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If you're a fan of Boston-based artist, Brian Fox--obviously, you are an insightful soul, one who appreciates beauty, power and spirit.
If you're not-yet a fan of the world-renowned artist--well, first I wonder where the heck you've been for the last 10 years. But that's OK, I'll cut you some slack this time.
And fret not--during this Saratoga meet, you'll have ample opportunities to get to know Brian and his art--in print, in an historic Saratoga restaurant and in person...
It's taken me weeks to write this article, chiefly because writing about AmDubai Racing Stable and the two people at its core is a far-more complicated task than merely whipping up a profile of a Trainer and his/her horse.
Anyone who can answer the questions,Who/What/When/Where/Why/How can write a profile.
But Trainers Seth Benzel and his partner, Trainer Joanna Patejuk aren't surface people. To write about what they're doing--why they're doing it--and their five-year plan requires a tool that I''m going to call a soul microscope. I don't want to tell you just what they're doing, but Where, and Why.
And my observation is that the Where and Why are deeper than that which merely meets the eye, or the pages of a turf magazine...
The Saratoga 2014 meet is upon us
, and I am always in awe of the hundreds--thousands--of people who roll into town with the horses. NYRA (the New York Racing Association)
is a gigantic corporation that efficiently picks up stakes and moves their entire operation north for seven weeks every year.
The fact that NYRA employees all along the line can pack and unpack thousands of boxes of computers, paperwork, office supplies and technology in a matter of days, and be ready to kick off the greatest racing in, well, the world--is nothing short of miraculous.
But the administrative offices and those who work there are not the entire story. Trainers, jockeys, exercise riders, grooms, hotwalkers, clockers and every other person who works directly with the horses, themselves, likewise move their entire lives for the seven sweet weeks of our race meet.
This is the tale of one such woman, a Thoroughbred trainer whose star is rising in the racing sky. I have no doubt at all that Abigail C. Adsit will earn her way into the Racing Hall of Fame as soon as she's eligible. (After 25 years as a licensed Trainer.) Come closer, and allow me to introduce you to a great horsewoman--a woman you'll want to meet in person. And if you're lucky,she'll train your horses for you...
OK, so I'm not a poet, and this isn't a poem to honor Lenny DeVito.
And it's taken me 10 days to write this, because it's one of the hardest things I've ever done.
Last Tuesday--January 7, 2014, Lenny died. He and his wife, Patti, are two of my dearest friends on this side of the heavenly veil. As close to family as I have here on Earth.
So writing about Lenny, and all he means to me--and to so many other friends from horse racing--seems to be a task of Herculean proportions. Please bear with me if this isn't the most articulate piece of my writing you've ever read--I'm processing my grief, even as I rejoice because my friend is in Heaven...
Horse Racing in Georgia?
It's legal, you know. To race horses in Georgia, that is.
Pari-mutuel betting in Georgia?
Not so much. In fact, not at all.
Yes, it IS a situation that makes no sense. At least, not in a way that American horse racing fans understand. In the U.S., horse racing without wagering is a sport that cannot grow, because the bucks from wagering are needed to pay the bills. (That is the VERY simple way of stating a very complicated system.)
I acknowledge that the conversation about horse racing and wagering is SO long and complicated--and I know that I'm not the ideal person to argue the economic benefits of bringing the sport in its full form to the great State of Georgia. I'm not an economist. Not a politician. I'm not in Georgia.
What I am...is an opinionated Upstate New Yorker, and a woman whose heart is torn to shreds by horses every day, for one reason or another. We'll get to the shredding part in a minute...because, like a great pulled-pork sandwich (and Georgia knows about barbecue, for sure)...horses and human hearts are the real, best argument for horse racing in Georgia, or anywhere...
I've tried for over two weeks to get logos and photos for this article, about the Race Track Chaplaincy's annual basketball game.
My efforts have resulted in nothing at all: no photos, no logos, sent from the uber-efficient assistant in the office of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, New York Division.
That's because, while RTCANY has people who stop in, people who help out a lot--there is no such humanly critter as an uber-efficient Assistant, who works full-time, 40-hours-a-week.
No Office Manager or Marketing Director, whose job it is to respond to the silly questions of writers. Even writers with good intentions don't have the juice to acquire a digital copy of the RTCANY's logo--but that's OK.
Speaking from personal experience, I've emailed, asked in-person, handed my card over to the Chaplain (whose known me for many years)--and still, no pictures or logos to draw your eye to this article. (I guess I'm on my own: thank God for NYRA, and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.)
The reason for this lack of attention to the perceives needs of a bunch of spoiled media divas is that Chaplain Humberto Chavez and his team are entirely too busy saving lives, souls, hearts, emotions and families to deal with media inquiries, 24/7...
What are you doing this weekend? Yes, this weekend--June 14th and 15th, 2013. Yes, I'm talking to you--horse racing fans and professionals. Saratogians. Residents of upstate New York, Vermont and Planet Earth. Humanitarians and curmudgeons, alike. ("Curmudgeon" = those who normally wouldn't walk across the street to help anyone but themselves.)
Whoever you are, wherever you are, you have before you the opportunity to have a great time and help raise money for the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, New York division.
Keep reading, or you won't get the info you need to join in the fun.
Keep reading, or...I'll know...
When Dan Silver left his post as Director of Communications & Media Relations at NYRA (New York Racing Association) last October, I was devastated.
I love Dan: over the years he'd become a valued colleague and trusted Friend--a *genuine*
Friend, the kind you count on your fingers. Dan was someone on whom I knew I could depend, a man of his word. His move to Penn National to take the job, Director of Racing Operations, was a great move for him, no doubt. Holding a Master's from the renowned University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program--Dan infused kindness and professionalism into his job at NYRA. I'm sure he's doing great guns for Penn. Communications is one of those departments that can be cold and harsh. Too many horse racing admins, in far-too many organizations, shut the doors to their offices, coming out only when someone "worthy" enters the suite.
Not Dan. Dan is approachable, intelligent and open, and always is true to his character, at work and outside his offices. I always smiled when I saw him, knowing that he respected me as a professional, and genuinely liked me as a person.
Doing business is so much easier when both parties set the tone for a relaxed relationship.
For this reason, my first thought when I read Dan's resignation press release was:
My second response: "Ahhhhhhhhh...crap."
When I was a little squirt, my Mother nicknamed me both "Mare" (how prophetic) and The Barefoot Contessa. (I had no idea that she got the phrase from the title of a hotsy-totsy film starring Ava Gardner.) For some reason, Mom associated my penchant for going naturally-footed with my Italian ancestry on my Father's side. I think she thought I'd grow up to be Sophia Loren. When she was feeling fanciful, she'd wave her arm and pronounce grandly that I was La Barefoot Contessa Ahl-TYE-ree, attempting to properly pronounce my foreign surname which (in the 1960's, in upstate New York) sounded to the locals to be tres exotic.
To me, shoes were an unnecessary cultural construct, created solely to be tolerated on Sundays as I sat cross-ankled, wedged between Mom and Gram in our stark, white Presbyterian church.
The minute church was over, I ripped off the white patent leather Mary Janes and tossed them into my Mother's waiting hand. She never tried to cut off the call of Nature to my wild-child heart, for which I am grateful. I rode my cousin's Quarter Horse barefoot, also--a singularly remarkable experience.
My favoritest, most freeing thing to do was to wear a long skirt and run out into our overgrown grassy yard. Grabbing a bunch of lilacs as they clung desperately to Grandma's huge, treasured lilac bush (they saw me coming, and ducked their fat little heads)--I relished that first big sniff. Then, my head full of that fragrant opiate, I commenced to twirl 'round and 'round in the tall, soft green beneath my liberated toes. I'd spin until I dizzied out, and collapse into that grass, under the sacred purple bush. I can still feel the cool dampness of the unmown grass as it wrapped itself around me like so many tiny green angels' wings. Staring up at the clear blue skies, my young spirit knew absolute freedom--the kind of bliss for which adults pay millions of dollars a year to self-help gurus and bookstores. I often go back to that place and that time in a frail attempt to recapture some of that unbridled bliss...
Resort destinations like Saratoga Springs often fall prey to carpetbaggers and snake oil salesmen who come to town when the number are high, and stay only long enough to cash in on visitors' craving for reminders of their time spent in the Spa City. Hawking cheaply-made t-shirts, shot glasses sporting scandily-clad, winking Hawaiian girls and birds that utilize the pendulum theory to dip into a glass of red water--there is nothing worse than a cheesy souvenir shop. Just being around one of these smarmy types makes one feel dirty somehow.
Saratoga has seen her share of these joints, hastily rented and open just-long-enough to catch the racing season. The owners then blow out of town, never to return. The word, "accountability" is not in their lexicon. Neither are "neighbors," "friends" or "respected" used to describe these takers.
How many times have you gone on vacation, and of course, wanted to get something that will bring a smile to your face every time you use or see it, because it represents a great time in a fun place? But then you scope out the stores or kiosks that sell souvenirs, and you cringe because the products are all nasty, subtly (or not-so-subtly) sexual or just really poorly-made. And you decide that maybe you can just commit to memory all the good times, and call upon your brain anytime you want to think about your vacation. At least your memory doesn't have "I Went to __ with Stupid" written all over it. Or rats in the basement.
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