Friday, July 29, 2011

Saratoga Friday

Today is the first of two twilight Friday race cards at the Spa or as NYRA calls it "Party at the Spa presented by Coors Light". First post goes off at 2:30 pm followed by free live music from the band Rockjunky at the Post area adjacent to the Paddock.

Expect a big crowd (although the weather calls for afternoon Thunderstorms to roll on through) for the card. Actually you can't even call this a twilight card as the last race goes off at 6:56 pm and Sunset is at 8:18 pm. I would love for the card to start at 3:30 and finish up just before 8 pm, allowing the after work crowd to see more of the card.

However the downtown restaurants and bars feel the late finishing time kills their early business so don't expect any additional late Friday cards to be added in the future.

If you do skip out of work early today and get to the track by 3:30 pm you have time to place a bet on the 3rd race, featuring the return of Ice Box, up against 5 others in an $57,000 Allowance Optional Claiming race of 1 1/8 miles. There is not much speed in this race for Ice Box to close on, so I'll take a pass, and go with Neil Howard's Wilkinson, who should go off at attractive odds if enough money flows to Ice Box and Convocation.

On Saturday, the Jim Dandy is all set on what should be a splendid weather day. You can see my take on handicapping the race over at the Thorofan website.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Saratoga Opening Weekend Recap

Opening Day weekend was an all around success for NYRA and the fans who came out to the Spa. Credit goes to NYRA for not panicking and going forward with Opening Day despite the heat. Yes, it was hot, but not as hot as the cancelled day in '06. 25,155 fans agreed and showed up for Opening Day. Strong crowds and handle followed on Saturday and Sunday and with 37 days to go, the meet is off and running strong. Here's some photos I took this weekend at the Spa with my thoughts:

A photo of the new video screen as seen from Section C of the Clubhouse (no more light bulbs)

A look at "A Taste of Saratoga" featuring food from 4 local Restaurants

The backyard and Paddock Fencing is now wood, changed from the tacky vinyl of old.

The Post Bar just outside the Paddock, now in its 2nd year, but feels like it has been here along, like a trusted friend.

Offspring of Yours Truly, enjoying Shake Shack Shakes from the Yummy Shake Shack

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ready for Opening Day

Like a kid looking forward to Christmas Day, these couple of days before Opening Day at Saratoga Race Course are filled with a mix of anticipation, impatience and anxiety. It will be hot for sure. Many are already wondering if the track will close if indeed it hits the Upper 90's.

Funny how memories fade about the last time the Track had to close for heat. Most people can't remember the date and of course the recollections of the temperature high for the day are all over the map.

The date was August 02, 2006, a Wednesday. As a midweek card with no graded stakes the decision to close was far more easier than it would be for Opening Day this Friday. The decision was made relatively early, around 9 a.m. The forecast was for temperatures to approach 100 degrees, although the actual high temperature around Saratoga that day was 94 degrees. The humidity was oppressive, with humidity levels around 75%. Compare that to today where it hit about 90 degrees in the Saratoga region but humidity was only around 60%. It will be uncomfortable for sure this Friday at the track, but not as humid as cancellation day in 2006 and expect the gates to be open for business come Friday morning.

In addition to the racing card, I will be interested in checking out the streamlined food stands. In an effort to open up the walking space a bit, many of the food vendor stands have been eliminated, including a centralization of the lemonade stands. Hard to imagine the Spa without the ever present lemonade stands. There were 27 lemonade stands throughout the facility, most staffed by friendly high school and college students. Let's hope the new locations for the lemonade can be easily spotted come Friday.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

One week Away

Sparkling weather for the last weekend at Belmont. A pretty good crowd of 8,204 turned out Friday for the Twilight Card.

Took a jaunt through downtown Saratoga yesterday as the town gets ready for Opening day on 7/22/11. The sidewalks were busy and many visitors were already up and settled.

As usual several restaurants have closed and opened since last year. Most notably, the splendid Maestro's which was located in a tiny little space just adjacent to the Adelphi Hotel on Broadway, has now moved into a 90 seat space a few spaces down into the Rip Van Dam Hotel. It is now known as Maestro's at the Van Dam.

There is always new places to try but there is nothing like the tried and true places that never change and are just always around, like a favorite pair of jeans. Amongst all the activity present downtown during this weeks visit, I was probably most happy walking past old familiar places like Hattie's (get the fried chicken) and Compton's (breakfast of course).

If your coming Opening day, bring light clothing and sunscreen, temperatures will in the 90's come post time.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

What did we miss?

Back from a month break from the blogosphere. And except for a peak here and there at select blogs and twitter feeds, I stayed away from the game, only watching a few races and not betting on any of them. But alas, there are only 3 things that seem almost impossible to stay away from for most of us mere mortals, that being Gambling, Sex and Drinking. We can all put our hand on the bible and swear off the the above 3 alleged vices, but we all return soon enough all trying to get our share.

And so Saratoga is just 2 weeks away promising to deliver some of the rewards we seek. Complete with National TV weekend coverage on Versus and NBC, NYRA seems poised for a good meet, despite the parity in the 3 year old division.

In social news, Mary Lou Whitney will skip her usual Whitney Ball. The gaudy gala, held annually the night before the running of the Whitney Stakes, is famous for attracting socialites, and wanna bee's to the Canfield Casino in Saratoga Springs.

Some would criticise the display of opulence but I had no problem with it, especially when considering all the fundraising and charity events Mary Lou Whitney conducts for the backstretch workers.

The annual "Travers Celebration", held at the Saratoga Race Course the Thursday before the Travers Stakes, usually a formal dinner, is now labeled as a cocktail party with food stations. Tickets are $175 and the proceeds in part go to the BEST Backstretch group.