75 & Sunny: Funny Guy

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I don’t think I’ll get a lot of argument when I say the best place to watch racing in Saratoga is at the track. If you do want to argue though, I can back up my assertion with over a million counter arguments.  

That’s the number of people who came to the track to watch the races at the track over 39 racing days last year. That’s an average of over 25,000 per day in a town that, according to the 2010 census, has a population of about 26,000. That seems pretty conclusive.

The problem, of course, is that this year none of the 25,000 daily attendees is allowed at the track. This includes my wife, who watched races at the track every day of the meet last year. This year she is suffering serious withdrawal symptoms.

Okay then, what’s the second best place to watch the action at Saratoga?

“Right here,” said Kate at the Adelphi Hotel race viewing tent. She is the restaurant manager at the hotel and was actually welcoming us to our table instead of responding to the question I just posed, but her statement could have worked for either purpose.

Kate manages a team of waiters and bar people here, but if a customer has a question or needs something, she’s just as likely to take care of it herself as assign it to someone.

At one end of the tent is a big 9×12-foot viewing screen with another six large flat screens positioned around closer to tables. Everything’s set to enjoy a day of racing. On a hot day the tent, with its open sides, has the same problem as being at the track – it’s hot.

The Adelphi does its best with fans around the perimeter and big tubs of ice in front of them and after a bit you get used to it.

The tent is usually used for weddings, Kate told us, but with Covid-19 pretty much eliminating large celebrations, the space was pressed into service for people to watch the races.

“It’s been very successful,” Kate said. “We were a little surprised and pleased of course. But Saratoga’s a racing town, and people want to stay involved.”

The Adelphi isn’t the only spot offering a chance to get a drink and something to eat while watching the races and placing bets on-line. A couple of weeks ago The Special ran a story that mentioned several of the others. And on Opening Day my fellow intern Samantha Loud visited a few and enjoyed refreshments in the interest of a writing a well-researched review for the following issue.

I wanted to try the Adelphi in particular for two reasons. One historical and one spiritual. As for the historical, the Adelphi Hotel has been an important part of the history and fabric of Saratoga Springs for more than a century and a half.

In that time it’s gone through three major rehabs; each with the goal of preserving its historical essence. It’s played hostess to the racing, political and social personalities that have shaped the history of the area. It stands as the grand old lady of Broadway.

Because of this it struck me as particularly appropriate that when I asked Kate for her last name, she said, “Veitch.”

The family Kate married into has been a part of Saratoga Springs for almost as long as the Adelphi, five generations. And they haven’t just been living here, they’ve been playing a role in making the town what it is today. Kate’s husband and his three brothers and a sister have all served the community in the management of Saratoga Springs, in law enforcement or in education.

Their father, Michael Veitch, was a longtime racing columnist for The Saratogian, but more important, was the influential seventh grade Social Studies teacher of The Special’s editor Tom Law. Veitch taught in the Saratoga Springs school system for 30 years.

Somehow it seemed very fitting that I was being served by a woman as ingrained in the history of the town as the legendary hotel where I was enjoying the races.

As for the other “spiritual” reason, well that’s a bit embarrassing. I like to think I’m a pretty level-headed guy. I don’t go in for conspiracy theories or séances or anything of that nature. However, while doing internet research on the Adelphi Hotel, I found two references to its being haunted and inhabited by spirits of the dead.

If it had been just one, I might have dismissed it as just some crackpot. But two. Well that gave me pause.

I also discovered that the man who started the racing at Saratoga back in 1863, the famous John Morrissey, frequently used the Adelphi for entertaining social, political, gambling and gangster friends. Morrissey died of pneumonia at the age of 47 in 1878 … at the Adelphi. After his death, he lay in state for two days in the second floor lobby of the hotel.

Thursday marked the 16th running of the John Morrissey Stakes at Saratoga. Anyway, as I said, I don’t believe all that “spirits” stuff. On the other hand, who can be truly sure of anything these days?

So, yes, between races on Sunday, I sneaked upstairs and stood in that second floor lobby. And asked John’s spirit who would win the Morrissey Stakes.

I waited for probably a minute and a half listening to silence before I gave up and kind of sheepishly returned downstairs. At the foot of the stairs was an Adelphi employee who asked if he could help me with anything. This is another way of basically saying, “What were you doing upstairs without permission, buddy?”

I said I’d been looking for John Morrissey. I then put on my best just-kidding face and added, “He wasn’t there.”

The employee, who apparently didn’t find my witticism amusing, said, “Funny guy,” though, from his tone, I don’t really think he thought I was.

I already told you, it’s a little embarrassing.

Anyway, this morning, looking at the entries for the Morrissey, I note there is a 4-year-old colt, whose dam was Heavenly Humor, named … Funny Guy.

I’m not making this stuff up. Might be worth a couple of bucks.