Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Saturday's in Saratoga

I am lucky enough to live in one of the greatest 'horse cities' in the world, Saratoga Springs, NY.

There is no greater place to be on any Saturday during the 40 days of racing than at the Saratoga Race Course. Having lived my whole live here, I haven't missed a Saturday at the track in 25 years.

I was introduced to the races by my grandfather when I was just a young man. My sisters and I would get dressed up, go across town, park in someones yard, and go enjoy watching some of the most majestic animals on Earth run, all with the help of my grandfather. Thirty years later, those same traditions are still being passed on today to the younger generations by families far and wide.

I can still remember the first horse I ever bet. My grandfather would ask us who we liked, then buy us a $2 Win ticket on our horse. The first horse I ever picked out was a grey horse named Dumbo, he crossed the wire a winner and a lifelong horse fan was born.

As a young teenager, I would ride my bike to the track and the first thing I would do is go find my grandfather. Depending on how his wagering day was going, he would give me a $50 or $100 dollar bill and I was rich. I would buy my friends ice cream then find a female teller who after I smiled wide and batted my blue eyes, would allow me to bet. Many wonderful childhood memories were made spending time at the track.

These days, I spend my days in the backyard. My friends have been getting the same picnic tables for 15 years so I am allowed to walk in anytime, have a great place to sit and spread out, in the shade of the huge trees, among thousands of men, women, and children all prepared to enjoy a wonderful day at the races.

Recently, I was invited by the ABRV Tour to share a day with them for a different race day experience. These young racing ambassadors with the ABRV Tour have taken on the challenge of promoting and growing the game through the younger generations, and are doing a fantastic job with that task. A quaint group of 20 was invited to enjoy lunch in the clubhouse, tour the jockey's silks room, and enjoy some time in the paddock. We all talked during lunch about who we liked in the races, the tradition of it all, and what a fun experience we were having already. For me, having access to the paddock was extra special. This is usually an experience reserved for owners and trainers. But we had the freedom to get close up while all the horses were being saddles and their jockeys were being tossed up. They couldn't have picked a better day to do it as reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan was racing later that day. I even struck up a conversation with leading owner and colorful character Ken Ramsey who is enjoying his greatest year in the racing industry ever. A great day was had by all and friendships were made that could last a lifetime.

As a veteran of many racing days at the track, I had a great time. It just goes to show you, no matter how many times you've been to a track to see live racing, a new experience can always be found. Since this outing, I have found myself wandering around the track more, watching races from different places, and meeting more and more people who I've only talked horses with on Twitter. We all share one thing, the love of racing and enjoying these glorious horses giving their all because they love to run.

This is an experience that needs to be shared. Go to the track more often. Bring your friends, family, and children. Show them the beauty of it all, let them feel the excitement and energy in the air as the horses turn for home. You will create lasting memories with them, just as my grandfather did for me. I will cherish those memories forever.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I love it and brings me back to my first days at Longacres in Washington state as a preteen. Let the good times keep rolling!