Friday will begin my 38th consecutive year spent at Saratoga Springs, New York. For each of these years, I have spent some or all of the racing season at Saratoga Race Track; not betting on each race, but enjoying the competition that the best of racing has to offer.
The start of each Saratoga season is met with excitement and trepidation from all parties; owners, trainers, jockeys and NYRA administrators. Will I get off the duck list? Will I have my best horses capable of competing against the best of the world. Will the grounds be ready? Will the people come? Will the best horse in America come (American Pharoah)?
Each of these questions will start being answered on Friday. Some are being answered sooner with NYRA making its well publicized announcements as to the changes to the lower carousel, the walk of fame and racing changes that take stakes away from the midweek calendar and places them on already exciting stakes Saturdays filled with the Whitney or the Travers. This is the new age; making certain Saturdays jammed with stakes so as to excite the crowd and build attendance on one day, rather than keep attendance and handle midweek. While it makes for exciting weekend racing, it will diminish the weekday racing. Nothing is more evident that the first race in the condition book; a Claiming race for horses put in for a tag of $16,500 or the lowest level claiming race possible. Hardly the race if scheduled first, you would want to lead off the most austere throughbred racing meet in the Country.
Now, to be honest, that won’t diminish the excitement I have for Saratoga racing. It won’t diminish the feeling of waking up early and going to the track at first light to watch these amazing animals work out and tune up so they can give their all on race day. It will do nothing to diminish the camaraderie and good natured teasing that goes on between owners, trainers and jockeys some who have known and summered at Saratoga for 5 decades or longer.
Win, lose or draw: Friday afternoon, Sam the Bugler will stand at the track apron and call the horses to post and Larry Collmus will open the 2015 racing season with having the fans lead the horses out of the gate. It will be exciting and I look forward to being there.