New Crew

- -

College sports coaches deal with this sort of thing all the time. The door’s always revolving, players are constantly coming and going. Some coaches, like Kentucky’s John Calipari, deal with it on an annual basis. They call what he’s perfected “one and done” around the country and it works pretty well for Cal in the Bluegrass.

We’ve got a bit of a revolving door here at The Saratoga Special.

Interns and graphic designers come and go. We’ve had four, if you count one that came for a week as a fill-in last summer, graphic designers in the three years I’ve been around. What about writers? We’ve had way more than that, too many to count as I bang out this column with the sun below the horizon and shadows getting long on Spring Street.

None of this is new mind you, or at least that’s what Joe and Sean tell me. They’ve seen them come and go now for 15 years, the lifespan of The Special.

None of the writers from my first season in 2013 are around anymore. Most are off with real jobs or back at school. They text, email and tweet every now and then, telling us how they miss the good old days of assignments, deadlines, cold pizza, the downtown office in the Roohan Building.

Only one is back from last year, and we’re lucky to have him since his primary job here in Saratoga is for The Jockey Club. Gabby, Ryan, another Ryan, Catlyn, Dan M., Rebecca, Kristin, Katie, Ashley and Jackie, all gone.

What’s the saying, out with the old and in with the new? We’ve got a new crew at The Special, five “rookies” and one “veteran.” Here’s our team:

Annise Montplaisir, 19, showed up two weeks ago ready to roll after a more than 1,500-mile trip from Moorhead, Minn. We call her “Fargo” because she goes to North Dakota State University in Fargo, because she’s got the accent and it seems more interesting to say she’s from North Dakota versus Minnesota. She’s on the hunt seat equestrian team at NDSU and loves to travel – obviously. Annise interned last spring with the American Quarter Horse Association in Amarillo, Texas, and her internship with The Special goes alongside other jobs as volunteer “racetrack ambassador,” pony rider, gallop girl, clocker, media relations intern at Canterbury Park and director of communications at the North Dakota Horse Park.

Billy Blake, 24, earned the nickname “Billy Blaze” at a pre-meet cookout. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Albany, he started coming to Saratoga as a baby and “got hooked on horse racing.” He graduated from SUNY Oneonta and we hear he plays some golf, something that doesn’t come in real handy for the month and a half of Saratoga. He’ll be one-and-done for us since he was hired by The Stronach Group to start work out at Santa Anita Park in September. Oh and get this, he qualified for the National Handicapping Contest last year. Yes, that handicapping contest; the one in Las Vegas.

Brandon Valvo, 21, grew up near Saratoga but never actually went to the track as a child. He lived just a few minutes away from the Saratoga County Airport and his mother took him to see the private planes owners would land there to come to the races “so I had an underlying interest in racing and horse ownership.” He finally went to the races with a family friend five years ago – to Saratoga Raceway for harness racing – and rarely misses a weekend. A student at Siena College majoring in accounting, Brandon writes, edits and handles social media for the Harness Racing America website. He won one of the $1,000 scholarships handed out Wednesday during the seventh annual College Day presented by Toyota.

Teresa Genaro, 50, is a turf writer born in Yonkers, raised in Saratoga Springs and currently living in Brooklyn. She teaches English at the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn and serves on the board of the Belmont Child Care Association. Like many who grew up in Saratoga, Teresa’s interest in racing came from early exposure and her family’s interests in the game. Her parents owned Standardbred horses, which she says brought them all to Saratoga, and her mother worked at the National Museum of Racing for nearly a decade. We hear she likes setting records on her Fitbit, which also happens to be a passion of Annise, so perhaps a challenge looms before the end of the meet.

Dan Tordjman, 32, is our lone returnee after pitching in last year while he juggled his responsibilities as a brand ambassador with The Jockey Club initiative America’s Best Racing. He worked in television for 10 years before he hung it up for a career in racing. He’s the Maryland correspondent for Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred – a publication our team at ST Publishing edits and writes year round – and he’s all in on the game. He launched his website in 2013 to share racing stories, handicapping advice and personal race analysis and selections. He’s also proud the site’s fundraising, with collections from fans topping $15,000 for OTTB charities and the PDJF.

Kaitlyn Vishneowski, 22, continues our pipeline of graphic artists from SUNY Oneonta, following Katie Lasak last year. Kaitlyn is headed to Manhattan once the meet ends to pursue her career in design, but first she’ll deal with our crew, work on advertising, paginate and anything that Joe pushes her way and that Sean and I have absolutely no clue how to do. She stopped by Druthers for a bite to eat one day last week and came back with one of best looking burgers we’d seen in a while, so we know she’s got good taste.

Apologies for repeating some from the closing paragraph of a similar column last year, but it fits this year.

There you have it, our team for The Saratoga Special 2015. They’ve got friends they’ll bring to the races and tell about the greatest game played outside. Be nice, they’re our and your future.