Saratoga morning

7:15 a.m., Oklahoma training track.  Picture perfect:  the sun has burned away the early morning fog; the predicted 90 degree heat has yet to descend.

As usual, I [inadvertently] time my arrival to coincide with the break, so there’s time to chat before training resumes.  Some of these folks have been here since 5:30, to watch Rachel Alexandra work out; at that hour, I was playing feline peace mediator.  The blending of the upstate and downstate feline families is less than 24 hours old, and soothing ruffled feline feathers took precedence over watching an equine superstar.

Jockeys have come up from downstate to work horses—“Gotta remind the trainers that you’re here,” says one well-known jock.  Trainers and assistants are jovial—because it’s not too crowded yet?  Because they’re glad to be here?  The jokes fly along the rail.

Ice Box on the outside

Zito and Mott and Pletcher and Asmussen are all sending horses out; groups of two-year-olds train together, and Ice Box, Florida Derby winner and Belmont Kentucky Derby runner-up, works in company.  A jockey asks a photographer to take a picture of a horse coming down the lane; she obliges, then asks, “Who was that?”  He answers, “My Girlfriend Sylvia.”  We think that he’s talking about the horse, and we file the name away.  Turns out, he was talking about the rider.  (The name has been changed to protect the innocent…)

I wander across the street, where workers of all sorts are getting the Spa ready for her 2010 début.  New buildings are going up; machines are being tended to; furniture is stacked, ready to be distributed across the grounds.  And because it’s quiet, I notice things I’ve never seen.  We all should be as lucky at “Bijou” Cox.

The grounds look lush, despite the heat and lack of rain, although the grass in the backyard is not quite as emerald and full as it usually is.  Trees in full summer raiment offer cool promises; the morning is moving from 60 to 90 much, much too fast.

Coming home to Saratoga to work for the summer is different from coming home as a fan:  working means a schedule, and obligations (and yes, more pleasantly, a paycheck).  But the moment that I step inside the gates, I remember, fully, exactly, how much I love this place.  Its beauty and its history engulf me, and I revel in thinking how lucky, how incredibly lucky, I am that this place, the old Spa, is my summer job.

We’re going for 40 days this summer, 40 days of two-year-olds and stakes races and friends and fun and writing and late nights and early alarms.  And yes, of course, of New York-breds and claimers and turf sprints and heat and crowds and maybe even what feels at times like racing saturation.

But we’ve got only 40 days of it, only 40 days.  It’s 11 days away, and I can’t wait.  40 days?  Bring ‘em on.

As always, you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

12 thoughts on “Saratoga morning

  1. >>And yes, of course, of New York-breds and claimers and turf sprints and heat and crowds and maybe even what feels at times like racing saturation.

    You forgot to mention the rain. 🙂 Nice try, Teresa, but any way you cut it, the meet is too damn long. The racing is going to suck far more days that it’s going to be worthy of the tradition that made Saratoga the wondrous place that it is. And sooner or later, that’s going to catch up, and it’s not going to feel quite as magical. (In fact, it already doesn’t.)

  2. Teresa,
    Maybe the reason the cats were fighting could be that some of them are Rachel fans and some are Zenyatta fans.That has to be the reason for the fur flying.LOL

  3. Thanks, everyone, for the comments. Alan, I was wondering what took you so long. =) Though I had rather expected to feel some of that malaise, and maybe I will in three weeks, or five, I was more excited than I’d expected when I went by this morning. Maybe because this is my hometown; maybe not.

    And as much as I love Aqueduct, John, I can’t disagree!

    Jim: is that anticipation or a complaint?

    Linda, and MH: You’ve got to come. The mornings are magic here.

    Mike: I’ve tried my best to raise non-partisan cats…but you may have a point.

  4. I agree that 40 days is too long for anyone who has to spend the entire time up there. Due to the realities of life, I’ll only be able to spend a few days of bliss during Diana week and Alabama week. Have a good meet to one and all.

  5. they have paved paradise and put up a parking lot!!! new york racing what has happened to this once great sport in NY, makes one want to cry!!

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