Back in Brooklyn

As March comes to an end, so does my spring break road trip. I’m back at school today, back in Brooklyn for good, and Lexington is in the rearview mirror. Fortunately, there’s one last Kentucky thread to tie up, and that’s the story of my day at Turfway Park; hoping it falls into the “better late than never” category, I’ll have it up in a day or two.

Spring officially arrives in New York on Wednesday, when racing at Aqueduct moves from the inner track to the main track. It’s not looking or feeling much like spring, but next Saturday and the card at the Big A will put us firmly in the world of spring racing. We’ve got the Grade III Excelsior (rumor has it Evening Attire will run) and Bay Shore, and the Grade I Carter on the undercard of the Wood Memorial. More info on those races as they get closer.

Obligatory comment on the Dubai World Cup: Curlin was awesome. I’ll leave the deeper analysis to those who have already written about it.

Obligatory comment on the Florida Derby: Big Brown was awesome. I’ll leave the deeper analysis to those who have already written about it.

Both horses ran terrific and impressive races. It’s hard for me to get too excited about the successes of Steve Asmussen and Richard Dutrow, given their record of suspensions, but as I read in a recent e-mail, “It’s all about the horses,” and I am a little envious of those who can bask in unalloyed joy about what these animals can do, without being skeptical of how they do it.

I ended my spring break journey where it began, in Saratoga Springs, retrieving the felines, who seem to be a little disconcerted at being in their small NYC apartment, rather than in their spacious upstate home, where they can watch for hours the chipmunks running back and forth across the patio. If they see any chipmunks here, it’s not going to be good news.

Even in the dead of winter (and it is definitely still winter there—loads of snow and temperatures in the teens), one is reminded that Saratoga is a racing town. On the 6:00 news on Saturday, one of the featured sport stories was Curlin’s win in Dubai—I’ll bet that we could count on one hand the number of stations in this country that even mentioned it. And I joined my parents for dinner at the Wishing Well, a Saratoga mainstay that is steeped in racing history.

I went to high school with the current proprietors of the Well, Bob and Mary Alice Lee. When we were growing up, the place was owned by Bob’s parents, Bob and Brenda; Bob passed away several years ago, but Brenda is still a fixture, greeting regulars from the hostess stand next to the piano.

Walking in the door, one enters a foyer that is filled with racing and winner’s circle photos, Lemon Drop Kid among others. Behind the bar hangs a colorized 1919 photo of Upset beating Man o’War in the Sanford at Saratoga, and on the wall next to our table hung a collage commemorating Chris Evert’s Filly NY Triple Crown victory in 1974.

The food is classic—steaks, chops, seafood—and the piano player in the bar takes requests (when we arrived, he was playing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” for a three-year-old). You can while away the time with Hook the bartender, and Bob and Mary Alice are gracious hosts. The place is packed in racing season, so call early and make a reservation; reservations are less necessary out of season, and in some ways the place is more pleasant then, when it’s less crowded, but in August it’s pretty cool to walk to your table and recognize the various trainers and owners who frequent the place in the summer.

Only 115 days until opening day…

7 thoughts on “Back in Brooklyn

  1. Another great post. As for Dubai you were right about Numaany-they should have brought him home after the last race.I did a search to see if there was any report on his condition and when they’re hoping for him to return-couldn’t find anything-but if you type “Numaany” into the Google and Yahoo search engines-the top entry on both is from “Brooklyn Backstretch” followed by the Godolphin website!

  2. My dad would visit Saratoga Springs in the offseason—less hustle bustle, easier to get seats.Many industry people are retiring there. Can’t blame them.Just wish more hotels and outdoor restaurants were dog-friendly. You would think a town that worships the horse would extend the love to the pooches—I’m not eating over HERE when my dog is over THERE tied to that tree!!!

  3. So, Jeremy, do we get to see Numaany back here this spring? Here’s hoping so…Ernie: maybe my parents or my brother will be willing to dog-sit? How does your guy get along with other dogs?

  4. Teresa-I’m not sure. There were some reports that he was lame after the race. A number of people I know have emailed Godolphin for an update

  5. Thanks, Teresa. It’s not an issue of having someone to watch him. It’s being able to bring him with me!!! So many towns are dog friendly, but much of Saratoga keeps its nose up in the air—an unfortunate smudge on the place I love so much.YAYYYY, Holiday Inn!!Yayyy, Grand Union!!!!!

  6. My family and I started staying at the Grand Union when I was about four years old, and we stayed there most summer weekends until we moved to Saratoga when I was thirteen. We were great friends with the Benton family, who owned the place until recently. There was much mourning knowing that it was going out of their hands. To me, the Grand Union motel and summer in Saratoga are synonymous.When I was seven and terrified, my father pushed me off the high diving board there into their pool!

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