The final week of the 2022 Saratoga meeting rolls along Friday with a 10-race card topped by a pair of stakes – the $150,000 Lucky Coin for older sprinters on the grass and Grade 2 Prioress for 3-year-old fillies at 6 furlongs.
We set the stage with the picks from The Saratoga Special handicappers below, but first we offer up the second of two farewell columns from our editorial staffers this summer. Timothy Littau, who is back at Marquette University, followed his partner Spencer Ripchik and penned his column last week.
Here’s the Special for Friday, Sept. 2. Enjoy.
Thanks For Flying
By Timothy Littau
Land the plane. Those three words have been said, texted and emailed to me a few times from Tom Law this summer. Not often, but enough for my fingers to frantically dance across the keyboard when I hear them. I know it’s time to wrap up the story and send it on its way to Tom. My greatest fear is that you will not enjoy what I write. But as Tom also says, “when you’re nervous it shows that you care.”
I care about my work with all my heart. Horse racing has been my passion since I was 6 years old, from trips to Arlington Park, to saving dozens of clips from the Chicago Tribune with any mention of racing and plenty more races watched on TV, leading me to hope that one day that would be me in front of the camera or behind the words on the page.
And here I am, thankful to be putting these words into The Special thanks to Tom and Sean and Joe Clancy. Hopefully I have instilled the same passion that I have for racing in you, even if it is just a little bit or you have only read a couple of my stories.
After he won the Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes with Naughty Gal, D. Wayne Lukas told me, “When you have a passion for something, you eliminate all of the excuses. I’m hungry. I’m tired. I can get to the barn an hour later. So, I get up at 3 in the morning and I eliminate all of the excuses.”
Lukas has more passion than probably anybody, but everyone at the track has plenty. It is Saratoga, and they made it to the big stage. A multi-barn trainer or a couple-of-horses-trainer, a millionaire owner or an owner with their one-in-a-million horse. A Hall of Fame jockey takes the big one or a rider that is just starting out wins their first. Plenty of those stories unfolded in the meet, and hopefully we have written memorable articles you read in our 20 editions this summer.
There are plenty of people we have not written about in Saratoga, but they still have plenty of passion to do their best and contribute to the community. Rick. LouAnn. Tom. Mike. All who greeted me with the biggest smiles. Maybe you read Tim Wilkin, working his tail off for BloodHorse but still took the time to drive me around in his golf cart. Pedro served lunch in the press box, and everyday his upbeat attitude brought calm to any Turf writer scrambling to make a deadline. Tony Podlaski runs the press box and teaches summer school at Hudson Valley Community College at the same time, yet week after week always offered the most heartfelt advice.
As Dad and I rolled into our hometown of Deerfield, Ill., his passion led him to say “I’m ready to do it all over again next weekend” after driving 13 hours and 840 miles each way to Saratoga Springs to pick me up and move me out on my last day. Unfortunately, we did not, though it was Travers weekend but I had to return to Marquette University to start my senior year. He got to see everything, from the press box to the winner’s circle to the paddock to the barns. In the morning he met the trainers he’d watched for decades on TV – Shug McGaughey, Barclay Tagg and D. Wayne Lukas.
Ten hours later in the afternoon at the races, we stood in the grass in the paddock before the tenth race and were shocked to hear a horse breath right behind us, 20 feet away from the horse path. We turned around and there in the grass stood Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath before running in the Alabama. She embodied the day: spectacular.
“I wouldn’t have changed a thing,” Dad said when we pulled into the driveway. And neither would I.
What a fantastic six weeks I had at The Special, all because of the passion of others. Trainers, owners and jockeys speaking about how much any and every moment at Saratoga means to them. The camaraderie shown from everyone else in the press box and around the track.
And in our office on East Avenue, passion abounds, through the years too, on our Wall of Fame of photos of summers past, as Tom gave me pointers on writing and interviewing. Sean broke down replays with me as we stared at his computer. I pushed Joe’s buttons, whether it was talking to someone else instead of proofreading, or getting into a heated debate that dragged into the parking lot about a race from months ago. Then we laughed about it. My fellow intern, Spencer Ripchik, and I listen to all three of them reminisce about past memories, people and horses. All of that sometimes at 1 a.m., and then back to more interviews or delivering papers before sunrise. I would not have it any other way, and neither would they, or anyone else who is doing something they are passionate about.
Passion keeps us going, it is the fuel of my plane, our plane. Thank you for flying with The Saratoga Special.
Timothy Littau, a senior at Marquette University studying broadcasting, spent the summer on the editorial team at The Saratoga Special.
Friday’s Saratoga picks – Sept. 2
JOHN SHAPAZIAN (121/370):
1-Mim, My Sweet Summer, Boy Is She A Lady.
2-Mail Order, Mischievous Dream, Ellanation.
3-Most Wanted Man, Good Medicine, Tiz A Giant.
4-Bustin Bay, Khali Magic, Mosienko.
5-Eylara, Santa Giulia, Classic Colors.
6-Security Code, Banterra, Super Slide.
7-Topic Changer, Fieldstone, Bless Bless.
8-The Critical Way, Proven Strategies, Big Package.
9-Angitude, Union Lake, Hot Peppers.
10-Conquist, Nyshares, Bernardino.
TOM LAW (116/370):
1-My Sweet Summer, Boy Is She A Lady, You’re My Girl.
2-Mail Order, Hit The Woah, Mischievous Dream.
3-Tiz A Giant, Most Wanted Man, Funding Gap.
4-Khali Magic, Bustin Bay, Thinking It Over.
5-Eylara, Ensemble, Hail To.
6-Security Code, Banterra, Stonewall Star.
7-Topic Changer, Fieldstone, Dream Of A Day.
8-Proven Strategies, Voodoo Zip, Big Package.
9-Angitude, Hot Peppers, Bank On Anna
10-Conquist, Bernardino, Curlin’s Wisdom.
CHARLES BEDARD (96/370):
1-You’re My Girl, My Sweet Summer, Boy Is She A Lady.
2-Mail Order, Mischievous Dream, Piece Of My Heart.
3-Most Wanted Man, Tiz A Giant, Funding Gap.
4-Khali Magic, Diva Banker, Mosienko.
5-Classic Colors, Lisheen, Blue Times.
6-Security Code, Spinning Colors, Banterra.
7-Fieldstone, Bless Bless, Dream Of A Day.
8-Wudda You Think Now,Voodoo Zip, Big Package.
9-Hot Peppers, Smash Ticket, Wicked Halo.
10-Dreampoint, Curlin’s Wisdom, Media Sensation.
ROB WHITLOCK (106/370):
1-My Gorgeous, Your My Girl, My Sweet Summer.
2-Mail Order, Hit The Woah, Let’s Be Clear.
3-Outperform, Most Wanted Man, Tiz A Giant.
4-Think It Over, Khali Magic, Wailin Josie.
5-Transient, Eylara, Blue Times.
6-Banterra, Security Code, Spinning Colors.
7-Fieldstone, Topic Changer, He’s Got It.
8-Big Package, Voodoo Zip, Dancing Buck.
9-Angitude, Hot Peppers, Wicked Halo.
10-Excursionniste, Bernardino, Curlin’s Wisdom.
JESSICA PAQUETTE (79/370):
1-Nice ‘n Spicy, Ma Mi Jo Dreams, My Sweet Summer.
2-Ellanation, Mail Order, Mischievous Dream
3-Outperform, Tiz A Giant, Most Wanted Man.
4-Bustin Bay, Thinkin It Over, No Chalk
5-Lisheen, Eylara, Control Function.
6-Banterra, Security Code, Spinning Colors
7-Speight’spercomete, Fieldstone, Topic Changer
8-Thin White Duke, Voodoo Zip, Big Package.
9-Angitude, Wicked Halo, Union Lake.
10-Conquist, Media Sensation, Nyshares.