In a few hours I’ll be heading up to Saratoga to spend Thanksgiving with my family and indulge in a few traditions, one of which takes place on Saturday, when my father and my brother and I, along with a few Saratoga friends, spend the day at the harness track, watching and betting on the great races from around the country. Our focus is of course Aqueduct, with its menu of stakes races, highlighted by the Grade I Cigar Mile. I am partial to the Demoiselle; more on all the races later in the week.
I haven’t been to Saratoga since closing day, a bit of a surprise, as I’d expected to visit the Oklahoma track at least once before it closed for the season last week. The grounds at Saratoga will be dark and empty, and maybe snowy, a far cry from the golden sunshine in which it was bathed when I walked out on Labor Day.
So, thinking back to Saratoga, and the year in racing in general, I give racing thanks:
· for being present at this year’s Belmont Stakes, and for witnessing the single most exciting race I’ve ever seen. As Joe Drape wrote in The New York Times, “No matter which horse anyone here had bet on, it was clear in the final strides that the only payoff anyone wanted was to witness something they would not forget.” I got to see it, and I got the payoff. Win-win, indeed.
· for Curlin, Hard Spun, and Street Sense, and the wonderful ride on which they took us. This was the most exciting and talented three-year-old class in a while, and we kept watching until the end. I’ll give even more thanks if Curlin races next year.
· for the girls! Rags to Riches, Octave, Lear’s Princess, among others, fillies with personalities. I’m glad we got to see them for at least a little while.
· for Allen Jerkens and his fillies: Teammate, Miss Shop, Swap Fliparoo, Duchess of Rokeby.
· for the friendly people who let me visit their stables and get to know their current and prospective racehorses.
· for friends met at and around the racetrack.
· for wonderful racing writers like Jane Smiley and Sean Clancy, and for all the bloggers who give me more daily reading material than I can handle.
· for hunch bets.
· for Saratoga, where racing lives on as gloriously as it ever has, and where it will continue to thrive, unless the politicians manage to screw it up.
Add your own, please–for what in the racing world are you giving thanks this year?
Best wishes to you and your families…Happy Thanksgiving!