“Geez Martin, we’ve really changed your life, haven’t we? What would you be doing back in Kentucky on a night like this, scooping ice cream? But here you are watching Wise Dan win the Fourstardave.”
These were words Sean Clancy said to me last Saturday night at the office, which got me to really think, “You know what? This really has changed my life.”
If you know me, met me or are familiar with me, then you know that horse racing is, and always has been, a big part of my life. When I was a young boy my father took me to Churchill Downs and it was there and then that I started to form a love and appreciation for the sport.
If you know me, you also know that Saratoga has always been one of those places in the world, yes the world, that I have always wanted to go. Every summer I look forward to watching the quality racing that Saratoga offers, from the Grade 1s to the stars of tomorrow in the baby races. Saratoga is one of those places that I believe every racing fan should experience at least once. There’s a long list of those places: Royal Ascot, Meydan, Longchamp, Keeneland, Del Mar, but Saratoga is definitely on that list. This summer I was lucky to make it happen for a whole month.
It all started with an email. I’d never heard the name Sean Clancy before, until I found out that, like me, he was a Lambda Chi Alpha in his college years. So I dropped him an email asking for guidance. What should a guy like me be doing right now if I want to make it big in the racing world, which I definitely do?
I didn’t get so much a straight answer, but something better: a chance to prove myself here at Saratoga. The rest is history. I was looking forward to this all summer long. Those days when I was sitting in my boring calculus class, all that I could think was, “Is it time to go to Saratoga yet?”
Next thing I knew I was stepping off an airplane at the Albany International Airport. I did it blind, not knowing what to expect. When Ryan Clancy drove me from the airport and across the Thaddeus Kosciuszko bridge, I still didn’t know what to expect. Even when I walked into the office and met Sean, Joe and Tom face-to-face for the first time, I was still very unsure of what to expect.
Now that my scheduled month here is at an end and I’m headed home Wednesday, I’ve learned a few things.
I’ve learned that the racing industry is like a fraternity. My time with The Saratoga Special was like my pledging, my chance to really earn my way into the industry. Those of you that have been in fraternities know what pledging is like. It’s not easy, sometimes it’s anything but. There is a lot hard work involved and there definitely was in this case.
One might even have to go through a bit of hazing during pledging. (Chad Brown still hasn’t hazed me yet, but he tried Saturday). I’d be lying to you if I told you that it was easy, because for me, it wasn’t like Wise Dan’s effortless performance in the Fourstardave. It was more like Corfu having to fight to hold off Wired Bryan in the Saratoga Special. Pledging is hard. Being a newbie in racing is hard. But you have to start somewhere. For me, that somewhere was here, and when it was all said and done, it was worth it.
My time here has been phenomenal.
No, I didn’t get to experience the great nightlife on Caroline Street since I’m 10 months shy of being 21. But I’ll tell what I did get to do. I got to know a whole lot of people up here at Saratoga, from the guys at The Special and everyone who gave me props for my American flag sunglasses and bowties.
I got to see the likes of Wise Dan, Princess of Sylmar, Palace Malice, Corfu, Cross Traffic, Fort Larned and my personal favorite, Fiftyshadesofhay, in racing action.
I got to work with great people who have shown me the ways of working in the industry.
I got real hands-on experience in the racing world, dealing with the world-class jockeys, trainers and owners who come here every meet.
I’ve been through it all up here, the fun times and the frustrating times.
I can honestly say that I have learned quite a bit about the industry and have really improved as a writer.
This will certainly be a summer to remember, and yes Sean, this definitely changed my life.
Ryan Martin is a student at the University of Louisville’s College of Equine Business. His enthusiasm and passion for the game, and of course his pastel morning outfits, shades and bowties will be missed by The Special editors and writers.