Sunday morning on the Saratoga backstretch was quiet. Yesterday’s heroics in the books, the feeling of the end of the meet is undeniable, and many, it seems have packed up and left: the sparse crowd at the backstretch coffee stand mirrors the empty stalls across the grounds.
It’s cold, too, perhaps the coldest morning the meet: even a fleece doesn’t quite keep out the chill, and feet in boots need warmer socks, at least until the sun is a little higher.
But the glow persists; on almost everyone’s lips, “Wasn’t she amazing?” “Wasn’t that great?” “Probably the best race I’ve ever seen.” “Second only to Affirmed and Alydar.”
We are fortunate to have witnessed it, fortunate to have seen greatness first-hand, fortunate to see history made, fortunate to be present at the moment that racing historians will discuss decades hence (we can only hope), as we have so often this summer discussed Twilight Tear and Busher, the only two fillies to beat older horses and go on to be Horse of the Year.
Turf writers: feel your obligation. You are writing history, and in fifty years, yours will be the stories that will answer the question, “When was the last time a three-year-old filly beat older males?”
Saratoga has, as usual, provided the setting for any number of racing memories, and I’ll recall them in a few days, in the 2009 wrap-up post. For this racing fan in particular, it’s been a summer of promise, of magic moments, of joy in the routine, the unexpected, in the predictable and the surprising.
We try, in this last weekend, to hold on to the remaining few moments of Saratoga racing this year, and for more than 30,000 people on Saturday afternoon, Rachel Alexandra gave us more than any racing fan could ever want, could ever hope for. She gave us speed, she gave us heart, she gave us guts, she gave us greatness, and the Saratoga crowd roared its approval and its love, its respect and its admiration.
She did what few fillies have done, and she did it here. Following the race, Jess Jackson thanked Saratoga. “It’s a special place,” he said.
Never more so than yesterday afternoon.