Saratoga splendor

My autumn tracks are Belmont and Keeneland, both of which are beautiful in the fall.  Both tracks race in the spring, too, but they seem somehow made for colorful foliage, for chilly temperatures, for bridging the transition from tank tops to sweaters.

Saratoga is all about the summer, but it, too, is resplendent in the fall.  Autumn comes beautifully to this town that sits between the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains, and the track’s summer charms – the park-like atmosphere, the tree-filled backyard and backstretch – transfer their effulgent glories to the fall.

The drive up the Taconic this weekend was distractingly eye-catching, patches of burgundy and ginger and gold appearing around each turn and over each rise. Saratoga is wearing its colors proudly, and nowhere are those colors more on display than at the Oklahoma and at the main track.

The Oklahoma was busy on Sunday morning; set after set of Zito runners, including his Classic-bound Pennsylvania Derby winner, Morning Line, made their way to the Oklahoma, as did horses from the barns of Todd Pletcher, George Weaver, Chad Brown, Christophe Clement.  Temperatures began below freezing but warmed as the sun rose higher, leading both visitors and riders to shed layers.

I wandered from the Oklahoma to the main track, around the turns, across the grounds, and up to the roof. Click on photos to enlarge.

the paddock

I love the stacked picnic tables...

At the main track, I saw a security guard standing where Hattie’s is during the meet. I introduced myself; he smiled and welcomed me genially.  “Usually,” he said, “I’m the only one here.” And indeed, the grounds and the clubhouse were deserted.

Later, on my way out, I wandered through the press box, and I passed this:

Surely I’ve walked past it hundreds of times, but I’d never really noticed it. I wondered what it contained and wished that some other Saratoga-homesick turf writer were around for me to ask. But none was, and in the absolute stillness and absolute solitude of an October morning, the ghosts of horses and writers past seemed absolutely present, re-claiming Saratoga all for themselves in the quietness, until the crowds descend again next summer, as they have for over a century.

277 days until opening day…

13 thoughts on “Saratoga splendor

  1. Teresa Thanks for the photos! Very nice but kind of depressing! Haha. Have always wanted to walk the grounds during this time of year and the winter and take photos but I feel it’s not allowed with security!

  2. Like the Coney Island boardwalk in Winter or a Broadway theater after a show has closed and packed out, there is a wonderful quality found in a place that is so alive in its season and now dormat and wrapped up when the crowds have gone home. When you stood on the roof did you hear Durkin’s voice in your mind calling the final strides of the Whitney? And I am surprised not to see a photo of the beloved Paddock Bar, but maybe it has been taken apart and in storage waiting like all of us for next summer.

    • Kevin, I’m pretty glad that I had my badge with me, or else I’m pretty sure that that nice security guard would have nicely asked me to leave.

      Steve–you are too kind. Thank you.

      Scott: I wish that I’d stayed on the roof longer and just soaked it in and recalled summer moments. It was amazing, profound, to be standing there and looking at the landscape that was the same, but so different.

      And since you asked…check out the Brooklyn Backstretch page on Facebook…I tried to post it here, but no go.

  3. Teresa: Thanks for the magnificent photos. Saratoga is as beautiful in the fall as it is in the summer. I will revisit these photos, along with the one that I took of the Oklahoma starting gate during the long winter. As you said, only 9 months until opening day next July!

    • Paul, thanks for the kind words. Actually, Saratoga’s pretty gorgeous all year year (she says with all the pride of a homer).

      Linda…too kind! Thank you!

  4. Teresa, lovely pics. I was upstate on 10/9 and 10/10 and the leaves had not fully turned. My son was in the 26.2 Marathon from Schnectady to Albany.(his first marathon)I am so proud of him.He finished in 4:00.09.

  5. You know what I love about you and your blog Teresa? You love the game as I do. You love it for more than the ring of the bell at the gate when a race gets underway or the stretch run for its conclusion. But rather it is in your soul. Mine too. That’s why I write and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s why you do too.

    And if one picture is worth a thousand words, your Thesis of Saratoga in Autumn is as lovely and as brilliant a read as the leaves on the trees themselves.

    Many, many thanks!

  6. Beautifully written, Teresa. As to the Press Box box, of course it once housed Joe Hirsch’s binoculars, his Racing Manual and the previous weeks’ Racing Forms. Joe was a stickler for accurate descriptions just as you, though his desk space faced the back wall for between-race privacy.

    Once, while entering the little room to the side of Joe’s space and at the end of his working career, I asked him if I could help in any way. He responded in his best “Joe Hirsch” sunglassed quiet, “Got a pound of tens?” He smiled slyly; I laughed….

    Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing.

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