In the Paddock: Our Team

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Racing is a team game. Whether it’s on the racetrack or in our offices here at 112 Spring Street, where we will put out 31 more issues before the Saratoga meet wraps for another season. 

On the track it’s trainer, jockey, exercise rider groom, hotwalker, veterinarian and so many more that get you to the races and hopefully to the winner’s circle. In The Saratoga Special offices it’s editors, writers, proof readers, graphic designers, ad reps and jack-of-all-trade types. 

Our team for the 2014 meeting is quite a bit different from our team for 2013. Such is life at The Saratoga Special. The team members change, the mission the same. We’re on the lookout for the best stories, the hidden gems, the unknown angles and the forgotten bits and pieces. As Sean wrote in Saturday’s Cup of Coffee, we want to write about “the victories, the defeats, the track, the town, the horses, the characters, the moments.”

As much as Sean, Joe and I would like to cover every angle and uncover every stone, we know it takes more than three to get that done. The 32 pages don’t fill themselves. This summer we’ve got eight others on “staff” helping us out, not to mention key members of the immediate and extended Clancy family. Some you’ve already seen, some you will see plenty of and some you won’t see at all.

We’ve got two “veterans” and six “rookies.” Here’s our team:

Ryan Jones, 22, is the senior member of our team, now in his third tour of duty with The Special. He used to play rugby – hung it up because of “too many concussions and missing teeth” – runs 5ks in around 21 minutes and then goes to lift weights, dresses dapper and is on his way to becoming more successful than any of us and many of you. A native of Saratoga Springs and a graduate of Brown University after studying economics and astrophysics, I started calling him “Mr. President” this summer because he’s going to be president of something big someday, maybe even the United States. 

Dan McDonough, 24, is the other veteran and is working his second season on the beat. He needs a working voice recorder and a new iPhone – Bruce Brown and I joked about that the other day after I sent McDonough over to get the pre-race scoop on Spring to the Sky – but he’s got enthusiasm in the right places and a good voice to his writing. He’s also the best on the staff at taking a joke at his expense. Dan comes to us after learning about the game from his family growing up in Merrick, N.Y., on Long Island and he’s a graduate of the University of Albany not far down the Northway. He finished a half marathon the weekend before the meet opened and is considering going to law school.

Ashley Dingeman is the “senior” female member of the team at age 25 and she’s also one of the most experienced professionally. A native of Saratoga Springs who went to the State University of New York College at Geneseo to study communications, she wants to be the editor in chief of a national food and wine magazine and owns and edits the website, Saratoga Food Fanatic. She’s experienced in marketing, social media strategies and SEO, and we’re hoping she gives us some free lessons in all three!

Kristin Brennan, 22, grew up around horses and knows so much more about them than the differences between a fetlock and forelock. She grew up in Ocala and is the daughter of respected horseman and juvenile consignor Niall Brennan. She showed up the first day with a half shiner on her left eye – it happened while tubing with friends in Georgia on her travels north – so we know she’s tough. She’s worked the sales, captained the equestrian team at Berry College in Rome, Ga., wants to start a hunter-jumper farm in her “spare time” and pursue a career in marketing. She also writes poetry and songs and we’re looking forward to putting that versatility to good use at The Special’s open mic night. 

Katie Brush, 23, grew up on Long Island, earned a degree in English from the State University of New York at Brockport, studied abroad for a semester at Oxford University and got a quick start helping with some writing at the Belmont Stakes and even helped distribute copies of The Showcase Special in May at Belmont Park. She writes poetry, too, and knows sign language and worked this winter as a personal support person for adults with cognitive disabilities. She writes and illustrates children’s books and hopes to start a business selling educational supplies that is cause marketing, meaning portions of sales are donated to aid children who struggle to receive an education.

Jackie Dugas, 22, is the only other member of our crew that grew up right here in Saratoga. The Clancys got to know her as a youngster growing up on York Avenue and she comes to us after a semester at the University of Westminster and with a degree in organizational communications from the State University of New York at New Paltz. Organizing? Communicating? Who doesn’t need help with that? She plays volleyball and worked for a summer at Siro’s, too, and she’s got plenty of stories about many of you, so tread lightly with her or those tales might go public. 

Dan Tordjman is the “senior” member of the team at 31 and brings diverse experience to the table. He’s the Maryland correspondent for Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, where Joe serves as editor and Sean and I are senior staff writers, and he’s also a brand ambassador with America’s Best Racing. We had a guy who sported bow ties to the races last year and we’ve got one again this year with Dan. He used to work in television and when you meet him you’ll see why. Smart, well-spoken, good cut of the jib. Best of all he can write. He does that for his website DanonymousRacing.com and hopes to use his writing ability and nearly 10 years experience in broadcast journalism to help “make a positive impact on the industry.”

Katie Lasak, 21, will be our silent assassin behind the scenes. She’s our graphic artist and handles layout and design. I gave her four ads to design her first day and she turned them around in a few hours. Katie earned a degree in computer art from the State University of New York at Oneonta and got a 3.97 GPA in the process. When I called her references this spring two things stood out. They told me that when she gets something wrong and is corrected, don’t expect to have to point it out again and that she’s meticulous with details. When you’re putting a paper out on the fly – yes we do that occasionally – you need someone like that. 

 

So there you have it, our team for The Saratoga Special 2014. They’ve got friends they’ll bring to the races and tell about the greatest game played outside. Be nice, they’re the future.