Cup of Coffee: More Moments

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It’s the moments that make the meet. All together, when put together, they complete another endless summer. Good and bad, harrowing and fulfilling, depressing and elating, they come at you, hard and fast.

I wrote that paragraph Aug. 3 and followed it with moments that stood out after 14 days of racing. It was desperation, a moment of panic with nothing to write and space to fill, in the middle of sales week. Basically, snippets that weren’t stories, paragraphs that weren’t articles. When it was finished, I kind of liked it, enjoying a respite from the 800-beginning-middle-end column.

Three weeks later, there have been more moments…

Doc Richardson wondering if Royal Delta was too quiet in the paddock before the Personal Ensign, then the champ bucked, nearly clipping jockey Joe Johnson. Richardson shrugged, she galloped.

The crowd cheering for Royal Delta – twice. Once when she crossed the wire and once when she returned to the winner’s circle after the Personal Ensign. That’s class.

Allen Jerkens winning the Saratoga Dew for the second consecutive year with Go Unbridled. “Well, at least we’re off the duck,” he said after the race.

Apse winning. Walking out of the winner’s circle with 26 texts, all the people who I root for, rooting for me. Fun game. 

The pall over the racetrack after exercise rider Raymond Bulgado broke his neck on the turf Monday morning. Prayers.

Asking a waiter at Siro’s for carrots and delivering them to Eagle Poise, well after 9 o’clock after he finished third in the Idle Rich. Good horses make you remember what it takes to be good.

Sam Maloney walking me to her car and showing me her photo album from Saratoga, 1993. There’s Sky Beauty and Mike Smith, Noel Wynter with his burlap towel, Bill Higgins riding Devil His Due, Cowboy and Boone and Tuba, Bill Mott galloping, Heavenly Prize ranging up to Lakeway, Fourstardave galloping back, Concern, Holy Bull and Sea Hero, Todd Pletcher with brown hair leading Tabasco Cat, Dehere, Jim Hamilton and the Chief playing football…

Joel Rosario breaking his foot. Jose Lezcano breaking his wrist. And so many near misses in between.

Answering the phone after seeing Bill Person’s name pop up on the screen. “I know you’re busy, I was going to text you but Fran said that means you don’t want to talk to the person, so I’m calling.” I’m glad he did.

Eric Guillot – for the first time all meet, maybe ever – dropping the schtick and showing the heartfelt emotions of a horse trainer, of losing the Travers by a nose, a last-stride theft.

Listening to a message from Richard Klein after Catlyn Spivey wrote an article about the filly Miz Ida, a tribute to Ida Schultz, a holocaust survivor and friend of Klein’s late mother Elaine. I remember why we write The Special.

Shug taking control of Imagining in the paddock before the Idle Rich.

Walking back to the jocks’ room with Joe Rocco Jr., after a spill-marred allowance race on the turf Sunday. “If I wasn’t riding with guys who know what they’re doing…” Rocco said, after skirting past disaster leaving the backside. Rocco and Javier Castellano met at the jocks’ room – the shared fear and relief going unsaid.

Mentor Cane galloping in the morning – King Kong has climbed the Empire State Building.

Gabby Gaudet and Manny Azpurua walking through the paddock, an old man and a young woman, talking horses.

Watching Demonstrative and Orb breeze 30 seconds apart. Trains on tracks.

Ollie Figgins taking off his glasses, wiping his eyes and regaining his composure after winning the Ballerina.

Maria, Casey, Jeff and Barb coming to Saratoga for the first time and instantly seeing what the rest of us have known since our first time here. They left as racing fans, trying to plan a trip for next year. Remembering that this sport survives on each of us introducing it to others.

Introducing Orb to war veteran Rob and his wife Phyllis and receiving an email that read in part, “You showed me what heaven looks like. For me at least it was what I hope it looks like.”

Miles dancing at the races. Miles crawling into bed Sunday and saying, “This day in Saratoga is the happiest day of my life.”

Ryan Jones going back to Brown University.

Graham Motion assistant Alice Clapham saying to 20-year-old hotwalker Ryan Clancy, “I mean this in the nicest way, but I hope I don’t see you walking hots next summer.”

Ryan walking toward Keith Cooper’s horse van Tuesday morning, waving goodbye, another summer, another moment, fading in the distance.

– Watch Royal Delta win the Personal Ensign here.