In the Paddock

Contributions from managing editor and writer Tom Law.

Friend of the game

If you ever crossed paths with Ashton Moynihan consider yourself lucky.

The first time for me came in the summer of 1990 when Ashton, she was Ashton Nesbitt then, headed up the Fasig-Tipton subsidiary Stallion Access.

Our paths crossed, no doubt unbeknownst to her at the time, because as a member of the grounds crew at Fasig-Tipton our crew was charged with transitioning the Saratoga sales pavilion from an auction ring with live horses to any and all things social event, cocktail party and seasons and share auction.

The Stallion Access event was held Friday evening, just after the then three-day Saratoga selected sale of yearlings was conducted and the window to turn the venue around was small.

Ashton didn’t mess around, she demanded things be done efficiently and just right, traits that lasted a lifetime and into another career as one of the leaders of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.

I’m not sure our crew took too kindly to some of Ashton’s demands during the setup for her event. Ashton could be tough. Yet at the end of the night she made a point to thank the crew, just like Larry Ensor, Walt Robertson, D. G. Van Clief Jr., Boyd Browning, Terence Collier and many other members of the Fasig-Tipton executive team would do through the years.

Our paths didn’t cross again – aside from random bump ins here and there in Lexington – until a few years ago when Ashton took a lead role in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Ashton took time away from the industry to raise her two daughters but when she returned she came back with the same drive and purpose as those days with Stallion Access.

We’d see each other often at major races, memorably at Pimlico Race Course for Preakness Weekend when the TAA would sponsor the Best Turned Out Awards. Ashton and the late Bill Graves would head up those contests, and even asked yours truly to help judge a race one year.

Ashton even sent along a photo of me with King Leatherbury from that year, when Bill served up a softball and I correctly picked Ben’s Cat as the Best Turned Out winner. Now more than ever it’s one of my favorite photos.

We stayed in touch via email, text and in person through the years, including in the days following Bill Graves’ passing in the spring of 2018. I’ll cherish that exchange, and others through the years, forever.

The Thoroughbred industry lost a great person with Ashton’s passing. Rest in peace my friend.

At The Movies

Carl Nafzger walked down Ludlow Street toward Madison Avenue and the Fasig-Tipton sales grounds the afternoon of Aug. 2 – not long after the 2019 Hall of Fame ceremony he attends every year as an inductee himself in 2008. A catalog from the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select sale in hand, Nafzger went to check out a few yearlings that afternoon before ending his annual Saratoga sojourn.

Water, water everywhere

The looks on the faces of the two men standing on the sidewalk here on Circular Street said it all, after this writer attempted to make light about water percolating out of the ground the morning after the Super Bowl.

The Streak

Rolling out of bed this morning and the first thing to do – even before pouring that first cup of coffee – was ask Alexa the current temperature.

Farewell Friend

Rick Violette passed away more than a month ago. That still seems difficult to believe, let alone write. The news of Rick’s passing trickled in the afternoon of Oct. 21 through the usual channels, by phone calls from friends, social media or news reports online, and hit the game hard.

Teamwork

Jane Crager buzzed into The Saratoga Special office Thursday afternoon, new sandwich board in hand and an update on the significance of July 26.

Day Tripper

A passport isn’t something needed or even thought about during the course of writing, editing, producing and distributing The Saratoga Special.

Not so fast

The sound of the snowplows outside the window started relatively early, at least by “offseason” standards here in Saratoga. Up and down the nearby streets they went as the coffee pot in the kitchen bubbled and burped.

The end, again

A thin layer of frost covered the grass and the thermometer read a mere 20 degrees as a red-orange cloud hung high in the sky as the final official day of training in Saratoga started to unfold.

Three Decades

The scrap of paper, torn from one of those desk calendars you buy at Staples and jot notes on every month, passes from training log to training log every year.

First impressions

Spend roughly 14 hours in the car yesterday driving from Lexington to Saratoga – thanks for the accident Cincinnati, costing me an hour – and wondered what things might look like back home after two-plus weeks on the road.