What a weekend

My Travers weekend started like this.

Friday morning, out on the Oklahoma to meet an early interview, and I got blessed with one of Saratoga’s perfect mornings.

For the first time since 2000, I wasn’t at Saratoga to see the sun rise on Travers morning; I missed the day’s first race, the annual sprint for a picnic table, but by the time I arrived mid-morning, I saw no signs that an impending hurricane was dampening the spirits of those in attendance. The backyard was full, enthusiasm high. Official attendance was 43,050, down just a bit from last year.

Sparkling maiden wins early in the card whet appetites for the later stakes races. John Kimmel’s Fire On Ice won his first start by 10 ¾ lengths, defeating the Repole-owned, Pletcher-trained favorite, Our Entourage; three races later, Kiaran McLaughlin’s Miss Netta won by nearly three and paid $17.00.

Fire On Ice

Miss Netta

Todd Pletcher got his first win of the day when Hilda’s Passion crushed a field of accomplished fillies in the Ballerina, winning by 9 ¼ and leading at every step; unfortunately, she came out of the race injured and is done for the year.

A race later, it looked as though Pletcher would get back to the winner’s circle and Uncle Mo would make the comeback of the year to win the Grade 1 King’s Bishop off a nearly 5-month layoff; Caleb’s Posse ruined that party when he surged to the wire to beat the impressive-in-defeat Uncle Mo by a nose.

(One not-so-disappointing note: 15 minutes before the race, Papa Backstretch called and asked me to bet $10 to win on Dominus for him. He called back eight minutes later. “Did you make that bet?” I did.  “Can you cancel it?”  I can.  “Can you bet me $10 to win on Caleb’s Posse?” You betcha, Dad.)

Within hours owner Mike Repole was talking retirement for Uncle Mo…or maybe he wasn’t.  Pletcher offered more cautious words, and on Sunday morning at his barn was talking about a possible start in the Breeders’ Cup for the one-time Derby favorite.

The Pletcher show continued in the Travers, when that other Repole horse, Stay Thirsty (remember that guy?) held off Rattlesnake Bridge to win the 143rd Travers Stakes. (For the record, Papa Backstretch had Rattlesnake Bridge. But even he couldn’t run down a Pletcher-Repole trainee two races in a row.)

By 7 pm Saturday night, the paddock statue wore Repole colors…

and it’s a good thing that that paint is waterproof, because by the wee hours of Sunday, the rain had come. Irene arrived, pelting Saratoga. While less severe than expected, the storm nonetheless wrought some scary damage at the Old Spa:

This fallen tree blocks the horse path, the old trotting track from the 1840's & site of the first meet in 1863

Just outside the Pletcher barn

But by Monday morning, perfection reigned at Saratoga. Cool, crisp, clear…and clearly a credit to those who had worked to get the track ready for racing…

…though the work wasn’t quite done…

The dogs were up on the dirt, and one enterprising exercise rider eschewed riding boots for more practical footwear.

I should be writing this from Brooklyn, but despite some creative attempts at navigation and night-long website monitoring Sunday into Monday, I couldn’t find a way to get there from here. My regular routes – Thruway, Taconic, Saw Mill, Hutch – were all closed at one point or another, and so I sat at the Spa for one more day.

I hope that those in Irene’s path didn’t suffer too much damage; I am grateful that the worst effect on me was some travel stress, much mitigated by the incredibly understanding folks at the school where I work.

Six racing days left. Wherever you are, enjoy them while you can.

As always, click on photos to enlarge them. If you’d like to re-post any, please just ask…I like to know where they’re going! 🙂

7 thoughts on “What a weekend

  1. Glad to know you were still safely at the Spa. I was worried about you trying to drive..

    We fared pretty well, lots of wind and rain and major branches and small limbs down, no power for 26 hours but all is well!!

    Since I was without news all day Sunday, are they going to run the Personal Ensign this week instead?

  2. Just found your blog…heard you on At the Races yesterday and even though I’ve been folloing on Twitter hadn’t found this blog yet. Enjoyed hearing your story on ATR and will now be reading from here on out. Love your passion and look forward to following you from here on out

    Roger in Indy.

  3. Personal Ensign will be run on Saturday, along with the Woodward and the Forego. All was basically fine in Saratoga, though areas nearby got pummelled, and I couldn’t get back to Brooklyn because of all the road closures in between. A huge part of the Thruway is still closed.

    Welcome, Roger! And thanks for the kind words. Hope you’ll chime in here, too.

  4. One of my favorite parts of the Saratoga experience is looking at all those beautiful, tall trees that inhabit the track. They add so much to the atmosphere so I am sad to see some tall ones down as a result of the Storm. I trust the Gambling Tree in the Paddock Bar made it through all of this and will be there for the next time we all are able to gather under her.

    Enjoy the last Weekend and we’ll see you at Belmont.

  5. Great camera work Teresa!

    Rattlesnake Bridge was never going to catch Stay Thirsty. Nope, not with Johnnie V. continuing to hit the horse left-handed as the horse continued to bear out in the deep stretch from Johnnie’s actions.

  6. Great Travers, amazing crowd given the weather forecast, and super coverage here.

    One more weekend. Can’t wait to make the drive back north one more time, Thruway or no Thruway.

    Trees: Teresa, do you remember when lightning struck one of the infield trees? This happened in the early 1990’s, I think. Lightning split the tree, followed by ear-splitting thunder and then a downpour of rain, flooding the area around the grandstand; remaining races cancelled. That tree is gone, but others have grown back to replace it, sort of.

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