Opening Day is something I really anticipate as my usual crankiness and daily disdain at all things around me seems to disappear as I walk through the Wright Street Gates into the grounds of Saratoga Race Course.
Suddenly I feel like a kid again, when everything seemed brighter, prettier , and more optimistic.
The handicapping day started well when I hit the first Daily Double of the day when Johnny V brought Freedom Rings home in the 2nd. I also had Mythical Yarn for the consolation double, who was a late scratch at the gate when she saw a paper on the ground and spooked-rearing up sharply. Apparently Mythical Yarn is otherwise ok with no injury incurred.
The attendance was 25,444- a increase of 40% off of last years rain deluged opener of 18,127. All I heard on the television news when I got home was the 40% increase as well as the 30% on-track handle increase that NYRA trumpeted on its website. But last year the weather was so bad, the attendance today, short of a another monsoon, had to increase. It did rain late and the 10th race was moved off the turf, but the rain seemed to me only a minor annoyance compared to 2008.
Attendance was down this year when compared to the 30k that showed up for the sunny 2007 opener. (I thought for sure my attendance guess of 26,500 would nail me the early lead in the Equispace Toga contest but I was beat by the Saratoga Residents' guess of 25,750)
Just before race 4 I noticed Dana from Green but Game and her group sitting a mere stones throw from me in the same seating section. Dana noted the threatening gray skies and pointed out to me that Get Stormy would be the logical hunch bet. Alan Garcia promptly brought Get Stormy home for a $7.90 win bet.
The fan favorite of the day was clearly Saratoga Russell in the 8th. There was a noticeable roar in the crowd when the 4 year old cruised home for the win. I had the trifecta bet early until Presto Change O decided to stop running after 4 furlongs. I managed to nail the trifecta in The Schuylerville Stakes when Hot Dixie Chick romped over Beautician and Cowgirl Mally, giving me a small profit on the day.
It started to rain heavily after the Schuylerville and a logistical mishap caused me to have an aborted 5 minute visit to Siro's. During my brief visit it seemed that despite the post race day downpour the Siro's crowd was in the usual state of opening day giddiness.
It poured heavily between 6pm and midnight. I would not be surprised if some of the early turf races today are moved to the main track. But the sun is supposed to be out, so the later races should be fine. But for now, with opening day at the Spa in the books, you leave a little tired but with the knowledge that this is just the beginning, and it feels good to be happy like a kid again.