Friday morning quick picks from Saratoga

Today brings the first of two twilight racing cards at the Spa this summer; post time is 2:30.

Yesterday brought several promotions to the track: a short-sleeved T-shirt giveaway and a mid-summer St. Patrick’s Day. As I walked into the track just as the first race went off, I saw, in quick succession: people lined up to collect their T-shirts; a group standing around Irish musicians in the backyard, and bettors circling the TVs, rooting home their interests in the steeplechase. There was, it seemed, something for nearly everyone, including perfect weather.

Less perfect, at least right out of the gate, are the new stewards’ reports. On Wednesday, there was an inquiry and objection in the ninth race. The posted stewards’ report reads:

RACE 9 – Inquiry and objection race 9 inside the 16th pole. Number 3 against 9 for alleged interference. After viewing the films the result will be official as is.

Well, right. Yes. But we already knew that, didn’t we? We knew it as soon as Tom Durkin announced that the result would stand and that the race was official, minutes after the race ended.

What we don’t know is the reasoning behind the decision. What did the stewards see or not see that led to their decision? What factors did they consider? Let’s hope that as this process goes on (it’s brand new, after all), the stewards—one each from the Jockey Club, NYRA, and the State Racing and Wagering Board—will give us a little more insight into how they make decisions about inquiries and objections.

My work at the Saratogian this summer continues: a report on the 2010 meet preview last week at the Racing Museum and a feature on a new piece of racing history at the track. Space allowed for only limited coverage of the meet preview, and I hope to post an extended version of the evening here soon. My regular column in the paper returns this year on Wednesdays, but technical difficulties have so far prevented it from appearing on the website.

Backstretch favorite Be Bullish (profiled here two years ago) raced gamely last Sunday, finishing second by a neck to Desert Key, hitting the board for the 24th time in 39 starts. Be Bullish was bred and owned by Herbert T. and Carol A. Schwartz, and trained by their son Scott. And from the race, the five-year-old grey gelding was claimed away, by trainer Chris J. Englehart for Island Wind Racing. The claiming price was $50,000.

Englehart is based at Finger Lakes, so perhaps we’ll get to see the grey guy around here a little bit, especially next winter. Good luck to him, the new owners, and Be Bullish himself. Can’t help but be a little bummed by this development.

Next weekend brings the Fasig-Tipton 5K race for New York backstretch charities, including the Belmont Child Care Association. My training has been sporadic at best, so I’m hitting the road next Saturday less for competitive than for charitable reasons. You can still register for the race, and if you’d like to help without having to run, Fasig-Tipton is looking for volunteers that morning. Contact Anna Seitz at for more details.

It’s possible that Brooklyn Backstretch will be down a bit over the weekend; just like the Daily Racing Form, I’m doing a little site upgrade right in the middle of the Saratoga meet, and I can only hope that this one goes a little more smoothly! So if you run into some trouble accessing the site, please check back.

A great racing weekend to all!

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