This week at Saratoga: Week 3

Ten days down, thirty to go. I already feel as though there’s too much in Saratoga I won’t get to; the to-do list is getting longer, not shorter.

Ramon Dominguez carries his lead in the jockey standings through week two; he’s got 21 wins with José Lezcano in second with 11.  Anthony Dutrow led the trainer standings last week with three wins; he’s dropped to a three-way tie for fifth with Rudy Rodriguez and Bill Mott, surrendering the lead to Chad Brown, who’s got eight wins.

Week two brought us wins from Hessonite, Street Life, Winter Memories, Alpha, and Currency Swap; the first cat horse win with Charming Kitten; and the longest price of the meet when Lady Utopia scored at 70-1.

We’ve got a double carryover into Wednesday’s card, and plenty of off-track action to keep anyone busy.

On to week three, with an admittedly incompletely and highly personal look at what’s going on in Saratoga…

Leading off with some non-date-specific suggestions: The literary-minded must stop at Lyrical Ballad bookshop on Phila St. while in Saratoga. Room after room of haphazardly arranged books, postcards, posters et al. will leave you absorbed for hours; the shop’s collection of new and historic racing books is unsurpassed.

Stop at the Adelphi Hotel on Broadway for a drink. You can sit at the bar of this 19th century hotel, or relax on the patio outside, but my favorite spot is in the lobby, where I can pretend that I’m a late-Victorian spa-goer here for the season as I sip prosecco from crystal stemware.

Wednesday, August 1:  Two author signings at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Patrick Smithwick and Anne Hambleton will appear from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Smithwick is the son of Hall of Fame steeplechase jockey Alfred P. Smithwick, and he’ll be signing copies of his memoirs about life on the track, Flying Change and Racing My Father. Click here for my conversation with him in the Saratogian.

Anne Hambleton’s Raja is a young adult novel about a promising 2-year-old racehorse whose path to racing success is not the smoothest; I talked to Hambleton last week about her book.

The feature race, for New York-breds, is the John Morrissey Stakes, honoring the man who brought Thoroughbred racing in Saratoga.

Starting today and going through Monday, August 6, submit your original photos taken at Saratoga to compete for one of several prizes; you can submit at the Times Union website. The photographer of the winning photo will receive two tickets to the Times Union Trackside Breakfast and a $25 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card.

On Wednesday evening, Pulitzer Prize winning author William J. Kennedy will explore Saratoga Springs’ gambling past in a one-hour moderated conversation with political talk show host Susan Arbetter at 7 p.m. in the Canfield Casino. The program is free and open to the public. Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 for Ironweed, set in New York’s Capital Region. From the Saratoga Springs History Museum:

While much of the talk will focus on Spa City as a resort, attention will also be directed on the parts of the city seldom discussed. “I’ll talk about John Morrissey, a Troy street kid and river rat, who rose in the world through his fists and his politics to become an exalted gambler courted by the New York elite and who brought the casino and the track to Saratoga. I’ll talk about latter day gamblers and mob figures who moved into Saratoga — Arnold Rothstein, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano — how it was all linked to politics, and how a politician — Governor Thomas E. Dewey — closed it down,” Kennedy said.

Hm. A New York State governor getting involved in Saratoga gambling. Imagine. 

Thursday, August 2:  A busy day in Saratoga.

The feature at the track is the Grade I A.P. Smithwick Memorial steeplechase race, named for the Hall of Fame jockey. Divine Fortune, owned by William Pape and trained by Jonathan Sheppard, goes for his third straight win in this race.

Each Thursday morning during the meet, a Saratoga jockey will join visitors on the porch between 8 and 9 a.m. to greet fans, take photos, and sign autographs.

This Thursday is Mid-Summer St. Patrick’s Day, and all fans who arrive at the races wearing green will receive free grandstand admission.  Those who decorate their picnic areas in the backyard with St. Patrick’s Day décor will be eligible for prizes courtesy of downtown’s Celtic Treasures; on offer is also a chance to win a six-night trip to Ireland.  Saratoga favorites The McKrells will perform in the backyard from noon to 4.

Following the races, join Paul Roberts of Turnberry Consulting for a lecture on the history of the race tracks of New York. Turnberry is a strategic development consultant for NYRA and the co-author of The Spa: Saratoga’s Legendary Race Course, a wonderful book that’s essential reading for anyone interested in the history of the track and about which he spoke here several times last year.

This year, Roberts will talk about the beginnings of racing in New York, home of America’s first regular race track, on Long Island in 1665; he’ll discuss tracks, people, horses, and races, past and present. Click here for more information.  The evening is hosted by the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation and is $10 for members, $15 for non-members. It begins at 7 pm and takes place in the Humphrey S. Finney Sales Pavilion on the Fasig-Tipton grounds.

Registration is encouraged but not required; you can register by e-mailing or calling 518 587 5030.

In the evening, Andy Serling will host his weekly live broadcast for ESPN Radio 104.5 from Hattie’s restaurant on Phila St. from 9 – 10 pm.

Also at night, Equine Advocates holds its annual awards dinner and fundraiser at the City Center. This year’s honorees are Thoroughbred owners George Strawbridge and Roy and Gretchen Jackson, and jockey Edgar Prado.  Tickets are $250.

Those with smaller budgets can check out the Cornell University Cooperative Extension’s equine division’s Silks & Saddles fundraiser at Vapors at the Saratoga Raceway. CCE Equine provides educational programming for adult horse enthusiasts and business owners, and it’s one of five local non-profits to which the Raceway has donated the use of its nightclub. The Raceway is also donating a matching grant of up to $1,000 for the first 200 attendees to turn in their admission tickets.

Tickets are $5 with a cash bar. VIP tickets are available for $50 and include admission to a private area at the party, reserved seating, hors d’oeuvres, and a cash bar. Guests will be entertained by live music from 7-9 and a DJ from 9-11; doors open at 7 pm.  Attire is “dress to impress.”

For reservations, contact Jennifer Stevens at, Sharon T. LaPier at, or Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County at 518-885-8995.

Friday, August 3:  The $200,000 Grade II Honorable Miss is run. Allen Jerkens has won it twice: in 1994 with Classy Mirage and in 2008 with Any Limit. My Trusty Cat won it in 2004.

The track’s Friday Family Fun Fest, which will take place each Friday at the track, continues. . In the backyard playground from noon to 4 p.m., families will find including a bouncy inflatable and the Tiny Tots Tea Room arts and crafts table. The week’s featured activity is the Leaping Lizards and Rocking Reptiles exhibit from Children’s Museum of Science and Technology (CMOST). Kids and families will have a chance to meet the cold-blooded creatures while learning about their behaviors, habitats and lifestyles.

All Family Fun Fridays include adult grandstand admission, a Post Parade program, a hot dog and Coca-Cola for $5 with a voucher found on Coca-Cola displays at participating retailers. The voucher can be redeemed at the Reserved Seats Office on Union Avenue on any Friday during the season.

Big kids need bigger toys, so Northeastern Fine Jewelry and Keeler Motor Car Company will offer racing fans the chance to win a 2012 Travers Stakes Crown Jewel Experience, which will include clubhouse box seating and luncheon for two on Travers Day, August 25; two-night accommodations at The Saratoga Hilton on August 24 and 25; a prepaid two-year lease of a Mercedes C250 coupe from Keeler Motor Car Company; an 18 karat pendant from the Simon G Embrace collection with a retail value of $2,200 from Northeastern Fine Jewelry; and a $100 gift card to Saratoga Springs restaurant Maestro’s at the Van Dam.

Individuals can enter to win by liking the Northeastern Fine Jewelry and Keeler Motor Car Company Facebook pages. Participants can then register for the contest on either of the Facebook pages through August 20. The winner will be notified in the days leading up to the Travers Stakes. No purchase is necessary; must be 18 years or older to enter.

Saturday, August 4: Two Grade I races are on tap, the Whitney and the Prioress. The Whitney’s been around since 1928 and its list of winners is a who’s who of American dirt racing. The Prioress, won by Dark Mirage (1968), Ta Wee (1969), Classy Mirage (1993), Xtra Heat (2000), Carson Hollow (2003), and Indian Blessing (2008), makes its Saratoga début; it’s been run at Jamaica, Aqueduct, and Belmont. Find out more about the 19th century filly for whom the race is named.

The Fasig-Tipton Festival of Racing includes the return of the “Best Turned Out Filly” contest, during which representatives from Saratoga Polo will select the most fabulously dressed lady at the track. Women may register at the Saratoga Style tent between noon and 2 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. One winner each day will receive a $100 gift certificate to the U.S. Polo Association apparel line and have the opportunity to present a trophy for a filly race.

Families can take part in the Fasig-Tipton Graduate Trail Scavenger Hunt to locate photos of six famous Fasig-Tipton sale grads throughout the track and complete a word puzzle for the chance to win an outing at the Carousel. Entry forms will be available in the Post Parade program and at the grandstand and clubhouse customer service desks. Completed entries must be submitted by the fifth race. The winner will be determined through a random drawing of all correctly completed entries.

Sunday, August 5:  Start your day with a walk through Saratoga’s historic Greenridge Cemetery, whose inhabitants include racing luminaries James Marvin and Samuel Hildreth.

Join guide Gloria May at 10:30 at the Greenridge Place entrance.  The tour is $5 for members of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, $8 for non-members. Click here for more information. Registration is encouraged but not required.

At the track, Shackleford returns to Saratoga to run in the Grade I Vanderbilt Handicap.

The third annual Galloping Grapes wine event, showcasing New York State wines, will be held at the track from noon to 5 p.m.  The first 500 guests will receive a commemorative Saratoga Race Course wine glass with their paid admission. Advance tickets are available for $20; tickets will be available on the day of the event on track for $25. All proceeds benefit the Times Union Hope Fund and the Times Union Classroom Enrichment Program.

Sunday evening, join the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation for its annual dinner and fundraiser, honoring Thoroughbred owner Ogden Phipps.  Tickets are $350 and the event will be held at the City Center.

Monday, August 6:  Join the New York Race Track Chaplaincy in honoring Anne Campbell of Dogwood Stable for her efforts in improving the lives of backstretch workers. The Chaplaincy’s breakfast will be held at the Gideon Putnam Resort & Spa at 9:30 a.m. and is co-hosted by Sharon Dominguez (wife of Eclipse-award winning jockey Ramon Dominguez). Attire is casual and tickets are $75; contact Nancy Kelly at 518-226-0609 or for more information or to purchase tickets.

At the track, the feature is the Waya, for fillies and mare three and up, at 1 1/2 miles on the grass.

Tonight and tomorrow night, hundreds of pricey, well-bred yearlings will make their way through the ring at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sales, held in Saratoga since 1917. Bring your checkbook and take home a gorgeous equine baby…or hang out in the back, have a drink, and watch the future of horse racing go by amid hundreds of socializing onlookers.  I highly recommend stopping by for at least a little while.

Tuesday, August 7:  The Fasig-Tipton yearling sale continues. See above.

Visit historic Sanford Stud Farm for a fundraising evening of “Horse Tales and Cocktails.” Located a short drive from Saratoga Springs, the farm is raising money to try to preserve what’s left of its historic buildings, especially the Broodmare Barn. Your $40 donation ($30 if you’re a member of the Friends of Sanford Stud Farm) includes hors d’oeuvres, a cash wine/beer bar, silent auction, a tour, and stories about the farm. You can learn more about the farm here.

The evening runs from 6-8 pm. Call Tom at 518-866-1287 for tickets; for more information, call 518 848 3000.

And every day through the meet (except for Travers day), up to six racing fans can join Tom Durkin in the announcer’s booth for the third race. Donations of $100 per person go to Backstretch Employees Service Team.  For reservations, call 518-587-3720.

Looking ahead…

Thursday, August 9:  Join the New York Yankees’ Mariano Rivera at the restaurant of which he is a part-owner to raise money for his foundation, which supports children’s health, education, and wellness. Tickets are $500 per person and be purchased by calling 516 355 4514.

Monday, August 13: Jockey karaoke returns to the Spa! Join the Saratoga jockey colony at Vapors at Saratoga Raceway to raise money for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. More info to come next week, but last year, this affordable ticket for a good cause was one of the highlights of the summer.

Wednesday, August 22:  Join the Belmont Child Care Association (on whose board I serve) for its annual fundraiser to support Anna House and the children of the backstretch. More details to follow.

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