in-your-face kind of attorney, but take that away and he's a great marshmallow underneath that," Thomas said before heading off to scout yearlings for Leavy and other clients.
Leavy said he owns about 100 horses, most of them in training, and that total is down from nearly 130 earlier this year. He also owns 10 mares and nine weanlings currently boarded at Sequel.
"All of the weanlings are by Desert Party, Mission Impazible and Freud," he said, listing three of the stallions that stand at Sequel. "Now some of the mares are in foal to Alpha."
Leavy said he wasn't going to stick around for tonight's or Sunday's sessions. He left the sales grounds at about 5 p.m. and made the short walk down East Avenue to catch the Grade 2 Lake Placid and the finale. Leavy said he's been to 27 Super Bowls, 89 World Series games, 70 NBA Finals games, more than 200 basketball and 200 baseball playoff games, four Olympics and scores of other college and professional games.
Leavy was among the rain-soaked masses at this year's Preakness and said he's never been to anything quite like this year's Belmont Stakes.
"People ask me, this is a great thing, 'what is the greatest sporting event you've ever been to?' I get asked this all the time," Leavy said. "I tell them, 'if I told you the truth you wouldn't believe it. It's not some World Series game, it's not an NBA Final.' The answer is this year with the Triple Crown at the Belmont. I got a text message from someone saying, 'this is my generation's man landing on the moon.' Something we were all waiting for and it came true. It was a great quote and we knew it. It might never happen again."