By - Claire Novak - Members of the racing industry noted Bill Hartack's Nov. 26 death at 74 with more sorrow than one would expect, given his enigmatic reputation.
- By Claire Novak
A federal agency published a paper Oct. 29 on its Web site that raises concerns about new occupation health risks for jockeys.
Gerald Errichetti, Laura Von Glahn, and Connie O'Connell stop by the clubhouse dining room to inquire of the guest list. Volunteers with the Breeders' Cup VIP Escort Team, they're getting their assignments straight.
BloodHorseNOW.com writer Claire Novak interveiws Joe Bravo, hometown jockey at Monmouth Park, who has three Breeders' Cup mounts.
On the chute, trainer Graham Motion is on his pony, circling his John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) runner Better Talk Now. They're waiting to go onto the soggy turf course for a last-minute tune-up.
Claire Novak interviews Turf Contender English Channel's owner James Scatuorchio, asking him about his chances against the highly touted Dylan Thomas and having the Breeders' Cup in his home state of New Jersey.
Manning the Otis Elevator that serves as the stewards elevator at Monmouth Park is Ed Thayer. He knows the equipment....he's been operating the elevator for the past 11 years.
It's 10 a.m. Time for the first group meeting of the "Big Event Team" put together by the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. In all 22 agents are prowling the backstretch of Monmouth Park 24/7 looking for evil doers.
After the post position draw, which clocked in right at one hour to introduce all the dignitaries and draw 11 races, trainer Todd Pletcher takes a seat at table. He's quickly surrounded by a circle of cameras, tape recorders, and notebooks.
Walking in through the main gates at Monmouth Park, it's amazing the transformation that has taken place here. We take in a deep breath. What's that familiar aroma? No, it's not New Jersey...its fresh paint.
Starting Monday, Oct. 22 and running through Saturday, Oct. 27, The Morning Line returns to bloodhorse.com. The feature, now in its second year, offers a colorful, behind-the-scenes look at the participants and players of the Thoroughbred industry during racing's major events.
Spend an afternoon with the boys from Boston, a group of not-quite degenerate 30-something horseplayers who bet the races with varying degrees of success each time Saratoga is in session.
"I like the winners circle! I want to put one in my house!" - hotwalker Iain Holmes after visiting the one at Saratoga with a Michael Matz winner.
It begins as the horse vans start rolling and the racegoers consider filling their suitcases once again. For now, on the final dark day of the season, we contemplate the week ahead and savor every thought of Saratoga.
The Travers blanket - red and white carnations, white "T" in the middle - hangs in front of Street Sense's stall at the barn of Carl Nafzger and Ian Wilkes. The bright colors are still vibrant, and Nafzger is still savoring the victory this morning
The canoe in the infield pond has been painted in James Tafel's colors of yellow and blue. Street Sense is safely recovering from his exertion. Another Travers is in the record books. Talk about feeling the air go out of the balloon
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 gates at Saratoga open promptly at 7:00 a.m., and five seconds later the picnic areas are flooded by a rush of running fans. WIth limited space, the sections fill up quickly, and the mad dash to claim a table or a section of lawn looks like the beginning of a wild frat party.
The much-anticipated career debut of Todd Pletcher trainee The Green Monkey will not occur at Saratoga this year, Pletcher confirmed Aug. 24.
Down at the front of the chute between the paddock and the racetrack, the pony boys sit and smoke and kill time between races. Theirs is the unenviable job of escorting the normally fractious and wired-up Thoroughbreds safely to the gate; their ponies, thus named because they are not racehorses, provide a calming presence for the high-strung starters.
In an Aug. 23 presentation at the Saratoga Hotel and Conference Center in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Capital Play CEO Karl O'Farrell called Saratoga Race Course the "crown jewel of New York racing" and pledged his company's commitment to maintaining the historical significance of the track should Capital Play gain the governor's recommendation for the 20-year franchise to operate Belmont, Aqueduct, and Saratoga race courses.
Carl Nafzger says he does not worry about the competition going into a race, because you can only train one horse, and that's your horse. Were he concerned about a specific runner for Street Sense to beat in Saturday's running of the Travers (gr. I), however, it would be the Phipps Stable's Sightseeing, who is coming into the Aug. 25 race in what trainer Shug McGaughey terms the "best mental condition" this year.
While slightly difficult, it is entirely possible to come to Saratoga without watching a horse race. You can come, for instance, to enter the hot dog eating contest Ã¢â‚¬" and if you are like Crazy Legs Conti from New York City and can consume 21.5 hot dogs as he did yesterday, you can also win.
D. Wayne Lukas pauses from his morning duties to give his view on the Travers. The well-spoken Hall of Fame trainer has, as always, an insightful opinion on the race.
Wednesday morning, the cameramen are in full swing at Saratoga. In the paddock, they cluster around for the Travers draw, tripods balanced like long-legged storks. In the winners' circle, they form an orderly line for Senator Bruno's conference on the fight against horse slaughter. Down near the rail, they lift cameras to shoulders and zoom in for local track reports.
Street Sense, winner of this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), will start from post position number four in Saturday's running of the $1 million Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course.
Yesterday, after the Saratoga winners' circle had cleared following the first race celebration, jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. stood and watched the replay. He held his 18-month-old son, Norberto Arroyo III, and smiled as he watched the image of his winning mount flash across the screen. It felt good to be back.
The New York Racing Association has replaced starter Richard Brosseau and has promoted Roy Williamson to the position of starter following a rash of starting gate incidents at Saratoga Race Course.
Cut the audio on a day at the races, and you'd still have a completely interpretable scene. The bettor, slumping his shoulders and running a worn hand over his worry-creased forehead, equals losing. The trainer, leaning forward in his box and jumping to his feet, beaming, as his horse crosses the wire, equals winning.
- By Claire Novak
For days, reporters have been asking Bill Mott about his successful season at Saratoga, where he leads all trainers with a 16-6-10 standing from 53 starts. For days, Mott has been realistic about his chances; he's seen other horsemen hit unexpected winning streaks, has known the dry spells that can suddenly hit a leading trainer's string. Just because he was ahead at week one, or week two, or week three of the meet doesn't mean he'll be the last man standing when they run the last race on the last day, and this is what Mott has been quick to say.
A collection of noteworthy quotes from last week's backside meanderings...
With one week remaining until the $1-million Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course, top trainers in New York are aiming for a single target in the stalwart form of Street Sense, who will head up the field of the Aug. 25 "midsummer Derby" with a solid bullseye on his back.
In the stable yard in front of Todd Pletcher's main shedrow, blacksmith Ray Amato is fitting Octave with a new pair of racing plates in preparation for her start in this afternoon's Alabama (gr. I). The gray filly stands draped in a black blanket, four white bandages encasing her delicate legs. Her ears slump sideways, eyelids droop at half-mast. She yawns and rests, quietly at ease.
Workers come out after the break, when the track is freshly harrowed and smooth as soft brown sugar. Most are ridden by jockeys dressed in trendy casual-wear, shiny helmets, spiffy vests. They stride onto the surface, jog up the wrong way, turn, gallop into it, get set down, and - boom - kick into high gear.
Every Thursday afternoon before the first race, the mood in the press box is decidedly grim. Each card leads off with a steeplechase event, and the handicappers – some of which have not picked a steeplechase winner since before the Kennedy administration - have no idea where to begin.
Today's feature is the Adirondack - $150,000 for 2-year-old fillies. As with all "baby" races, there's not much to go on as far as past performances are concerned.
A colt by Posse out of the Phone Trick mare Reverse the Call brought $200,000 to top session one of Fasig-Tipton's Preferred New York-bred Yearling Sale in Saratoga Springs Aug. 10, where the average, gross, and median were all up.
A bay filly by Medaglia d'Oro out of the Rahy mare Adorahy bought $265,000 to top the second session and the overall market at Fasig-Tipton's Preferred New York-bred Yearling Sale in Saratoga Springs Aug. 11.
You can train your horse up to a race, conditioning him in the best possible manner. You can score the services of a top jockey with a winning percentage of 66.67 and a 79% in-the-money rate. It's all up in the air when they open the gate.
This morning on the backside near the clockers' stand, Ron Anderson and Doc Danner are shooting the breeze, taking a break from the normal routine of lobbying trainers and chatting up owners in the hopes of scoring winning mounts for their riders. Anderson represents Garrett Gomez, currently fifth in the standings at Saratoga. Danner's jock is Shaun Bridgmohan, who ranks tenth.
On an ordinary day, it takes two minutes to drive from Route 29 to Saratoga's main gate via East Avenue. This morning, the same route took 35 minutes. It's giveaway day, and the spinners are out in storm to bring home today's featured item, a red Saratoga lawn chair in a handy carrying bag.
The next start for 7-year-old campaigner Silver Tree is yet to be determined, but trainer Bill Mott said he will consider sending the son of Hennessy to Australia this fall to compete in the Oct. 27 Tattersalls Cox Plate (group I).
Jockey Fernando Jara, who has experienced a rough year on the New York circuit since parting with agent Randy Romero in February, will leave New York Aug. 15 and ship his tack to California in September.
Last night at Fasig-Tipton's preferred sale of New York-breds, Nancy Purcell and Pat Crampton leaned on the rail outside the walking ring and eyeballed hip number 342.
Last night, the Jockeys got off to an aggressive start and left no doubt as to their agility, rattling the usually unflappable Texas Titans as they took control in the first quarter of the Aug. 9 New York Race Track Chaplaincy's Basketball Fundraiser for jockey Andrew Lakeman, who was paralyzed in a racing accident earlier this year.
An Aug. 9 meeting among members of the racing industry and jockeys at Saratoga Race Course was a deemed a success by Bruce Johnstone, the New York Racing Association's manager of racing relations, as discussions took place over the recent issues before the starts of several races at the New York oval.
See the twisted figure standing near the Oklahoma track? Yes, that's Javier Castellano, and it looks like he's attempting to master some absurd Yoga pose as he bends over backward with hands clasped above his head.
Members of the New York Racing Association's gate crew will meet Thursday with jockeys at Saratoga Race Course to discuss issues caused by miscommunication before the start of several recent races at the New York oval, NYRA CEO Charlie Hayward said.
At 8:30 a.m., under Saratoga's At The Rail Pavilion, the 2nd annual backside breakfast is underway.
Street Sense, winner of the July 29 Jim Dandy (gr. I) and the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), worked a half-mile in :49 flat at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 8.
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