Monday, July 23, 2012

The “Quest” begins

By BRENDAN O'MEARA / @BrendanOMeara

This past Friday Saratoga opened and 25,676 people skipped work. I stayed away opting to dodge the crowd. Saturday I’d be there signing books so it would be unavoidable, but I’m so glad I had to get over it.

The weather cooperated with clear skies. The sun kept its anger on lockdown. It was the type of day and type of weekend, overall, that sells you on why horse racing should find a way to stick around for a few more generations.

I noticed that many patrons—get this—dressed up. Men in suits, fedoras, khakis, blazers, bowties; women in flowing, flowery sun dresses, some painted on, some an ill-timed breeze away from the arresting eyes of a Peace Officer.

But, of course, there had to be some glitches to the Old Gray Mare that is the Spa. Apparently on Friday the sound system gave us all a lesson in the loudness of silence.
The James Marvin, now a Grade III, drew the Nick Zito-trained Jackson Bend. Bend, to me, is Zito’s new Commentator. He’s the type of horse Zito loves to talk about. His first words are almost always how small the horse is. Imagine Bobby Valentine saying that every time Dustin Pedroia got a base hit. Wait for it. Valentine may actually say that before this season ends. The favorite Jackson Bend mustered little rally beneath “Little Big Red” Rosie Napravnik. Who won? Rick Dutrow’s Pacific Ocean. Dutrow you say?

He’s still training, even though a New York appeals court upheld his 10-year ban from training horses in the state. Win while you can, Dutrow, because an example needs to be made and many fans of this sport want to see it cleaned up. I don’t doubt Dutrow’s skills as a pure horseman, but he went down a murky road dozens and dozens of times belying his skills and undermining both the horses and horse players. Suspensions as they are, he’ll be training for a while still.

Which brings us to Saturday where my father-in-law was moderately disappointed that he had broken even at the end of the day. I had to tell him the day you walk away not having put a gambling dollar in NYRA’s pocket (after takeout, of course) that’s a victory. Maybe I was jealous because I’m such a piss-poor handicapper.

The TVG Coaching Club American Oaks was next and since it’s nine furlongs I went to the winner’s circle to watch the race. It’s my favorite place to see the start. I love the combustion, so I took this short video while Godolphin’s Questing held of Zo Impressive and In Lingerie.

So what? Some of the audio went out at the Spa. The new free WiFi they’re touting wasn’t working. I recently crafted a piece for Trail Runner Magazine and my last line was “Runners run.” And going to Saratoga, amidst all the nonsense, all the drug posturing, all the Kentucky Derby points talk, all the Dutrow, everything that gets people in a huff, incinerates some of that garbage. For a few short weeks this little meet makes us remember why we got into this silly game. So let’s enjoy it. Rip it when it’s deserved, The Jim Dandy approaches and the Travers narrative kicks into gear.

Runners run. Racing fans and horse players tune into Saratoga if for nothing more than the scenery.

Brendan O'Meara will be signing and selling copies of Six Weeks in Saratoga Sunday July 29 all day at Monmouth Park.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

Comments (8)

BallHype: hype it up!

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