Much Ado About... Saratoga

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So, what is the most magnificent thing about June?

A month from July. A month from the gates of Paradise opening again for the 143rd time.

Sigh. It has been nearly a year, hasn't it?

And yet another year has gone by without me experiencing the beauty of Saratoga Springs, NY in seasons other than racing (i.e. summer). I am ashamed and disappointed with myself. But then again, in early fall I did start a new gig and have been wrapped up in it, all in and fully engaged, since then so I suppose that is one excuse.

Note I said excuse, not viable reason.

With two of the three legs of the 2011 Triple Crown in the books, the Met Mile having been run at Belmont (my unofficial start of summer) and the turning of the calendar to June I can begin to smell the crisp air of the foothills of the Adirondacks.

Seven weeks and three days from the start of the race meet and another visit, and yet I still find myself envious of all of you who call Saratoga you home.

I trust, as long as I am on this earth, I will continue to do so.

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 saratogascribbler@gmail.com

~ 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.

*        *        *

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.

Amazing.

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.

*        *        *

 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.

#       #       #
 
 
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!

*                   *                   *

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.

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


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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!
So, this is it.  One last week of the 2010 Saratoga Race Course race meet and I can feel the dread of the finale on Monday as I write this.

Man, I hate that feeling.

As usual, it all went by so quickly.  It feels like only days ago I was writing about the anticipation and pleasures that come from a fresh new start at The Spa complimented by reminders of her interminable traditions.

Fortunately, Saratoga held true to her values of tradition, upsets and longshots.  She even played a part or two in making some personal dreams come true.  My Stacy and her Runaway Jim played a larger role in that of course.

On July 19 I wrote there isn't one thing I love most about Saratoga
, however there are two things I could not live without.

First, the early mornings, especially when dawn begins to break.

Few people on the streets.  A quiet village.  The proverbial pitter-patter of hoofs crossing Union Avenue.  Just lovely.

The second is juvenile, but no less important.  Saratoga allows me to be a kid again.  

I used to think I was going to be a jockey.  Mom and Dad told me I had no shot.  I'd be too big.  How in blazes would they know what I was going to be like in 10 years?  They couldn't decide on dinner that night but my future was that clear to them?

Well, once again they were right.  At greater than six feet tall and 200-and-don't-you-worry-about-how-much-more-than-that-pounds, there was no hope of me donning the silks of Calumet Farm.

But maybe it's time to begin a new tradition?

Yes, the racing season will come to a close.  Yes, I am not looking forward to it by any measure.

But the truth is, the race meet would not be the greatest stage in racing, would it, were it not for its surroundings?

This town is so full and rich with history, stories, memories, and incomparable beauty why should it be held to only a six-week stand?

A benefit in moving east after seven years in the Pacific Northwest is the proximity of the most wonderful town in the world.  A mere 200 mile drive and I've left reality behind and am in heaven on earth.

In a matter of weeks, as the seasons change, these magnificent oaks, elms and maple trees that give us the breath of life will redecorate the foothills of the Adirondacks with the most brilliant colors.

Perhaps a weekend in the end of September or early October would be in order?

Camera in hand, batteries fully charged, and a full tank of gas, it is time to experience Saratoga Springs as I haven't before.  In a more temperate setting, sans traffic jams and throngs of people, when the beauty of autumn returns.

Yes, when the racing season comes to an end on Monday next I will be as disappointed as I always have.  But change is good.  

Autumn in Saratoga.

A new anticipation.

A new tradition.

A new love for Saratoga Springs, NY.

I can't help but imagine how beautiful she'll be.

#    #    #
"Steeplechase horse racing is based on the concept of the countryside's natural and man-made features providing an obstacle course. Horses and their riders must negotiate an unpredictable terrain, jumping over fences and ditches, rather than racing on a flat, controlled course," states the National Steeplechase Association's (NSA) website.

4864176136_bb61ee0c6f_o.jpgIt's one of Saratoga Race Course's great traditions.

Or, at least, it was.

It was here my introduction to steeplechase racing originated, and naturally the two are forever linked.

But things have changed.

Today it brings joy and frustration.

As a kid I remember a couple of jump races on a single card, up to two cards a week.

NYRA made the financial decision to knock 'em down to one a week.  Financially, I get it.  I do.  They don't handle as well at the windows.  But is it really going to make them go broke by running a second or third event a week?

How many horseplayers - or fans on-track - will miss a six or seven horse field of cheap maidens running for a $20k tag in order to watch something that they haven't seen - or seen very much of.

Sigh.

But one is all they run.

With all the NYRA does to make Saratoga special it is the only place they fall short.

But that's just me.

Thank goodness for the Clancy brothers, but more on them later.

*    *    *

Steeplechase racing was made popular in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where it is referred to as National Hunt racing.  Its lineage is traced back to Ireland in the mid-18th century and steeplechasing got its name simply because the race began at one church steeple and ended at another.

010post-2010grandnational.jpgTake the Grand National for example.  Run at Aintree, in the UK since 1836 - 37 years before Saratoga began - the race spans greater than four miles and 40 hurdles.  It is the most well known jump race on earth and there were an estimated 600 million plus viewers who watch it every year.

Its largest field had 66 entrants in 1929 ... 66 for crying out loud!!!  Talk about betting value!  The winner went off at 100-1.  Then again, with 66 horses, he still might have been a bit of an underlay.

Take a few minutes and do a search for the John Smith´s Grand National Chase 2010.  You'll be amazed, especially if this is new to you.

At the Spa they race and jump over National Fences.  Standing 52" in height with plastic brush over a steel frame, there's a foam-rubber roll on the side from which they take off.  Not unlike people who run hurdles, horses make their leaps in stride.  At Saratoga you'll see white fences on either side of the jump called "wings" which are intended to guide a horse to the fence.

Distances will vary but rarely are races less than two miles.

*    *    *

010post-saratogaspecialAMEN.jpgBut now, on to the saving graces of steeplechase racing - and journalism - the brothers Clancy.

Joe and Sean Clancy are publishers, writers, editors, multiple-pizza-ordering-while-fighting-deadline racing fans that created The Steeplechase Times and The Saratoga Special.  They've authored books, create yearly thoroughbred racing calendars and partner with a design company in bringing a website to life.

You'll find The Saratoga Special all over town and it doesn't cost a cent.  Varying from 24-40+ pages an issue, it's all the Saratoga racing information you need each race day and it comes at no cost to the reader.   Feature stories, handicapping angles, entries and results, recaps of the prior day's races, funny lines from horsemen overheard on the backstretch and more.

For years I have relied on them to bottle Saratoga for me so I can pour myself a glass whenever I please.  

For years, they've never let me down.

Special, indeed.

In their July 29th edition of The Saratoga Special, they combined it with their latest issue of The Steeplechase Times.    Or as Sean put it, a "Dual-purpose.  One purpose.  Horse racing."

In it, Sean's daily "Cup of Coffee" article was a plea to the flat and steeplechase brethren to band together and bring to life the joys of jump racing as it once was.  As it should be again, I would agree.

cupofcoffeejumpracing2.jpg

He's left flabbergasted at the resistance each group share with one another.

In reading it, so was I.  More so, however, because I wouldn't have thought either contingent would not support the livelihoods of their common bread and butter - the thoroughbred.

For those who do not follow racing closely or at all, there isn't a special breed that makes for the jump horse.  They are thoroughbreds.

They are the same remarkable athlete, except they're asked to jump better than four feet at a time, nine times, over a couple miles.

They are fast.  They are nimble.  They are athletes in the words' finest definition.

The Clancy's Steeplechase Times prints a dozen times a year and they are recognized as the foremost authority and voices of the steeplechase game, with numerous awards to back them up.

It is the only publication I know of where I'll find all the steeplechase news and they're as reliable and thorough as you would expect them to be.  

They know the game and know it well.  Their Dad trained for years.  Sean was a successful jump jock.  Today, they pour themselves into a paper devoted to the love of the sport, exposing their vulnerabilities for criticism and seemingly have the greatest time of their lives doing it.

The industry ought to be grateful to have them.

I wonder where steeplechase racing would be without their tireless efforts to promote, publicize and hustle to garner new fans and keep the old ones interested.

I may be just a fan, but I'm one that's ruddy grateful for them.

And even though there is only one jump race a week at the Spa, I remain grateful to have - at least - that one.

But it's a crying shame there aren't more.

#        #       #

Photographs:
NYRA Photo of Divine Fortune
2010 Grand National
Saratoga Special cover, August 2, 2010
Cup of Coffee, Sean Clancy, Saratoga Special July 29, 2010, page 38


Richard Canfield was "the greatest gambling asset the United States had ever known." i   And unlike his casino's original proprietor John Morrissey, he had the respect and admiration of the well-bred.

009postRichardAlbertCanfield.jpgHe was born in 1855 in New Bedford, MA, and wasn't well educated, but had a bit more schooling than Morrissey.  He graduated from grammar school.  But he knew his success would come from the money of the rich, not the everyday gambling schlep.  In order to gain their approval he believed he needed to be able to mirror the sophistication of their lifestyles.

So he took to reading.  Frequently.

Married at 27 he got pinched for running a successful faro house and was sentenced to six months.  He used that time wisely, learning about fine art, literature, philosophy and religion.  He loved it.  All of it.  The more he read, the more interested he became.

In 1888 he teamed with gambler David Duff and opened a house close to popular restaurants. The play got so busy his partner couldn't handle it.  Duff would "turn up drunk and make a nuisance of himself, and Canfield bought him out." ii

He had his eyes set on Morrissey's old haunt, The Club House in Saratoga Springs, NY.  At the time it belonged to Albert Spencer and Charles Reed, a couple of gamblers from NYC.

Reed, eerily similar to Morrissey, was socially unacceptable and Spencer bought him out.

Spencer was more akin to the likes of Canfield.  He bought and sold fine art and the pair got along well.  A quarter of a million dollars later, Canfield bought the Club House in 1893.  He made significant changes, beginning with the name.  The Club House became The Casino.

"To be seen at the Casino would be a feather in the cap, a mark of distinction only the wealthy could afford." iii

He spent a small fortune on food and drink but many thought his efforts were "little more than constructing a veil to hide the evil inside." iv

They were wrong.  When he opened the doors in 1894, the Casino was a smashing success.

009postCanfieldCasinoParlorInterior1871.jpg Guests were expected to dress well, in their evening clothes and Canfield hired private detectives to ensure the safety of their jewels.

Always thinking ahead, he realized evening clothes may lead to a slight problem.  For example, if a gentleman were to be dressed in a tuxedo and tails large amounts of money held in their pockets could ruin the tailoring.

Well, we can't have that now can we?  Of course not!

His solution? Extend credit.

There were 10 other gambling houses in town and none of them would take such a risk. Hell, they thought Canfield was nuts.  Not to mention, he also kept a million bucks in his safe ... just in case.

Canfield believed paying guests in cash and extending credit made for happy customers.

Right again!

009postCanfieldCasinoHighStakesPokerRoom.jpgWhen he closed his first season he earned $250,000 in gambling profits - his initial investment in the Casino.

He was off to a flying start and 1894 was a good year for Saratoga.  Excitement for future seasons generated with enthusiasm.

But Canfield, in spite of this success, met with one struggle after another in the ensuing years.

In 1895 Reformists had every gaming house in the area closed, thus making his second season a bust.

The following year they opened, part in parcel to "many local residents [who] complained about the resulting economic loss, as they too sustained their livelihood either directly or indirectly from the gaming business." v

Canfield counted over $600,000 in profits that season and was the richest and most well known gambler in America.

He had arrived.

The affluent and social set welcomed him into the fold.  A desire Morrissey, almost literally, died trying to accomplish.

But Canfield's headaches continued.

Years later when the new District Attorney of New York, William Travers Jerome (nephew to racing's Leonard Jerome), had a bee in his bonnet and singled out Canfield as the one to swat.

Jerome found gambling paraphernalia in the wall of a defunct New York City casino belonging to Canfield and arrested him. However, he had little to get him on so they battled back and forth for two years.  The result after $100,000 in legal fees was a $1,000 fine and admission to a "common gambler" charge - a moniker that made Canfield shudder.

In 1903, he promised a lush and beautiful Italian Garden next to his Casino that would further enhance the splendor of Saratoga.  He did just that and it was lovely.  But, local officials feared that more attention from Reformists would make things difficult for the Casino.

009postCanfieldCasinoModernBallroom1902.jpgSo what did they do?  They ordered all houses in Saratoga to operate behind closed doors.

Canfield was fit to be tied.

"They gambled in the Garden of Eden and they will again if there's another one," he said. v

The restrictions held his gambling profits to about $400,000 that season.  Additional restrictions pressed Canfield to close his Casino in 1904.

1906 presented a problem when the Casino opened with more closed-door restrictions. Come August and the race meet, they shut down after friendly warnings from local sheriffs.

Enough is enough, thought Canfield.  He accomplished what he set out to do.

Fed up, he didn't open the Casino again and put it up for sale in 1907.  In 1911, the village of Saratoga Springs offered $150,000 and the deal was done.

009postRichardCanfieldKilledBy-a-Fall.JPGNow, fast forward seven years from his decision, the setting is a cold, icy, December day in Brooklyn.

Canfield slips and tumbles down a flight of stairs in a subway station.  He fractures his skull in the accident.  The following day, the once wealthiest and revered gambler of his time, dies.

Between the years of 1870 and 1907 The Club House and The Casino was seen as THE host to the wealthiest people ever to set foot on American soil.  In that day and age casino proprietors struggled to earn acceptance among the wealthy and well bred.

Canfield, through his love of the arts and as a collector, his passion for literature and his envied library along with his knowledge of religion and philosophy, appealed to the sort.

Morrissey, whose status as a championship prizefighter, bouncer and street thug followed him everywhere, didn't.  He died, a relatively young man at 47, knowing the one battle he fought all his life left him laying on the mat, counted out.

009postCanfieldCasino2009.jpgToday their building is called The Canfield Casino.

And wouldn't you know it, John Morrissey - the guy who built the damned thing - gets snubbed from the billing.

Sigh.

Poor Old Smoke.  He just couldn't get a break, could he?

The Canfield Casino serves a rich and fulfilling purpose to anyone with an affinity for Saratoga history.  She is the home to the Historical Society of Saratoga Springs.  And when you walk through her hallways - and I suggest you do - the rooms are adorned with scenes from lifetimes ago.

It takes little imagination to saunter through the rooms, at your own pace, and hear the noise of these blessed characters spinning a wheel or rolling the dice.  You can imagine the smell of rich cigars permeating the air, people laughing and maybe a few grunting with dismay.

Quite simply, with a single walk-thru you are taken back a hundred years in time.

And that is part of the beauty of Saratoga Springs.  A great part of her beauty.

Red Smith once wrote to get to Saratoga from New York City you drive north for about 175 miles, tun left onto Union Avenue and go back 100 years.

Drive another mile to Congress Park and tour the Canfield Casino to see for yourself.

I trust you'll find, like I do, that she is one of the more romantic and often thought of characters of the grand history that is Saratoga Springs.

# # #


Footnotes:
i. They're Off ... At Saratoga, Edward Hotaling, p. 150
ii. Saratoga, A Saga of an Impious Era, George Waller, p. 226
iii. Saratoga, A Saga of an Impious Era, George Waller, p. 227
iv. Saratoga Lost: Images of Victorian America, Robert Joki, p. 146
v. Saratoga Lost: Images of Victorian America, Robert Joki, p. 147

Bibliographical Sources Used for Research:
 - Bartles, John, Saratoga Stories, Gangsters, Gamblers and Racing Legends, Eclipse Press, Blood Horse Publications, Lexington, KY 2007
 - Waller, George, Saratoga, A Saga of an Impious Era, FTB: Friar Tuck Bookshop, Ganesvoort, NY 1966
 - Hoatling, Edward Clinton They're Off! Horse Racing at Saratoga, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY 1995
 - Joki, Robert Saratoga Lost, Images of Victorian America, Black Dome Press Corp., Hensonville, NY 1998

Photographs:
 - Richard Albert Canfield, - Waller, George, Saratoga, A Saga of an Impious Era, FTB: Friar Tuck Bookshop, Ganesvoort, NY 1966 p.225
 - Canfield Casino parlor interior (1871) - The Saratoga Springs History Museum website
 - The High Stakes Poker Room - The Saratoga Springs History Museum website
 - The Modern ballroom (1902) - The Saratoga Springs History Museum website
 - Richard Canfield Killed y a Fall - New York Times, December 12, 1914
 - The Canfield Casino, Patrick J. Kerrison Saratoga Collection










When my girlfriend, Stacy, asked me to name the one thing I loved most about Saratoga I took her question seriously, even though I seriously doubted I could come up with an answer.

I was right.  I couldn't.

It wasn't because there are hundreds of things to love about the town, although that does present a challenge.

001postdawnbreaks.JPGIt's because a lifetime of memories and the idyllic dreams I had as a child keep me from defining it.  

Why?  Because once I do it would feel like THAT ONE THING has to be it.

I could never do that to myself.

The history of Saratoga is so greatly well storied and so markedly magnificent that it parallels nothing.  

What makes her even grander is that she continues to write new chapters year after year.

Founded by Gideon Putnam and marked as the nation's first resort town, Saratoga Springs has been the home to a turning point in the Revolutionary War.  It is the village thousands gathered to in order to take advantage of its waters and their mysterious ways of healing.  Lest we forget, the home to the greatest gambling and racing stories ever assembled in one place.

To get here you follow writer Red Smith's directions of "From New York City you drive north for about 175 miles, turn left on Union Avenue and go back 100 years."

She is unlike any place on earth.

She brings you back to a time when men wore ties and hats to the races, ladies dressed in the most gloriously beautiful dresses, accentuated with diamonds whose sparkle rivaled that of the August sun.

I am hoping to do the same on these pages, or at least, provide you with stories and images that allow yourself to imagine a time long ago.

Over the coming weeks I will post stories of the players, the characters, the people and horses, the waters, homes and hotels of Saratoga that has made this place the paradise on earth I believe her to be.

I invite you to come back with me.  See what Saratoga was like in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and why she is, in the 21st century, just as impressive today.

I may not be able to answer Stacy's question directly but I can share that one of my favorite things about Saratoga is she allows me - and welcomes me - to visit a time long ago on this very day.

You are welcome to email me at saratogascribbler@gmail.com with your stories and memories.  I would love to hear them all.

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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 Saratoga.com invite you to come back to Saratoga's 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and a little bit about today, too.