Cup of Coffee: Playing God

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If I were Chris Kay for a day…OK, God of Saratoga for a day…

I’d buy new TVs, with interfaces on the screens to be able to bet, order a drink and pay for it all without standing up. Better yet, make it available through the NYRA app.

I’d power-wash the place – gently.

I’d re-grade the backstretch, adding dirt and creating natural swales for water to drain, I’d add some grass seed too.

I’d build new dorms that look old.

I’d recruit the youth.

I’d build shedrows on the open barns, build them like they were here from the start, so horses could walk without getting wet when rain falls or hot when the sun shines.

I’d plant trees for the next generation.

I’d race five days a week, nine races a day and card the stakes as the eighth – every day, no matter the field size.

I’d design a hacking path for the horses, through the woods, down past the trailers, up the hill, past Lukas’ barn and around the whole place.

I’d build a recycling center near the recreation center, so the boys wouldn’t have to balance cans on their bikes and ride downtown to the closest Price Chopper. Might even be a way to raise some money, donate to the Racetrack Chaplaincy or Anna House or B.E.S.T.

I’d push the manure back.

I’d bring back a mile-and-five-eighths on the turf and the mile chute while we’re at it.

I’d ban watering the macadam.

I’d give away collared shirts to the grooms, if they’d wear them to the paddock.

I’d buy every private barn when it came up for sale, heck I’m God, I’d buy the show grounds between Horse Haven and Union Avenue, Greentree and the harness track too. Night racing across the street…!

I’d recruit international competitors, brag about the purse structure, pay airfares, create a bonus, open the doors and enjoy the show.

I’d bring back the old grooms who taught us how to make a mash and roll a bandage, just to listen to them talk about the horses. On the days we have to write about Princess Of Sylmar for the fourth time, we’d skip Pletcher, Stanco and Velazquez and walk back to the test barn with her old groom named Boot or Shaky or Carolina Slim.

I’d convince Mike Repole to give Andrew Lakeman a couple of horses.

I’d welcome fans to sit by their cars under the trees in the parking lot but I’d ask them to turn down the music.

I’d give the Chief a big, fast colt who can carry his speed and needs to see the world through another set of eyes.

I’d build a permanent office for The Special, somewhere near the stakes barn, close enough where we could write a story, go to the paddock, lay out a page, watch a race, design an ad, go to the winner’s circle and finish the paper.

I’d re-build the jockey’s board in the infield.

I’d keep the jocks’ room right where it is, so the fans meet the jockeys, every race, every day. 

I’d add some dirt to the old pony track in Horse Haven and open it for training, wrong way galloping every day.

I’d find a place for a synthetic training track. I guess if I bought Greentree that’s covered.

I’d build a raised platform and indent the chain-link fence on East Avenue and Union Avenue so pedestrians and tourists could see the horses.

I’d make the horses take a full turn of the paddock for Grade 1 stakes. Yes, I’m still on this kick, people come out to see the horses, show them the horses.

I’d bring back Ashley Herriman.

I’d know every member of the gate crew, by name and by face.

I’d never lengthen the meet.

I’d offer free train rides from the city.

I’d make the horse ambulance go down the backside instead of the stretch, whenever possible.

I’d have a leaderboard, like they do in golf, updating the trainers, jockeys and owners’ standings after every race.

I’d bring back Sunny Jim, Mike Freeman and Frank Whiteley.

I’d give every fan a chance to meet a horse, though the tour guides do a great job with this.

I’d shake the hand or have someone shake the hand of the winning owner, every race, every day. Better yet, every owner in the paddock before the race, “Hey, thanks for being here.”

I’d lay rubber bricks on the chute from the paddock to the track, or at the least, cover the pavement crossings with stone dust.

I’d hand a copy of The Special to every person who walks in the gate.

I’d figure out a way to get owners to send horses to different trainers.

I’d make the Travers worth $2 million.

And, yes, I’ve mentioned a few of these in the past 13 years of writing The Special, sorry for the repetition but God can use a to-do list as well.