Saratoga Diary: Essence of Emptiness

The exodus of August-only residents has begun. And familiar faces in the clubhouse boxes are rare.

But a bad attendance day at Saratoga is better than a good attendance day at Belmont, so NYRA pushes on. There were only 12,001 people at the racetrack on Monday - this, after a rainy Sunday which drew only 12,675.

Saratoga is in its homestretch.

Judy Soda won the first of two features – the second time in two years that she captured the $70,350 Saratoga Dew for New York-bred fillies and mares. She annexed a gate to wire victory in a syrupy 1:53.17 and, nevertheless, paid $3.90.

Safari Queen, an Argentine champion that was winless in four prior U.S. starts, broke into the North American win column at 1 1/8 miles of firm turf in the other. As the 9-5 favorite, she snagged the oddly-named $73,700 Rumpipumpy in 1:49.22.

In addition to the racing, Monday was also the eve of the deadline when the Requests for Proposals are due.

By 5 pm Tuesday, it's expected that three contentious entities will file several hundred-page documents with the Ad Hoc Committee on Racing. The committee, in turn, will hand over the documents to an accounting firm that will score them in the next 30 days.

This is a little like having the students grade the papers of teachers. Yet, what else might you expect from a disparate group with only a month to review them?

The principles of the incumbent New York Racing Association, those of the upstart Excelsior Group, and those of the coalition-rich Empire Racing Association – all believe that their organization has the best chance at earning the rights to the franchise for 2008.

Regardless, it's unlikely that any of the proposals from these groups will offer anything new. The most likely legislative change will be the introduction of more slot machines – which is a development that places a state with the motto "Excelsior" on a par with Iowa, only a dozen years behind.

The kids in Iowa go back to school a week earlier than kids do in New York, so that means that summer for their parents is shorter. If Saratoga were operating in corn fields, there'd be no racing in this week before Labor Day.

That schedule would leave the Travers weekend as the last weekend of Saratoga - the kind of finale that a meet such as this deserves. Instead, NYRA will try to get the people remaining excited with the Woodward (gr. I), the Forego (gr. I), the Spinaway (gr. I) and The Hopeful (gr. I).