Saratoga Diary: Inside Out, Outside In

The lead singer of the Burners UK poked his finger in the air, wiggled it like Mick Jagger, and teased the massive crowd in the performance tent of the Horseshoe Inn with a challenge.

"How many of you have come to Saratoga for the music?" he shouted, as a big cheer went up in response. "How many are here for the races?" he yelled back, as once again the people in his raucous audience let up a mighty roar.

Ever since 1777, when General Kosciuszko of Poland held the British back from advancing in the Battle of Saratoga, visitors to this city of 35,000 people have been welcome. Friday night rock 'n roll offers one of the many reasons why they're drawn.

Over at The Wishing Well restaurant in Wilton, its three dining rooms were filled with a "who's who" of racing troubadors, feasting on platters of freshly sliced tomatoes, lamb chops, and corn.

In the racino at the harness track, busloads of tour groups sat tethered to the slot machines as if on life support.

On the lawn at SPAC, where weekends bring mainstream entertainment in place of the Philadelphia Orchestra, young and old alike mingled to hear the sounds.

Pick your poison, but be careful what you wish for. Not many escape here with their wits or their wallets intact.

Outsiders descend on Saratoga en masse in August. So it came as no surprise today to learn that Magna Entertainment Corp. and Churchill Downs Inc. have joined forces to bid on the franchise held by NYRA.

The race to capture the 20-year rights for running Saratoga Racecourse, Belmont Park, and Aqueduct -- as well as any video lottery terminals existing or planned by the next legislation -- begins in earnest on August 29 when proposals are to be proffered by all the parties interested, and, for many outsiders, it's the only race that matters.

A reconstituted NYRA and some local horse owners who go by the name of Empire Racing Associates were the two groups in the lead for the business until now. Both entities have been saying that New York racing should belong to New Yorkers.

Such is not the case on the racetrack, of course. Stormy Kiss, an Argentine import, won the Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II).

With six prior wins in nine starts, five of which were achieved beneath the equator, the four-year-old filly beat Malibu Mint, a horse who in 18 lifetime starts hadn't raced at a track on the Hudson.

The PP's on Miss Elsie, the third horse, revealed Delaware and Oaklawn and Turfway and Churchill Downs and Prairie Meadows, but nothing resembling New York.

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