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Stepping Up For The Backstretch Cats

Barn cats are as much a part of racetrack lore as good-luck horseshoes, and in some barns, the reality lives up to that idyllic image of a cherished feline, prowling the barns for prey, soothing the horses, ruling the roost.  Some backstretch cats are beloved and spoiled rotten, traveling from track to track with trainers and…

Cat Caretaking at the Oklahoma

While the opening of the Oklahoma training facility in April is usually greeted with enthusiasm, there’s at least one person and a lot of felines who mark the return of the horses and the humans with mixed feelings. In the off-season, the barns belong to the cats of the three colonies who call the Oklahoma…

Winter at the Oklahoma: The Cats Come Out

It’s late afternoon on a February Saturday in Saratoga, and the sun is low in the sky; the temperature hovers just above freezing, and a chilling wind sweeps through the deserted shedrows of the Oklahoma training facility. There’s not a horse or a human in sight. Describing the scene as “desolate” would be charitable. But…

Saratoga Sample

Not that one needs an excuse to head to Saratoga, even briefly, but a bit of business called me there this week, and I used it as an opportunity to mix business with all kinds of Saratoga pleasure. Mama Backstretch had not yet made the acquaintance of Furlong and Ruffian, so they made the trip…

The first few hoofbeats

April is the cruellest month, breedingLilacs out of the dead land, mixingMemory and desire, stirringDull roots with spring rain.–“The Wasteland,” T.S. Eliot Adding myself to the legions who have quoted Eliot’s words out of context, I drove onto the barren grounds of the Oklahoma on Saturday morning. Early balminess had given way to gray chill;…

They’re off! Saratoga’s first opening day

The first Thoroughbred meet in Saratoga took place in August of 1863, on the site of the old trotting course, across Union Avenue from the current track. Known as Horse Haven, just south of the Oklahoma, portions of the old track still exist (pictured below), though parts of it have been paved over and it’s…