Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, and thus Lent, a time of sacrifice, is 40 days.
In the Bible, 40 days symbolizes deprivation, meditation, transformation. But for those who worship at the altar of racing, 40 days is now nothing but sweet excess, and the faithful can rejoice, as in 2010, there will be 40 days of racing at the Spa.
My first reaction was jubilation. Four more days of racing at Saratoga? Four more mornings on the backstretch, four more afternoons by the paddock, four more indolent afternoons in the backyard, four more days of Saratoga stories? Yes, yes, yes! Bring them on!
Then followed sober reality. A lot of horsemen are probably not going to be happy. Those travelin’ turf writers might well object to another week on the road. And let’s just hope that all the NYRA employees who ship in for the meet will be compensated for the extra days of expenses that they’ll incur.
And speaking of those expenses—what, I wonder, will this do to the rental market? Being out of one’s home for six weeks is hard enough; will fewer people, especially those with children, be willing to give up their homes for nearly seven weeks, and move back in the day before those kids return to school?
Siro’s will probably be happy. And the Horseshoe, and the downtown restaurants and bars. The NYRA grounds crews will have less time to get the old Spa in shape before the onslaught.
There will be moaning about the quality of the cards, of the horses, of the races. Trainers and jockeys could set new records, with four extra days in which to accumulate wins. Maybe fewer trainers will get the duck, because they’ll have forty more races to enter.
We’ll be four days poorer, and four days more tired. That pre-Saratoga trip to Del Mar might be a little harder to manage. But we’ll have four fewer days to wait until opening day, and four more days to count down before it all ends again.
Sure, there are those who will say that 40 days is too long, that the sweetness of Saratoga will be diminished by its ever-lengthening season. Shakespeare wrote, “…they are as sick that surfeit/ With too much, as they that starve with nothing.”*
But I’ll bet Shakespeare never went to Saratoga…