Much Ado About... Saratoga

September 2010 Archives

The Saratoga Builders Association will begin its 15th annual Showcase of Homes! For three consecutive weekends, the Saratoga Builders Association  shows off the area's finest homes built by the Capital Region's best home builders and designers.

I thought this might be an ideal time to write about some of the homes in Saratoga that have always captured my interest year after year.

For ages, health, history and horses have been widely known as the three main attractions to have drawn tourists to Saratoga Springs.

For me, homes, would be a welcomed addition to that trio of attractions.

East side and west, north and south of town, sit some of the most beautiful dwellings one will ever see assembled in one community.

Defining a favorite among them is nearly impossible, however there are those that will make me stop and look a little longer than their inhabitants may be comfortable with.

One such home is on North Broadway.

saramansion.jpgAccording to Dr. Hollis A. Palmer's book Saratoga's Great Ladies: Broadway and Franklin Square, this was the home of Susan Dannet Griffith.  Built in 1916 (as her obit states) or 1920, Griffith's family made their money in NYC brewing beer (ed. note: Woo-Hoo!)

It was her uncle, Daniel Jones, who started the business and upon his death left equal shares of $10mm to his brother and four sisters.  Susan Dannet Griffith was the daughter of one of his sisters, Mary Griffith.

Like many single women of her time she would involve herself in the arts, philanthropy and working closely with charities.  Dr. Palmer reports she even donated $100,000 to Skidmore College during the Great Depression.

She broke her hip in 1936 after a slip and fall at one of the new baths in the park.  Although she recovered remarkably well she spent the next two seasons at the Gideon Putnam Hotel, leaving the mansion empty.  Palmer surmises it may have been due to lack of sufficient help.  Griffith unexpectedly suffered a fatal heart attack at the end of September 1938.

Another fact worth noting, in the 1970′s this was the summer residence to Penney Chenery, owner of Triple Crown winner Secretariat.

Prior to Griffith building her home, Palmer also notes a house named Cornwall Manner stood on this land prior to Griffith's home being built.

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Dear Saratogians,

I don't want to be "that guy" anymore. 

That guy who feels all sorts of melancholy when the Saratoga meet ends.  Year after year it hits me hard, and year after year I let it.

I'm not gonna do it.

You can't make me.

You're not the boss of me and I'm just NOT going to do it.

Not anymore.

So there!

It's time I quit dreamin' and cowboy up.

Melancholy?  You go to hell.  There's too much in this town, too much in the capital region to let you stand in the way of me having a blast.

But - and there's always a big but(t) somewhere - I don't know where to begin.

I learned this summer there is so much more about Saratoga I need to explore.  So much about Saratoga I need to experience.  So much about Saratoga I have to see for myself in the autumn, in the winter and in the spring.  Not just in the summer.

But I need help.

Your help.

Where do I go?  What do you suggest I do?

When people come to Saratoga for the races folks say you must go to Siros for a drink; if you're the creative type you have to go to the Yaddo; if you have only a two-day stay make certain you breakfast at the track and take the tram tour to the barns.

But what are the "have to's" for Saratoga in autumn?

Where do I have to go to get the most glorious pictures of the leaves turning colors?  Where do I have to go to experience all the amazing stuff that the locals refer to as the town's best kept secrets?

What are the traditions of this glorious and beautiful place, rich with history and adorned with charm that I need to learn?

How can I best learn and experience them?

Saratoga, I love you.

I always have.  I always will.  Thus, I call on you to help me.  Point me where I need to go and I will forever be grateful.

I know what you know ... there's so much more to you than the greatest and most competitive thoroughbred racing on the continent.

But I don't know what you know when it comes to life outside of that.

Resigned to your wisdom, anticipating your suggestions, and hoping to understand what all of you have known for years and so many of us don't, I ask for your help.

Please comment here or email me at

~ Patrick

019postFirstSecondItDoesntMatter1.JPGRunaway Jim ran a game second Saturday afternoon and to be frank, neither Stacy nor I would have known the difference had he won.

It felt that good.  We felt that proud.  And by God I've never seen the woman look more beautiful.

At day's end her handsome gray gelding left her gushing.  Absolutely, unequivocally garrulous - not her normal M.O. - and beyond overjoyed.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the racing experience is all about.

The pride in your horse.  The thrill of the game.  The bright silks of your stable and family atop your horse, striding perfectly.  Running through his bridle and having the time of his life.

It is the undeniable and startling beauty of the Thoroughbred racehorse.

There ain't nuttin' like it no where, now how, no way.

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Stacy and I entered the day vowing, somewhat jokingly, we'd do everything opposite of what we've done before with regard to seeing Jim run.  In short, we decided to George Costanza our day.

  • 019postFirstSecondItDoesntMatter2.JPGWe didn't rush to tackle the 200+ mile drive to Saratoga.
  • We relaxed and left our nerves back in Jersey.
  • We visited Jim at his stall at Horse Haven earlier in the day.
  • We dressed down a bit, although still Paddock appropriate.
  • We didn't try to get an owner's box.
  • We milled about and talked with random people throughout the Grandstand.  You can do that at Saratoga.
  • We made it a point to go to the same tellers, who kindly punched winners for Stacy and were equally as happy to take my money for the bets.  Damn, she's played that well, didn't she?  She'd have made the most seasoned of horseplayers proud.  Just look at 'em laughing at me in the picture!  I am thinking I am now "conspired-against George."

Like I said, we took the Costanza approach and I'm here to tell you, baby it worked like a charm.

In three starts at Saratoga Runaway Jim ran 3rd, 4th and 2nd respectively.  Each time he earned Seabrook Stable a check.

Some may wonder how in blazes anyone could get so excited about losing?!

Well, we're not.  We want to win!

BUT the truth is it isn't about winning and losing when you're involved in racing as an owner; or in my case, the boyfriend of one.  You certainly don't enter the fray expecting to make money.

As a horseplayer?  Nothing else matters.

But in our case, in this instance, it has EVERYTHING to do with the experience of racing.  The stuff you used to hear the late Jim McKay and Jack Whitaker wax poetic about how grand the game is.  And here we are, a part of it.


Cliché as it sounds it actually is the thrill of watching your boy, or your filly, running their hearts out.

Although winless in five starts, and earning four checks overall, I assure you Jim has not failed anyone.  Ever.

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 019postFirstSecondItDoesntMatter3.JPG"Stacy's got herself a real nice horse there," my Dad told us from Monmouth last night.

"He's a real honest horse," he said.  "But when they hit the top of the stretch I thought he'd spit the bit."  

He started laughing, then continued "I even turned around and told your mother 'he's gonna spit the bit!'  But when he came on again and I saw that jock in front of him get into the winner some more, well, that's when I knew.  That's a real honest horse they have there."

A real honest horse.

Is there a better compliment?

What, if anything, could anyone possibly want more than that?

So we played him across the board and cashed out.  We even made a few bucks for a handful of Stacy's coworkers.

The ride home was different too.

We took Route 9 into Malta to get on the thruway instead of retracing our steps via Exit 14.  Why not?  After all, "opposite George" hadn't failed us yet.

But if I am being candid, the real reason is I didn't want to drive past the track one more time.  I don't think I would have been able to handle it.  I didn't want to leave Stacy holding the wheel while her boyfriend turned into a blubbering idiot.

It was partly because Jim had done so well.  We asked him time and again to Go Jim, Go!  And he did, every time and without complaint.  Such a good boy.  He (as of this writing) has over 180 Facebook friends!

019postFirstSecondItDoesntMatter4.JPGIt was also in part because our Saratoga season ended.

But it was mostly because Stacy had given me more thrills, excitement and happiness at Saratoga than anyone ever has - and I trust ever could - in my adult life.

This woman, this thoughtful and sweet woman, single-handedly turned lifelong childhood racing dreams into my life's new reality.

And all through this life - and this is the 100% truth - I never thought I could love anything or anyone the way I love Saratoga.  I'll be dog-goned, that is no longer the case.

She is that good.  She makes me feel that proud.  And by God I've never seen a woman look more beautiful.

The fact she races a NY-bred ain't hurtin' my feelings either.

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Alright.  Why the heck not.  Let's try this again, shall we?

The good news:  Most of the nausea that came with the first two starts at Saratoga has dissipated.  

The bad news:    This is Runaway Jim's last shot at The Spa this year to break his maiden.

The better news:  He'll win the blasted thing.  We hope.

a0.JPGI'll concede the opening is not as romantic or heartfelt an approach as prior postings.  Sure.  But come on....we wanna win dag nabit!

And yet, that damnable truth which cannot be ignored begs this question:

Is there a harder track in the world to win a horse race than Saratoga Race Course?
Fugghettabout it pal.  No way.  Ain't no place tougher to win than the Spa.

But I'm not afraid to tell you, the hankering for a win is getting a might stronger.

On Saturday Runaway Jim makes another go of it.  This time he returns to the lawn (where he earned his best Beyer fig of 73), stretches out to a mile (which I, as a horse player am THRILLED about),  and gets a change of rider to Rajiv Maragh.

He's in the 11th race and races from the three-hole.

So this time there will be no great fanfare or lengthy article.  No description of the grown man fearing his girlfriend will have to hold him up.

Instead, I'll leave you with this ... the three words you just might hear from a blithering overgrown idiot, beside his aptly-mortified girlfriend, bellowing from the box seats late Saturday afternoon:

Go Jim, Go!

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The Handicapper in Me:  Why I Like Jim on Saturday

He's returning to the grass for starters.  His first two goings we thought he didn't like it.  Fact is, he was immature on the racetrack BUT he ran a 73 Beyer in his first out.

Plus, he closed like a freight train!!!

In the stretch he was about five or six lengths behind the winner.  His late kick and post race gallop impressed the devil out of me and since that day I have been hoping (read: praying) that they would stretch him out.

Watching a horse gallop out after their race has always been a favorite angle of mine.

Below are the pictures I took of that first try on the lawn at Belmont.

a1.JPG a2.JPG
Runaway Jim (gray-outside) is several lengths behind the leaders, but gaining with each stride

a3.JPG  a4.JPG
Moments past the wire Jim passes the winner and then draws clear as he gallops out

So...there you have it.  That one race has had the handicapper in me pining for him to (a) mature as a race horse, (b) return to the lawn and (c) stretching out to a mile (or more).

Saturday he gets his shot and I'll find out if my handicapping abilities are worth the paper the DRF is printed on!

Go Jim, Go!

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Patrick Kerrison

While most American men of Patrick's generation grew up talking to their Dad about baseball and the likes of Mantle, Ford, Berra and DiMaggio, he and his father covered the racing beat and talked of Ruffian, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and John Henry.

The son of a newspaperman, Patrick spent his summers a "spoiled" child, but not in the traditional sense. Spoiled because his August months were spent at Saratoga Race Course watching the best the game ever offered.

Breakfast in the mornings, races in the afternoons and the occasional party when kids were welcomed in the evenings, he has lived a privileged childhood. For better than 10 years Patrick worked in varied frontside positions in racing, "living the dream" as he calls it.

Today at age 41, he reverts back to his life as an eight year old with the same passion and love for the town of Saratoga he always had, but with the perspective of an adult. His appreciation for her history and his desire to go back in time revives every summer, while never forgetting the glorious life he lives today. Patrick and invite you to come back to Saratoga's 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and a little bit about today, too.