The steeplechase set has a different look than the flat racing crowd. The men wear Gucci loafers with d-bits and seersucker suits with striped ties, and the women have Pucci dresses with retro patterns and hairdos that look like the hats that Bonaparte wore.
There aren't any guys in Porsche sunglasses or chain-linked necklaces with gold-plated peace signs who own jumpers. Just people with big farms in Maryland who prefer pink and green, and of the two, they have more of the green.
Saratoga holds one steeplechase each week. Thursday, which is the slowest day for attendance and betting, is the designated day.
Thirty years ago, the racing secretary made the third race of each day a steeplechase, not one steeplechase a week. But times have changed, outside of the fashion. Why the cutback? Well, it's believed that when horses go up over fences, betting goes down at the windows.
Harvey Pack, the old NYRA morning show host, put the situation in perspective. "Find all the owners, trainers and jockeys in the race with Roman numerals after their names, add these numbers up, and whatever number they add up to, bet on that number. That's how you win at the jumps."
Actually, the spectacle of a race over hurdles is beautiful, and breathtaking. Tom Foley, riding Stall Swapper on the lead Thursday, proved the latter.
In only its fourth race over jumps, Stall Swapper, an 8-year-old gelding that ran against $5,000 claimers in dirt routes, crashed through the wing of a gate on the backstretch, dumping Foley and running off on his own in the grassy space between the infield and the course before being caught a mile out.
In a more tragic development, Adventura, the lone horse owned by Kathryn Fitzpatrick, died of a heart attack after finishing up. The end came on the turn away from the crowd, so nobody noticed. But try telling that to the owner, who was left with a visible loss.
There wasn't much of interest the rest of the day, even though NYRA carded two stakes. The 5 ½-furlong $70,000 Grab the Green on the grass for fillies and mares was won by Lemon Drop Gal in the seventh race. The six-furlong $100,000 Victory Ride (gr. III) on the main course for 3-year-old fillies, won by Wildcat Bettie B, was the eighth race on the card.
In something a fan rarely sees, however, the third was contested by five horses that were undefeated. All but one in the field of six fillies was victorious in the only race each had started. The most expensive horse, Win With a Wink, owned by Live Oak Plantation, escaped with her record untarnished.