As I wrote in my bio on the TBA homepage, my first memory of being at Saratoga Racecourse is of General Assembly’s Travers, in 1979. I was fourteen, and my family had moved to Saratoga the previous summer; my father owned a business near the racetracks, and having rented our house to “summer people,” we were living within walking distance of the flat track, as we called it.
On Travers Day that year, my younger brother and I went to the track alone; our parents were working, and we wanted to go to the races. My brother knows more about racing than I can ever hope to; he’s been a fan and student of the sport for more than thirty years, and it is largely due to him that my interest in racing was rekindled. It’s he to whom I go when I have racing questions, his opinions that I seek about racing issues. And yes, he’s the guy I check in with when I’m not sure who to bet. More often that not, he steers me in the right direction (Ghostzapper in the Vosburgh (corrected following anon’s reminder in comments); Better Talk Now in the Sword Dancer).
In 1979, the infield at Saratoga was open, and our teenage selves were so excited to be walking across the track, “in the horses’ hoofprints,” as my brother recently put it, to watch the big race. I placed my first bet, $2 show on Secretariat’s son, who I believed paid $2.10. And I was mighty excited to cash my ticket.
On Christmas morning, 2007, my brother presented me with what you see on the top right. He’d found it on eBay (where else?), and as he, too, is a fan of racing history, I thought at first it was just a cool artifact, an old Blood-Horse he’d dug up.
And then I read the caption, and saw the date (August 25th, 1979, in case you can’t make it out), and realized that I had in my hands perhaps the coolest Christmas present I’ve ever received.