Whoever at NYRA determined that Saratoga should follow the NTRA's strategy of lumping Stakes races together on the same card, doesn't realize that Saratoga race-goers, like the fans at a Wrigley Field baseball game, are there for the atmosphere and not for the competition.
It's a shame that many in Saturday's crowd of 29,918 (the ninth straight day of attendance decline) didn't stay for the conclusion of the Whitney Handicap (gr. I), won by the Uruguay invader, the Argentine-bred Invasor.
It could have been that the early-departing fans were tapped out from trying to catch the $96,046 superfecta in the Darley Test Stakes (gr. I), the eighth race on the day, won by Hobeau Farm's Swap Fliparoo. Or that they figured that their luck had run out when they learned, after the sixth race, that a farm owner from Virginia won the Darley Test lottery for a trip to Dubai, and they hadn't.
But, whatever the reason, they missed the full effect of a perfectly delightful day. Racing doesn't get much better than the product put forth at Saratoga on Saturday. And why?
Well, kudos to the promoters of Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable, who thought to enhance the stable's sponsorship by combining the name of the Test Stakes with a quiz that ended in a prize drawing – a wonderful bit of whimsical marketing.
Kudos also to Invasor, and another member of the Maktoum family, Sheikh Hamdan. With Invasor's narrow victory over Sun King and the trouncing that he gave Flower Alley, the Shadwell Farm standard-bearer is America's leading handicap horse with three straight grade I triumphs.
Nevertheless, the star of the afternoon was Marylou Whitney, who came down from her summer retreat in the Adirondacks to present trainer Kiaran McGlaughlin and jockey Fernando Jara with the Whitney trophy.
Marylou, the beloved grand dame
of Saratoga and a recent stroke victim now in rehab, was helped out of a Mercedes-Benz by her husband, John Hendrickson, then walked fifteen paces to the center of the winner's circle for the presentation. She winsomely waved to the adoring crowd like the Queen at the Trouping of the Colours, said her peace to the winning connections, and disappeared for the rest of the season.
In yet a third Stakes race offered on Saturday, the first running of the $73,250 A in Sociology Stakes, Darley Stable got a D in timing. It sent out Carnera, a colt by Old Trieste, to a two-length victory in the seventh race, the one immediately preceding its sponsored event.