AUGUST 2, 2012—If you think that Tuesday’s work tab for Saratoga’s Oklahoma Training Track was shorter than usual, there was good reason for it; training hours were over by 9 a.m.

Poor track conditions or hurricane type winds? Well…no. The transmission fell out of the water truck just above the sixteenth pole and they could remove it in time? Sorry, you’d be wrong again.

The reason why Tuesday workouts at Oklahoma were truncated is because there were no ambulance drivers available in case there was an emergency. Why? Well, you had to go back to racing the previous day.

At that time, a valet got hurt in the paddock during racing hours. He was hurt to the extent that it was decided to take him to the Albany Medical Center, a.k.a. Albany Med.

Despite the fact that the driver was a local, he got lost going to Albany Med. Let me repeat, an ambulance driver got lost on his way to a hospital. Clearly, bold action was needed.

It was time for a trial run, figuring which was the most efficient way to get to Albany Med, a little tricky if you’re from out of town, but a local?

So rather than wait until, say 11 a.m., a decision was made to begin the trial run a 9 a.m., on a dark day. Obviously, I cannot divulge my source on this. But the trainer works his horses at Oklahoma.

Besides, who could make this up?

Up, Up and Away

If it weren’t for the NYRA quotes after the race from Danielle Hodsdon, I never would have known that she left the employ of Jonathan Sheppard after many years as a #1 assistant and stable rider.

If I were Sheppard, I would be thinking about the one that got away.

Hodsdon, the only woman to own the distinction of riding the winner of a steeplechase race and a flat race on the same Saratoga program three years ago, won the Grade 1 Smithwick Memorial on 25-1 chance Spy in the Sky, surviving by a nose over strong finishing Left Unsaid.

“I hit the lead a little sooner than I wanted,” Hodsdon said, “but being he’s an older horse (eight-year-old) you don’t want to leave [the winning move] too late.”

The winner made a long, sweeping run to contention before taking the lead in the 2-1/16 mile affair soon after entering the straight.

“I have never been that wide on the final turn but for a little horse he’s got a big stride and you don’t want to check him. I just thought it better to keep his run going,” she explained of the tack taken.

It was an important win, the Smithwick being one of two Grade 1 chase races at the meet, events that can go a long way in determining the steeplechase champion.

Hodsdon knows something about championships. She and Blythe Miller Davies are the only females ever to win a steeplechase riding title.

“It means a lot [to win this race]. I worked for Jonathan Sheppard for a really long time,” said Hodsdon. “I’ve moved on and am doing some things on my own. It’s nice to know that I can come back and sit on a horse for somebody else and still do it.”

This might be precisely what Sheppard was thinking after the horse he saddled in the Smithwick, Divine Fortune, finished fifth as the 3-2 favorite.

Suddenly, It's Zito En Fuego

It began with a 13-1 upsetter of a Todd Pletcher-trained mega-dropdown in the Wednesday finale with Sinorce and the roll continue when Nick Zito-saddled Tuvia’s Force, owned by the Lucky Shamrock Stable, won the 3rd race, a.k.a the Mid-Summer St. Patrick’s Day Race with News 10 ABC and Celtic Tours purse.

The wise guys might have called it the third at nine furlongs for “beaten 20 claimers.”

Clearly, there’s no racing promotion like one that advertises the name of the winner right there in the track program. Plus you get 3-1 and Rosie Napravnik, too?

The relatively subdued winners’ circle following the race was very unlike Wednesday evening’s, when Zito blew kisses to the crowd encircling the winners’ enclosure for nearly five minutes, hugging a television reporter [female], Rick Pitino [basketball coach], Tim Poole [assistant trainer], and others.

It was fun to watch, unless, of course, you were one of only six people alive in the Pick Six with Dan And Sheila.