What’s New

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What’s new in Saratoga? That’s what I’m asked from my friends and family at home. What’s new is important. What’s the same is just as important.

Here goes.

There’s an ATM machine at the Morning Line Kitchen, a dead-end sign to warn interlopers of the Rusty Arnold, Steve Asmussen, Jimmy Ryerson bottleneck on the Oklahoma side. There’s free ice for the horses.

Janet Reid, Jason Blewitt, Jenny Kellner and Ashley Herriman are gone, but not forgotten.

Mig is here, he wears a suit less often.

Rajiv Maragh is back, but you knew that from yesterday.

Ryan Jones joined the Army. Gabby Gaudet is on TV. The Clancy boys have moved on, Ryan as an engineer, Jack as a D.C. intern and Nolan as a lifeguard. The band broke up.

Robbie Davis’ kid is working for Jimmy Jerkens. Travis Stone’s brother is running horses for Mark Casse. Harry Rice Jr. and Liza Hendriks are working in the communications department.

Some of the old trees have fallen, the young ones are growing. 

Dominick Schettino is here, with fewer initials on his saddle pads. Erma is here. Reeve McGaughey is running the show for his dad at the harness track. Nick Santagata never changes.

Dust. Gnats. Trash. Still. Here.

Friday, there were flip flops and bathing trunks in the winner’s circle. Saturday, there were pink crocs. I miss the chalk circle.

Lady Eli didn’t kick anyone, although, she threatened several times without her targets noticing.

Luis Contreras, Brendan Walsh and Robert Bonnie became new Saratoga winners, the elation of the moment never changes.

Jimmy Toner still has the corner and still drives a two-door white Mercedes. Phil Serpe’s high-top lawn chair seems like it never left. Ramon Dominguez is back, touring the backside just as smoothly as he used to do on the frontside.

The showgrounds doesn’t have any rails to its rings. Lillian’s is empty. The Parting Glass looks like it’s being swallowed by high-rise hotels. Lyrical Ballad still has the best books.

Keith O’Brien is here. Leo and Joan are not. Their horses are where Scott Schwartz used to be, there is no pink golf cart.

Todd Pletcher’s sod looks the same. As does Michael Dilger’s. The Annex could use some pointers.

They tell me Tim McKinsey is here somewhere, I haven’t seen him, did he get a promotion or something? Steve Jordan is definitely here, the same route, same smile. My favorite crossing guard – you know who you are – is here.

Robertino Diodoro has taken over Rudy Rodriguez’s barn. Rudy moved to the corner in the trees of Union and East. Eddie Kenneally moved from the main track to the Oklahoma. Jorge Abreu is in the Annex. Arnaud Delacour’s stable, run by Leigh, has folded into a sweet spot near Graham Motion. John Hertler is still going strong, still the kindest man on the backside.

Mike Hushion’s barn is now Dave Cannizzo’s barn. Big shoes. Mike Hushion went golfing Friday, now, that’s new. Awesome and new.

The Special staff still talks about running more than it runs, actually, that’s not new at all. Spring Street still provides the most sustenance. Pizza is our demise, although Henry Street Taproom and King’s Tavern are accomplices.

The feed store on East Avenue is now a newspaper office. Yes, that’s where we reside this year. And, no, that’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d type.

Linda Rice’s exercise riders still brandish fluorescent green, like lighting bugs in a jar. David Jacobson’s horses still train in halters. Eddie King’s still got it. Lorna Chavez is back galloping, for Nick Zito no less. Everybody misses Glenn DiSanto.

There’s a family friendly area at the track, new this year, sounds like a good idea.  People still stagger along East Avenue after the races, wondering who’s going to drive, they definitely weren’t in the family friendly area. Kids sell bottles of water and bootleg baseball hats. There are no lemonade stands.

Garlic Rob, Headband Lisa and Mike the Cop are still here. Colum O’Brien’s red and green rails are still here, but now have Streicher and Handal horses behind them. Cuco still says, “No likey” and invites us to Chile in the winter, we still say we’re coming.

People still drive their cars on the horse paths and stewards still yell at them. The mad rush at the turf gap is gone. Turf slips with time allotments are here to stay. Recycled cans and bottles pile up, the racetrack doing its part for the environment. Fewer horses get ponied, although I saw one today.

The Morning Line Kitchen can still suck you in and never let you out. Five-thirty in the morning is still the best time of the day. The OTB channel still plays in low-definition. And I’m still dreaming up columns, sometimes from nothing, that’s definitely not new.

Click here to read the entire Saratoga Special.