Saratoga Diary: Bats in the Attic; Horses for Sale

Life in Saratoga changes when the yearlings are in town. The horses drive the bats out of the barns that have been their homes for nearly 11 months, and sales of tennis rackets soar, since they are the most effective weapons for shoo-ing the night-flying pests from the attic.

There's no need to set an alarm clock if you live in the neighborhood of Madison Street. The nickering of the horses at dawn will awaken you.

Forget about getting a good's night rest. In the evenings, although the full summer moon shines a luster on everything that is dreamlike, you lie sleepless in your bed, hearing the sales pitch of the auctioneers until almost midnight.

If you listen closely, the distant swoon of applause occurs when a big one is sold – a kind of rumbling that repeats and repeats itself each time a winning bid reaches seven figures.

The Fasig-Tipton Select Sale concluded on Wednesday night with several big ones applauded, specifically a filly by Empire Maker , the conqueror of a Saratoga favorite. The filly went for $1.6 million to Ahmed Zayat, a 43-year-old beverage company owner from Egypt, who is relatively new to the game but apparently isn't afraid of it.

The two-night sale realized a 26% increases in gross sales, was even on average price per head sold, and had a slight upturn on the median. But the figure that was met the best by everyone involved was the buy-back figure of 19%. The consignors came to Saratoga to sell horses to buyers, and they did.

While the action for horse buyers was taking place inside a horseshoe-shaped air-conditioned building, the action for gapers was at the Blue Moon-catered bar and café out of doors. On 10 days a year each August, a group of professors in the hospitality program of a local community college dusts off the tables and chairs and opens the kitchen, serving cocktails, lunch and platters to horse lovers who don't want to be disconnected from the horses.

Many years ago, parties roared into the night at the Spuyten Duyvil (Dutch for "spitting devil") on this very same site. The tiny restaurant cum piano bar cum patio was owned by an old vaudeville dancer who knew how to amuse people escaping their country clubs.

Then, in 1987, the light-bulbs who ran Fasig-Tipton decided to buy the precious place and tear it down. Fortunately, for the thirsty, a prohibition didn't ensue.

Racing used to be a game for bluebloods, but now it's a game for anyone – even a man who sells soda pop. Although pedigrees seem to count when it comes to yearlings, a man with some cash from the other side of town can play. At least, he can buy a martini.