The Inside Rail

Dear Miles,

Thanks for coming to Saratoga. I’m sorry I wasn’t fully engaged with you and your mom while you were here. It’s something I try to be and always think I’ll be, but, like always, I struggled with being present. I got your mom’s phone number at Saratoga in 1990, we’ve had our ups and downs here ever since. There is something about Saratoga that does that to, I believe, everyone. It’s vibrant and intoxicating but it’s also pressured and stressful. I wish I could deal with the latter better than I do.

Sales week is tough, the most arduous week of the meet, just for the sheer hours, size of the papers, the missed opportunities, the needs of our advertisers and the wants of our readers. That’s not an excuse, well, maybe a little, but more of an explanation for our frazzled nature this week. Earlier this week, Uncle Joey got in an argument with a man who threw his cigarette butt out of his car window. I admire Uncle Joey’s quest for a clean world, but I’m fairly confident this would not have happened during any other week of his life.

I know it’s a week when you and mom want to be here, although, the way you looked after two nights of auctioneer in your ears, I’m not so sure. Your first trip to the sales a few years ago, you looked at me and cried, “Why does this man keep yelling in my ears?” This year, I loved the way you perused the catalogue, circling the names of the great ones, Seattle Slew, Alydar and Pioeneerof The Nile, the sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, as you reminded me. I’m not sure you’re destined for a racing life, but I could see you being a pedigree guru, combining history and horses. And I’m with you, we should all look at horse racing as a hobby, not a business.

Thank you for respecting the sport and wanting to wear a coat and tie to the races and the sales. You will always be old school. When I leaned over your shoulders and tied your tie, I tried hard to appreciate and enjoy the moment, to cherish my 10-year-old son for who you are and who you will become. When you said, “Don’t make it look like Donald Trump,” I made sure it went to your belt buckle and that’s all.

We did have fun going to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and I tried to appreciate the time with you and not worry about the time away from a newspaper, a racing partnership and a bloodstock business. The speeding ticket on the way did not help any of this but I worked hard to make sure it didn’t ruin it for all of us. And how about Adrian Beltre (how do I make accent marks?) and Richie Sexson, walking around the Hall of Fame, looking at plaques like regular fans? Now, that was cool. I’m glad you were able to get their autographs and I appreciate your politeness and respect while doing so. When I waffled about you asking, you stared me down and convinced me, as you always do, with your best, “Come on, Dad.” I respect that. The way you sprinted toward them, autograph book open and Sharpie ready and then flitted back, autographs in hand, smile wide, made my week.

We now have the first and only autograph book with Bill Mott, the Hall of Fame trainer of Cigar, Royal Delta and all the others on one page and Adrian Beltre, the sweet-hitting third baseman with 3,166 hits and future Hall of Famer, on the next. When you asked the old man sitting on the bench if he was Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, well, that was hilarious, especially, after his reaction and your reaction. He seemed honored, you were amused. Don’t ever be self-conscious or embarrassed at anything Miles. You are 10, this will become more difficult as you get older, but spend your life living your life, not somebody else’s life. What’s worse, that you asked an old man if he was Rollie Fingers or if you walked away always wondering if that old man was Rollie Fingers?

You and mom are flying back to Middleburg this morning, you’ll go back to your lives and I’ll go back to mine. Swing hard and run fast at baseball tryouts Friday, I sure hope we land on the same team as Coach Rich and our other friends from last year. Hang up your sport coats and ties. Be a good traveling companion for Mom when you go to Culpeper Horse Show next week, she’ll handle her pressure there better than I did here. Clip your fingernails. Write a thank you note to Tom Law for giving you his baseball card collection, and, yes, he is a really nice guy. And always know that I love you and your mom, even if I’m short with my patience and long on my distractedness when you’re here.

Hopefully you and mom will come back for another visit near the end of the season. If not, enjoy the rest of your summer and I’ll see you before school starts in September.

Love,

Dad