It’s on Its way. Can you feel It? Does your heart beat a little faster, knowing that It’s almost here, and with It, friends and colleagues whom you’ve not seen in a dog’s age? Is the electricity in the air–the pure, raw energy of anticipation–making you smile a little more broadly? Are your Facebook notifications and invitations all geared toward It these days?
“It” is the Saratoga meet, graciously brought to life once again by the New York Racing Association, known around these-here-parts as simply, NYRA. Thoroughbreds–graceful,
luscious ballet dancers with a swing in their steps–have been at the Oklahoma since April 15th, doing Plies and Arabesques, their sensual walk inspiring hopes of fortune and the intoxicating, heady experience of standing in the historic winner’s circle.
What’s making you giddy at the thought of July 23rd? What does Opening Day–and every day–of the Saratoga meet mean to you?
To some of us, it’s the opportunity to picnic in the back, and teach our children about Thoroughbreds, and teach a four-year-old to handicap. The only racetrack in the country–in the world?–at which the horses actually walk through the yard, itself, past thousands of fans on their way to the Paddock and, perhaps, history books. That thought, alone, is all kinds of Beautiful.
To others, it’s the opportunity to see their horses race for the first time, ever–and at Saratoga, for God’s sake! Still others experience it as a way to make some extra cash: renting out houses and apartments; parking cars; working concession stands at the world’s greatest and most thrilling, 40-day Annual Convention…
This is what the Saratoga is, to me. Long ago I observed that the meet is the Annual Convention for those in the Thoroughbred industry. Whether you breed, own, train, hotwalk, auction…you may be a bloodstock agent; consignor; groom or VP of Communications. You may host parties, or attend them, or both. Whatever your role–you know that, if you’re involved in racing–you must be at Saratoga, at least for a few days if not the entire meet. This is the venue at which business deals are sealed over a golf game, enterprises begun with a handshake.
However you work in this sport, you must show up at Saratoga, if only for a brief appearance. You pack 1,000 business cards and your most charming smile and set about The Business of Horses.
There is no experience on God’s green Earth as dear to my heart as that of standing in the backstretch at 7AM, cup of wicked-strong coffee from the Lemonade Stand in-hand, and watching workouts as the mist rises. The people on the frontside, breakfasting on the Porch, think they’ve got a great view–and they do. But, ah, to be in the back and see racing’s elite standing at the rail, carefully and quietly observing their horses…and that pounding of hooves as they go by in the mist. Nothin’ like it.
This year I’m looking forward to several things. I hope it’s possible to catch up on sleep in advance, because this is my only chance to get a full eight hours until the day after Labor Day.
I am blessed to be professionally involved with two particularly wonderful groups of people, with whom I’ll spend gobs of time between now and the beginning of September. And my support is fully behind two particular non-profits, both of which deserve your full support. I’m going to wax on here about the two companies and the two non-profits, and at the end of this very long missive, I want to hear from you. That’s what the Comment space is for–please use that space to tell me–to tell us, the readers–about your Saratoga groove. Do you work in the sport? If so, what do you do? Brag about your jobs, your bosses, your role in the industry! Please think of the Comment section as your space for Free Advertising–really. Tell us about your product, your horses, your business and why we need to know more about it, and you. The Comment section is all yours–no word limit–brag on yourself. Thanks!
I don’t know where to start telling you about it. Let’s see:
* on July 21st, I’ll be a very busy chicklet. From 11-1PM at the Residence Inn by Marriott, All Play Stable–for which I work as Communications Manager–will host our first-ever Media Luncheon. A Media Cookout, actually–the Residence Inn’s talented staff has planned a fabulous cookout menu for us. All Play Stable hails from Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania and Ocala, and Saratoga. Managing Partner, Paul H. Rothfuss, and his insightful horsewomen partners, Robin Fiester and Saratoga’s own Sara Dunham will be there to tell all you media people why All Play Stable is a great organization. I wouldn’t have anything to do with the company if I didn’t implicitly believe in Paul’s innate honesty, brilliant horsemanship and absolute love for horses. You all know that I can be a TAD opinionated–lol!–and if I thought he was worthy of my wrath, you know that I’d get out the Big Sword. But indeed I love these good people, our beautiful horses and the game plans that they’ve blueprinted for the yearlings and two-year-olds in training. The Media Luncheon will give the media the opportunity to glean information about the principles and the company, and give it to you, our reading public. If you’re considering joining a racing partnership in 2010–All Play Stable has a place reserved for you. All that, the enviable owner’s badge AND more fun than should be allowed–all in one racing group. July 21, 11AM – 1PM. If you’re in the media and want to attend the Cookout, please contact me at ThoroughbredWriter@yahoo.com. If you’re not a media person but want more information about All Play Stable, please contact me or Paul H. Rothfuss: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Later that evening of the 21st–YIKES, just 11 days hence!–I’ll be volunteering at the CAPTAIN event at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. I volunteered last year, and had a great time–and I was just a volunteer! The CAPTAIN An Unbridled Affair is a must-do: CAPTAIN is a dedicated youth and family services agency in Saratoga County, that has changed and blessed thousands of young lives over the years. The event on July 21st–for which you can still get tickets–promises to be a night of extraordinary fun. A great time and the opportunity to give to an organization that gives back to the community, 365 days a year.
Hall of Fame Trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, will again act as Auctioneer for the live auction, ably
assisted by the remarkable Kate Veitch. New York’s Leading Trainer for five years straight, Gary Contessa and his amazing wife, Jennifer, are serving as Honorary Chairs, along with Saratoga’s leading trainer for 2009, Linda Rice.
Soul Session will again provide the music–the yummy Garland Nelson leads the band. Garland, alone, is worth the cost of admission. But wait, there’s more! Hattie’s, the world-renowned, Saratoga-based-since 1938 restaurant, is providing the catering. Hattie’s rocks, and the mere thought of grazing on Hattie’s food all night long is, itself, reason to attend. Racing luminaries will meet and greet with those who wish to pony up a few extra bucks from 6-7PM.
At 7PM, Boston’s extraordinary artist, Brian T. Fox, will unveil his gorgeous painting of Rachel Alexandra, Calvin Borel up. Brian is the artist of choice for the Olympic Commission, NHL and many racing insiders. I own a Brian print and artist’s proof–they are among my most-treasured possessions. Those of you who were at Siro’s for their annual Kentucky Derby Day party this year, or last Travers Day, will recall seeing the impossibly handsome and sweet Brian outside, working on Rachel.
If you buy a ticket to the CAPTAIN An Unbridled Affair, you can be there for the official unveiling of this painting which is sure to become a treasure in someone’s home in the very near future.
For more information on the CAPTAIN An Unbridled Affair, please go to www.captainyfs.org . The right-hand side will lead you to An Unbridled Affair, and contact information to call or Paypal for tickets to the party on July 21st. Run, don’t walk–this party is selling out, fast.
July 23rd, of course, is Opening Day: the first time that Sam the Bugler plays, “Call to
the Post,” I’ll no doubt cry as I usually do, as I thank God that I am part of this beautiful, ancient sport full of rituals and such profound elegance. I’ll see the men of the starting gate, who feel like brothers to me. I’ll get my first cup of killer coffee from that Lemonade Stand, and greet Maria and the other great souls who work so hard there all summer long.
Oh, yes…July 23rd is the debut day for my magazine–I say, “my,” because I do believe that I left a huge chunk of my soul on every page–Equicurean. The fact is that Equicurean is OUR magazine–the gifted and generous-of-spirit people who work for Saratoga Publishing. Saratoga Publishing produces Saratoga Today newspaper and myriad other magazines throughout the course of the year. I really do believe that Equicurean will be a work of art, because Tiffany Garland, our Art Director, and Sam Bolles, our Graphics Deity, are genii. This is definitely not a throwaway publication–we aim that you, our readers, will take it home and place it on your coffeetables, to share with your friends.
I am so blessed, I get to work with such talented professionals…the Saratoga Publishing team is headed by the wonderfully creative and business-savvy Chad Beatty. He, Robin Mitchell and the whole gang have worked with every fiber of being to create a magazine that does justice to both Fasig-Tipton and women’s polo. I’ve never seen a publication like Equicurean before–I won’t ruin the surprises–I’ll just say that we’ve worked like mad to make this the most physically beautiful and appealing horse magazine you’ve experienced in a long time. Equicurean debuts on Opening Day, and will be distributed in Saratoga’s finest establishments, including Fasig-Tipton and Saratoga Saddlery–but also in Del Mar, California, at the West Coast Saddlery store and at Carol Bader’s Del Mar Hat Company. Copies of the magazine have been requested in London, Switzerland, Kentucky (for the Blue Grass Farms Charities’ Racino Roundup in October) and in Dubai.
This magazine was a joy to create–we hope that you end up loving it as much as we do. I’m pacin’ the stall…I feel like I’m about to foal. My enthusiasm for this product is purely because of my tremendous respect and love for my co-workers at Saratoga Publishing. They’re the best in the world: I’d put them up against anyone, anywhere, including New York City. Ugly Betty’s Mode crew has nothin’ on the remarkably talented people with whom I work.
And you know who’s from Dubai: my Racing Hero.
That brings me to the fourth experience about which I’m all a-twitter, the Equine Advocates’ annual Dinner and Auction, which this year will honour His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Bo Derek on July 29th. Equine Advocates is the second non-profit to which I referred at the beginning of this piece: they do such dedicated work, 24/7, for equines that have been forgotten, neglected or just plain dumped by others.
Susan Wagner; her sister, Karen, Michele Ferritto and the others who both staff and volunteer at Equine Advocates work from a place of deep love and respect. When first I stepped foot onto the farm, I wept. These beautiful animals–whom others had thrown out, or taken to New Holland to meet those fun-loving killbuyers and certain doom–these amazing creatures have all been given the opportunity to live out their lives normally, naturally and surrounded by loving hands and hearts. If you have ten cents to give to an equine program today, please send it to Equine Advocates.
The party to honour His Highness and Bo Derek is sold out at this point, but you can call and get your name on the waiting list. Even if you can’t attend, please consider donating to Equine Advocates. Every minute of every day, they’re in the trenches representing the rest of us who love horses but who don’t have the facilities to take them in and care for them. Please check out their website, and give if you can. Oh, and please view the YouTube video of Bobby II, the former New York City carriage horse whom they just rescued this past week: www.equineadvocates.org .
So that’s how my summer is beginning, with a bang. I gave my little report, and then I realized that that only covers from July 21 through the 29th! Holy Mackerel. As other events and head-up things arise, I will dutifully report them here.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear about what It means to you–how will YOU celebrate the Saratoga meet? If you’re a fan, please tell us about your Saratoga plans. Perhaps you have a ritual, a family tradition that goes back generations.
If you work in the industry–please use that Comment space below to talk about yourself, your job, your business–this is fascinatin’ stuff. I’m not the only one who has fun working in horse racing–please share your bliss (and your frustrations!), and promote yourself. Free advertising in the Comment space.
OH, and a little note: if you see any NYRA people walking around this year–please walk up to them and thank them for putting on the Greatest Show on Earth. Thanks!
Peace and joy to you all–remember, Run Fast, Turn Left. And never, ever, ever give up.
* NYRA logo, D. Wayne Lukas and Sam the Bugler courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese.
* All Play Stable shadowbox logo, courtesy of Paul H. Rothfuss.
* CAPTAIN An Unbridled Affair logo, courtesy of CAPTAIN Youth and Family Services.
* Rachel Alexandra painting, courtesy of Brian T. Fox.
* Equicurean logo, courtesy of Saratoga Publishing.
* Photo of Susan Wagner and Banner, courtesy of Equine Advocates.