How can it be Travers week? Wasn’t opening day just last week? We’re down to 12 racing days at the Spa…12! Say it ain’t so. Please. Say it ain’t so.
Looks like there’s not going to be a lot of suspense in the jockey and trainer titles this year…Ramon Dominguez leads the jockeys with 47 wins, with Javier Castellano in second with 32.
Todd Pletcher’s won 25 races to Chad Brown’s 17. Pletcher’s most recent came in Monday’s seventh race with his impressive Notacatbutallama, who’s my new favorite horse. The burning question: is he a cat horse or a llama horse?
It’s the biggest week of the racing season. No time to rest. Grab your coffee, your barn boots, and your party shoes. We’re off…
During Travers 1864 Restaurant Week, approximately 50 eateries throughout the greater Capital Region will offer special pricing and menus in celebration of Saratoga’s signature race. Through Thursday, August 23, diners can get a three-course meal at participating restaurants for the prix-fixe cost of $18.64, the year of the inaugural running of the Travers. Click here for a list of participating restaurants and the menus on offer.
Tuesday, August 21
Celebrate the 20th anniversary of Thunder Rumble’s Travers win with Old Friends at Cabin Creek, home of Thunder Rumble.
The party will run from noon to 2 p.m. at the Greenfield Center farm in honor of the 23-year-old retiree who won the Travers in 1992. The farm is open for tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In attendance will be Richie Migliore, one of Thunder Rumble’s jockeys, along with representatives from local businesses, caricature artist Phil Singer, and photographer Connie Bush.
And I hope that you’ll check out the Travers Stakes program this year, which will include my feature on Thunder Rumble, only the second New York-bred to win the Travers Stakes.
Wednesday, August 22
Join artist Sharon Crute at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. as she signs the book she illustrated, 101 Whinnying Riddles for Horse Crazy Kids. Written by Sue Wade, the book teaches children the unique vocabulary of the world of horses. Crute is a local artist who also has a booth at Saratoga Race Course.
The Albany Stakes for New York-breds is the feature; fan favorite Naughty New Yorker won it in 2005. Its first running, in 1978, was won by Fio Rito, a horse whose name I have always inexplicably loved.
If you haven’t packed on enough extra pounds this summer, consider competing in the Stewart’s Ice Cream Eating Contest at the track, in divisions for kids, teenagers and adults. Winners receive gift certificates for free Stewart’s Shops ice cream, and registration begins at noon by the jockey silks room. The contest will take place after the third race, approximately 2:10 p.m.
Wednesday night, 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. This year’s honoree is Stonestreet Stables’ Barbara Banke; read more about the event here.
Thursday, August 23
As they’ve done each Thursday during the meet, jockeys will be present at the track breakfast from 8 to 9 a.m. to sign photos and take photographs.
At the National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame from 10 a.m. to noon, artist Greg Montgomery will sign his 2012 Travers posters as well as copies of his book, The History and Art of 25 Travers.
A fashion show to benefit Ronald McDonald House kicks off at 11 a.m. in the At the Rail Pavilion. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
The hurdlers take to the track for the Grade I New York Turf Writers’ Cup. Last year, trainer David Jacobson won the race with Mabou, the horse he’d claimed earlier in the meet.
Thursday night, the official party of the Travers Stakes takes place from 7:30 to 11 p.m. at Saratoga Race Course. Tickets are $175 ($125 for those under 30) and benefit Backstretch Employees Service Team (B.E.S.T.) and the Times Union Hope Fund. The evening will include “exquisite food stations and beverage offerings,” a live and silent auction, and dancing to live music. Click here or call 418 383 6183 for more information.
For those with more modest entertainment budgets, check out Andy Serling and At the Post Live at Hattie’s on Phila Street. Free and open to the public, the program is broadcast on ESPN radio 104.5 in the Capital Region. Guests this week are Ian Wilkes, trainer of Travers starter Neck ‘n Neck, and handicapper Andy Beyer.
Friday, August 24
Tricia O’Hara is at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to sign her Saratoga Grazing Cookbook, which introduces readers to local chefs, their secret cooking techniques, their claims to fame, and the “extravagant manner in which their cuisines were prepared for racing society, movie stars, and politicians throughout the Saratoga Springs community.” The book also features famous recipes from local restaurants, resorts, and bed and breakfast establishments, as well as some famous racing history about Saratoga.
At the track, Turbulent Descent returns to Saratoga in the Grade I Ballerina in her first start for trainer Todd Pletcher. Kiaran McLaughlin has entered It’s Tricky both here and in Sunday’s Personal Ensign.
In the backyard, join the Battle of the Brews, featuring area microbrews with proceeds benefiting the American Red Cross Adirondack-Saratoga Chapter. Admission is $30 per person and includes a souvenir tasting glass; snacks and non-alcoholic beverages will also be available. The event runs from noon to 4 p.m.
Family Fun Fridays continue in the backyard playground from noon to 4 p.m. Families will find a bouncy inflatable and the Tiny Tots Tea Room arts and crafts table, along with this week’s featured activity, the CMOST presentation of Small Science, a hands-on exhibit introducing children to the “teeny, tiny” nanosciences.
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.
On Friday night, Saratoga holds its Travers Eve Party downtown, featuring autograph sessions with Saratoga’s leading jockeys in the parking lot of the Saratoga Downtowner motel from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.; donations will be accepted to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund. The evening also includes live music and strolling entertainment from 7 to 10 p.m. Fans of all ages can stop by various downtown retailers to pick up red Mardi Gras beads featuring the 2012 Travers logo. Click here for more information.
Saturday, August 25
It’s Travers Day! The gates open at 7 a.m. and first post is 11:35. The 143rd Travers Stakes will anchor a day of four graded stakes races; NBC will broadcast the four stakes races from 4 to 6 p.m. The undercard includes the Grade I Foxwoods King’s Bishop; the Grade I Test; and the Grade II Ballston Spa presented by Jose Cuervo.
Sunday, August 26
The stakes races aren’t done yet: the Grade I Personal Ensign is today’s feature. Royal Delta returns to the Spa—will she be joined by It’s Tricky?
Come armed with your smartphone or tablet for Saratoga’s first Social Media Day, at which local and regional bloggers, Facebook fans, Twitter followers and other social media gurus can meet and network in person. The first 1,000 social media users to register on-track and show that they have “liked” NYRA on Facebook or follow NYRA on Twitter will receive a free commemorative Social Media Day T-shirt.
Social Media Day meet-up attendees will have access to a special reserved seating area in the backyard near the Big Red Spring; the day will feature trivia contests, giveaways, and music from Ernie Munick.
NYRA jockeys, broadcast analysts and social media personalities will visit the area to meet fans and followers throughout the day, including Andy Serling (@andyserling); Maggie Wolfendale (@maggiewolfndale); John Velazquez; Ramon Dominguez; Julien Leparoux (@julienleparoux); and Richard Migliore.
NYRA will host several contests during the event on its Facebook page and Twitter account, including the opportunity to win a signed program from the 2012 Travers and reserved seats for the Grade 1 Woodward on Saturday, September 1; and a photo caption contest on Twitter with the winners being re-tweeted by NYRA and posted on the NYRA Facebook page. Additionally, one racing fan who RSVPs affirmatively to the Social Media Day event page on Facebook will receive a “special race day experience.”
Monday, August 27
The Saratoga Dew for New York-breds is the feature race; the race is named for the New York-bred filly that won the Grade I Beldame and Grade I Gazelle; she also won the New York Oaks at Finger Lakes.
Starting today and going through Monday, August 27, 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 Labor Day barbecue.
Wednesday, August 29: Join trainers Chad Brown and Dominic Galluscio for a New Owners Luncheon that will provide an introduction and overview of thoroughbred ownership. The luncheon will be hosted by former champion jockey Richard Migliore and co-hosted by NYRA Raceday’s Ernie Munick.
The event will begin at 7:30 a.m.; click here for more details.
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.