Ten races on Labor Day concluded the 35 days of Saratoga racing, and it was the kind of high quality card that racing secretary P. J. Campo should have been producing all along.
The appropriately named Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) for 2-year-old colts was won by Circular Quay, a fast closing son of Thunder Gulch
trained by the meet's leading trainer Todd Pletcher. Scat Daddy, another Pletcher trainee, finished second. The two were the only horses in the field that had won above the maiden special weights level.
Forecasters had made a case for all five of the horses entered. Yet, when the saddles were removed and the horses were taken back to their barns, it was the one with Michael and Dorean Tabor's royal blue and orange silks worn by Garrett Gomez that stood before the cameras.
The Hopeful went as the fourth race, in the fashion of European race courses that routinely schedule their best races up front or those out west that run big events early on the day to accommodate eastern television audiences.
There was a second stakes later in the afternoon –- the Glens Falls Handicap (gr. IIIT), which was won by Noble Stella. Trained by Roger Attfield for Gary Tanaka, the 5-year-old mare bagged her eighth career victory in the 1 3/8 mile test on the inner turf course.
Two to three races before the Glens Falls was run, workers began dismantling the racetrack to accommodate an easier switch to Belmont. Equipment crates lined the promenades, the colors were stripped from the silks room, and handymen infiltrated the grandstand with screwdrivers to remove signs.
Someone in charge must have forgotten that fans had paid for the entire Saratoga experience. The insulting end to an otherwise entertaining meet felt as if the floor sweepers entered the cinema with two reels of the movie still to go. Not much more could have been done to show people the door.
Nevertheless, Carole Tarantino, a real estate agent at Roohan Realty, put things in perspective. Tarantino cares little about betting, but loves it when the racing crowd's around. "I enjoy getting stopped in the traffic on Union Avenue to wait for the horses to cross," she said.
Traffic should flow smoother now, but life might seem emptier for the locals with the racetrack shut down.