Saratoga Diary: Bobblehead Economics

By Vic Zast
In the time that it took to walk four blocks from Saratoga Race Course to a computer after the races on Thursday, twenty-nine Todd Pletcher bobblehead dolls were listed on eBay and two more had already been sold for a "Buy Now" price that was four times the $3 cost of grandstand admission that qualified you for one.

"Spinners" comprised most of the second day attendance of 23,932. It was another sultry day and the real horseplayers stayed away, although there was irony in their absence.

The bobblehead give-away showed Pletcher smiling, which is an expression not often seen when the 39-year-old trainer is at work. It has Pletcher portrayed in a gray suit and red tie, and with hair that has more salt than pepper and is peaked to the front like The Count on the television show Sesame Street.

And speaking of counting, Pletcher is now two-for-two in stakes races run at the Spa this year. Following Thursday, he has won the Sanford Stakes (gr. 2, $150,000) on three different occasions. He would have probably won it last year, too, but the track didn't schedule it.

Pletcher's Scat Daddy did the trick this time, scampering under the wire in the nifty time of 1:11.18 in a dash reminiscent of Afleet Alex's Hopeful Stakes (gr. 1) of 2004.

Looking hopelessly out of it at the sixteenth pole, Scat Daddy found a new burst of energy that propelled him to a last-second victory. His jockey, John Velazquez, swung the gritty son of Johannesburg to the outside in the final 50 yards to collar the front-running Teuflesberg, causing Pletcher to remark, "I didn't think he was getting there."

A fast finish and bobbleheads weren't the only treats available. A two-horse entry trained by Tom Voss finished one-two in the first race, and a $2 superfecta ticket paid $113,668 in the fifth.

If those oddities weren't enough to hold one's attention, enjoyable entertainment came in other forms. Jerry Bailey, the recently-retired Hall of Fame jockey who, like Pletcher, made Saratoga an annuity, could be seen walking the grounds in golf shirt, Bermuda shorts, and flip-flops.

For those who enjoy watching men at work, Tito the "master barber" was giving haircuts to jockeys outside the silks room. Not one got the swept back look on the bobbleheads.

Vic Zast has been going to the races in Saratoga for 45 straight years. He is a horse owner, breeder and former racetrack executive, as well as a regular contributor to The Blood-Horse publications and others.

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