Track announcer Tom Durkin, who was dressed in navy blue and black like a color-blind minister, emceed the televised post position draw for Travers Stakes horses in the paddock on Wednesday. The ceremony followed a breakfast for the press and the competitors' connections in the At the Rail Pavilion.
One more scrambled eggs and bacon meal for some of these free-loaders is not what the doctor's ordered, but, then, hey, it is Saratoga and the "vittles" were there to be gobbled up.
Durkin drew the numbers for each of seven announced horses, including Kip Deville, whom doubters in the crowd believed to be coerced so that NYRA could conduct superfecta wagering.
Tom Albertrani, trainer of the even money morning line favorite Bernardini, made a quick joke. Durkin asked Albertrani if he preferred a wet track or a dry track on Saturday. Albertrani replied, "I'd rather have it dry for Songster," answering Durkin as if Songster, the horse that he will enter in the King's Bishop, was the horse that the affable race-caller asked about. Of course, it was not. It was Bernardini, on which all Travers attention has centered.
In the hubbub of the morning, almost everyone overlooked a display of the Travers trophy – a beautiful golden bowl that sat atop a white linened table. Called "The Man O' War Cup," the trophy traces its provenance to the now defunct Kenilworth Park in Canada, and it features past Travers victors engraved in a swirl in its bowl.
If you were drinking from the Travers trophy, you could discern the names of the accomplished runners and the year of their achievement through your libation. At the center of the swirl, you'd find the simple word "winners" displayed.
There didn't appear to be a golden bowl for the winner of the $150,000 Albany Handicap, which was the feature on the Wednesday card. But a quorum of the track's 19,344 in attendance seemed to gather in the winner's circle to fete Indian Hawke after the 1 1/8 mile event. Run Red Run, undefeated in three tries up to that point, finished third.
A goofy trip on the far outside of the turf course denied Final Refrain a possible maiden victory in the fourth. Channing Hill, who has been falling off a few of her mounts at this meet, kept aboard the 2-year-old filly but couldn't keep her on course through the stretch. These antics were only outdone by Quality Affair, who started her way-wide run under Julien Leparoux earlier.