Cup of Coffee: Spotted

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All the years, all the performances, all the heartbreaks, all the moments, all the celebrations, all the friends, all the goodbyes, all the memories . . .

There’s the barn, in the back corner of Clare Court, center stall on the end where I said goodbye to Bearpath, his big kind eye gone forever.

There’s the apartment on Union and Nelson, pass code 5525, where 42 people spent at least one night during one summer.

There’s Mickey Preger’s old barn, along the road on the Oklahoma side, my first job at Saratoga, trying to gallop Fearless Leader, Mona Massimo and Little Bad Wolf. Mr. Preger treated me with kindness and patience I didn’t deserve.

There’s the patch of grass on the inner turf where my ankle splintered in two, my last ride at Saratoga.

There’s the spot on the track which used to be the winner’s circle, if you look hard enough you can still see the lime.

There’s Mike Freeman’s old barn, the back corner before Greentree. There’s the stall Hodges Bay walked out of at the end of the meet when Pete had gone back to Belmont and I was forced to gallop him, a day or two before the Seneca Handicap at 1 5/8 miles on the turf. He bucked once, just to let me know he was allowing me to ride him.

There’s the picnic table where I stood, last day of the meet, heckling my friends in the paddock, until they asked me to leave (I won’t do that again).

There’s Leo O’Brien’s barn, deep in Horse Haven, next to Pletcher, so many mornings spent there, trying to get along with Irish Linnet, she too allowing me to ride her and Hokan, when he was a rogue, two years before we won the Turf Writers. Fourstardave, Fourstar’s Allstar, Tiffany’s Taylor, Amarettitorun, my favorite of all time, so tough, so stoic.

There’s the patch of ground where Conte Di Savoya wheeled, fell into the drainage ditch and came out the other side, stuck on the grass strip between ditch and rail. If I put my ear to the ground I can still hear LeRoy Jolley yelling.

There’s P.G. Johnson’s old barn, where Clement and Matz are now, the barn in which I made one of my greatest allies, a man who sent me horses, advertisers and supporters, the one where I met Cuco, Jose Valdivia with the bug and Thor Thors who tormented me for fun.

There’s the parking spot where I said goodbye to a woman who never left.

There’s the baseball field where Hokan bucked me off, stopped on a dime and kicked me on the ground.

There’s the spot in town, just before the Bread Basket, where I discovered my friends rolling around in the grass, well past midnight, as I walked home and they celebrated winning the Turf Writers. They got married years later.

There’s the box where we watched Fourstardave win the West Point and get disqualified.

There’s the grave of Fourstardave, there will never be another one like that.

There’s the old place they used to call Bruno’s.

There’s the old place they used to call the Rafters.

There’s the old place they used to call the East Side Cafe.

There’s the spot on the turn where my family and I watched Forego get beat in the slop.

There’s the Annex, so many mornings spent lying on the pillows in front of Dad’s jumpers, Hawaiki, Town And Country, Odd Man, Saqueo. It seemed like we were always waiting, for an exercise rider, for the state vet, for the blacksmith, for the race. That’s when I learned, racing is 49.5 percent preparation, 49.5 recovery and one percent action.

There’s the first office building of The Special, the longest six weeks of our lives.

There’s the stand at the track where Dad used to order clams on the halfshell.

There’s the door I used to lean on as Frankel told me about horses and taught me about life.

There’s the porch where we used to host Sunday happy hours. 

There’s the barn where Sidney Watters used to rule.

There’s the spot my Mom took a photo of my sister and me, led by Uncle Jack, through the gravel near what is now the racing office.

There’s the old pony track.

There’s the barn where I saw Tom Bohannan wrestle with decisions.

There’s the stall where Winter Memories used to live.

There’s the Northway which takes me home every summer, some years content, other years disgusted, all years spent.

There’s Saratoga, where memories are made every year, every day.