A Day At The Spa: Aug. 25, Happy Travers

Saratoga fans are the real deal. No irate ripping of tickets and cussing of jockeys here – at least, not often. The fans come to eat, to bet a few races, to catch a glimpse of great horses, to have a good time. They are a mix of partygoers, vacationers, tourists, and backyard barbeque chefs, with a few serious horseplayers thrown in for good measure.

The fans arrive early in the morning, secure patches of space in the open areas with an enthusiastic rush of determination, haul in kids, coats, coolers, chairs, tents, sunblock, softballs – everything but the living room sofa  and the kitchen sink. They set it all up and collapse, exhausted, for a breather. Then it’s off to breakfast at the rail, or to the program stand, or to the art tents, or to the bathroom.

Vendors draw the fans in with glaring advertisements and enticing phrases like “world’s best” and “ice cold” and “baked fresh daily,” but the scents of Chicken Philly sandwiches and barbeque and Saratoga potato chips and curly fries and onions and peppers and more good food wafting through the air draws in more customers than the verbiage.

The dress is eclectic, a world-peace sort of mingling; three-piece suits and impeccable ties and soft Italian loafers, sneakers and cargo shorts and baseball caps and faded T-shirts from stone-age giveaway days, high-heels and Channel and Prada and Gucci and short silk dresses and big bangly earrings, jean skirts and tube tops and flip flops.

The wagering methods are eclectic as well, sometimes based on jockey and horse names or silk colors or numbers or the way the horse moved in the paddock, or, if the horseplayers know what they’re doing, based on past performances and speed figures and a quick peek at a professional handicapper’s analysis.

The atmosphere is festive. The fans are in high spirits. The world, viewed through the rose-colored lens of an afternoon at Saratoga, is almost perfect… and the sun just came out from behind the clouds.

Happy Travers, everybody.

Enjoy your day at the Spa. 

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