A Day At The Spa: Sept. 3, The Last Race

Ten races remain at Saratoga, and soon it will be time for the final start of the season.

The crowd will begin to move back toward the paddock, and there will be recognizable movements from within the enclosure; the lengthy strides of quivering young Thoroughbreds, the quiet, steadying motions of the grooms, and the white flash of opening programs. The trainers will supervise sponging and walking and tacking, will smooth bright saddle blankets over the shining backs of their charges. There will be more walking, the constant circles of waiting, and the quick, keen glances of watching horsemen.

The scents of warm horseflesh and of cool late-summer breezes and the feelings of expectation and of hope will fill the air. The jockeys will stride over in their rainbow-colored silks – Desormeaux, Coa, Prado, Gomez, Velazquez, and others – will shake hands with owners and trainers like miniature politicians and spring into the saddles of the gray and brown and black-dappled horses.

To watch the runners prance away one last time will bring a wistful, saddening mood – but, somehow, an accompanying sense of relief. The six weeks of summer have come and gone. It is time to go home.

There will be other races at other racetracks – Arlington runs for another week, Belmont opens Sept. 8, horses began running last weekend at the new Presque Isle Downs – but our memories of the Spa, of slow leisured mornings and thrilling afternoons and crisp vibrant evenings, will stay with us all year long.

Those memories are what draw us back, and as the final “Call To The Post” echoes over the loudspeakers, we pause and we know we’ll return, as long as the Saratoga tradition continues.

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