First and foremost, let me apologize for the lackadaisical entry writing. The blog, in theory was something that I envisioned would be quick, easy, whimsical and fun. It is definitely not quick and easy. Do not read that as me complaining, its just a lot of work and the fact that I have about fifteen minutes to myself during the day, writing an entry just kind of fell by the wayside. So now that todays dark, I can sit down and write something for y’all.
(ADD moment: Panera is serving lunch now… ohhh)
The last week or so has been a whirlwind, sales, Hall of Fame, racing, rain, dinners, super people. I can only look back and smile at how this summer is going. It fills me with a level of happiness that is almost impossible to put into words — it can only be felt.
I will begin with something someone told me last week, and then we will totally dive right in and recap the week;
“Adam, shooting at Saratoga is a sign of your success, don’t ever fool yourself to think you haven’t achieved much”
DAY 15 (8-7-11):
The day of the Honorable Miss and the Vanderbilt! Things started getting hot and heavy right off the bat in the third race with a three horse blanket finish. (A blanket is a term in which the finish is so close, you could “throw a blanket” over all three horses and it would cover them) Down the lane, D’Oratory, Go Unbridled and Beautiful Risk all linked up together and where almost completely synchronized, both horse and jockey. Only under the venerable and hot as heck Rrrrrrrrrrrrramon Dominguez did D’Oratory prevail in what was only a $49k Allowance Opt Claimer. Its the bread and butter of the sport that makes the game great. Grade 1 throw down bar brawls are super exciting, but you can’t possibly appreciate them without first loving the work horses who never will know such competition.
D'Oratory (middle, 9) prevails in a three horse blanket over Go Unbridled (1,red) and Beautiful Risk (4,yellow) in the 3rd, 8.7.11
I’d also like to mention in brief my friend M C had her first leg up at the Spa this year on a feisty little two year old, Salsa Mambo. She got a less than perfect trip and wound up fifth. The horse needs a little more experience is all! Still was fun to watch a friend bomb down the lane. It’s got to be an experience that is completely amazing. As much as I love taking photos, i’d love to get a leg up at Saratoga, and even ride the pony around. All reports where good, she came back sound! Live to fight another day.
Mary "MC" Brock enters the paddock for her race
Mary "MC" Brock and Salsa Mambo
Now lets turn our attention to the Honorable Miss (g2) and in the aftermath I can say is just a sensational filly. Tar Heel mom broke well, dueled Wild News and Beat the Blues and after the first quarter mile, the race was over. In the stretch Tar Heel Mom was widening and made it look so easy. The final margin is set at 5 3/4 lengths. What an extremely consistent and classy horse. I hope to see her run again at Belmont.
Tar Heel Mom and Alex Solis win decisively in the Honorable Miss
Onto the Vanderbilt. As much as I love routes, and I have stated this a gazillion times, Grade 1 sprints are just so exciting. This years edition did not disappoint, much surpassing last years winner, Majesticperfection. Sean Avery and “Jersey Joe” Bravo shot out the gate like a rocket and never looked back. Ticking off fractions of 21.91 and 44.56, and he still had something left for the stretch. At the top of the lane, it looked as if his stride was shortening a bit and either Trappe Shot who was gathering momentum like a freight train on the outside, or a nagging Calibrachoa on the rail would finally do him in. The more Sean Avery was asked, the more he gave. He put away Calibrachoa but still was not in the clear from Trappe Shot, who was gaining ground with every stride, but in the end, Sean Avery prevailed. If it was 6 furlongs and one stride, it would have been Trappe Shot, thats how close it was.
Sean Avery holds off the freight train Trappe Shot to win the Vanderbilt
All in all, an exciting day at the Spa. Oh and I forgot to post a shot from a really yucky Oklahoma in the morning.
Splish Splash at Oklahoma
DAY 16 (8-8-11):
Day sixteen was an extremely abbreviated day, which saw most of the action in the morning. As I staggered around the track from a three hour nap from “Saratoga sinning” the night before, I stumbled upon a horse who’s name I love and though it will never happen, I wish he would race against Al Stall’s Julius Ceaser. I think it would made for a fun race, the battle of Rome. Ok. I am slightly nerdy. While Rome burned, Ne(h)ro fiddled.
Also spotted, finally, was the fabled Gio Ponti. I have to say this horse was one of the most elusive I have ever tried to photograph, he is like Pegasus or The Batman or a leprechaun (not the Mobile Alabama one though — if you get that reference). What makes him so hard to find is he usually jogs the wrong way, and the time he goes out the sun is directly in your eyes so by the time you spot him you are looking at his patootie. Finally, for the world to see, behold the Eclipse Award winning, Gio Ponti!
Gio Ponti gallops over the Oklahoma Training Track
Also making headlines this morning was Uncle Mo who was on the work tab for Oklahoma. Not that you haven’t seen this before since there where about 57 photographers there, in a morning that somewhat resembled Rachel Alexandra mania from last year. On the comeback trail for the Kings Bishop, Uncle Mo put in a bullet for 5 furlongs in 1:00.22
Uncle Mo breezes in company with Caixa Electronica, covering 5 furlongs in 1:00.22
I only stayed for one race, the rain chased me away, but the Gleaming Stakes was won by a white hot Shuggggg McGaughey. I love trainers like Shug and Al Stall, they don’t just run a horse to run it, the horse is in a spot where it has a real shot, and they run to win. When I got in the paddock, it wasnt raining, when I got to the track it started lightly drizzling, in the thirty seconds it took me to get to the photo stand, it was downpouring. I was hiding underneath the photo stand like a troll while shooting the race. It was won by Seal Cove, who broke much the best, went to the lead and in the soft turf, no one could make up ground on him. It was an impressive performance indeed, and made for a great photo in the downpour. (By the time I got to my car, the sun was out. Such is my life)
Seal Cove wires the field in the Gleaming.
And as usual, here are a few sunrises pictures from that morning!
Sun drenched benches, Main Track
Sea Hero statue, paddock
And one more! Amsterdam winning Stay Thirsty was spotted enjoying a bath!
Stay Thirsty enjoys a bath
Day 17 (8-10-11)
The days, they all run into one another, especially after the fact. I was really happy to see Silver Timber in, though. He is a gorgeous animal who I have had the pleasure of watching the past three years (2009 in the Commentator (2nd), 2010 in the Troy (5th)) but never win, until today. With a gutsy move, squeezing through a hole that barely existed on the rail, he went on to win by 3/4 of a length. It’s so rewarding to see these old war horses winning.
Silver Timber chops down a hole on the rail to win 8.11.11
Also today where a bunch of baby races. None of them really stood out. It’s the dog days of the meet, where what once was a cool picture is now just the norm. Or when the baby races where exciting, and now its “just another baby race.” Don’t get me wrong, I love them to pieces and am in no way complaining, but when you shoot so much it just becomes the norm. I am not jaded!! Don’t think that! This baby race however had a little frisky one, Wesley’s Aunt, who was completely full of herself in the paddock, jumping around like a kangaroo. Here she is giving her handlers a little fright. Everyone was fine during the incident. She went on to finish last, the trackman’s comments read she was stopped.
Wesley's Aunt capriolles in the paddock before her race
In conjunction with the NY sales, there was the New York Signature Stallion Series Waya Stakes today, run at a marathon 1.5 miles. It was won by Emerald Beech, but by only about a half a length or more. It always amazes me that these long races are decided sometimes by the smallest of margins. Going that long and coming up that short has to be heart breaking. Stalking the pace, and shaken up at about the mile mark, Emerald Beech swooped in and hugged the rail, shaking free in the stretch for about a 1/16th, when Senada rocketed up on the grandstand side to make a race of it, but there was no catching Emerald Beech
Emerald Beech prevails over a rocketing Senada in the NY Signature Stallion Waya 8.10.11
Despite the races though I think the most fun part of the day was the morning. Aside from my fog pictures, I think todays edition was some of, if not the best yet. But I will keep that picture tight to my chest for now. Or you can cheat and scroll down.
Spotted this morning was Here Comes Art, arguably the prettiest horse on the grounds (even prettier than En Fuego). I usually catch him galloping out, not today! Finally got lucky. He is a jump horse who raced opening day. Heres to hoping I see him again before the meets out!
Here Comes Art
It’s starting to become that time, dare I say.. fall? Where the mornings are beginning to feel brisker and my skinny butt has to don a sweatshirt so I am not shivering, despite it only being 60 degrees. It also equates to a different sort of photo, shown below. It’s just little things that make this place so great
Heat rises off a Contessa trainee
On the topic of the the little things, over by the Asmussen barn I spotted an absolutely serene sight, which is so common and at the same time so heart warming. It truly is lifes simplest pleasure, but it is just so beautiful at the same time.
Life's simplest pleasures
Alright, now onto that one photo that I raved about. I set myself up in a totally new location that in the three years of haunting Oklahoma, I have never been. I didn’t know what to expect or if anything would even come of it so I just held my breath and did what I always do.. mutter to myself “c’mon, theres always a million horses but the time I need one” By some stroke of luck I got this image and was so excited to see it on the camera. All the factors came together, the horse was at that exact point in his stride, I was in the right place, and the sun was just right.
Sunrise 8.10.11. Rider unknown
Day 18 (8-11-11):
Thursday! Jump Day! And as always, its either raining or overcast. In the years that I have been coming to the Spa, it always seems to happen on Thursday. It’s like some cosmic conspiracy.
It’s always amazing to me these horses going for over 2 miles, over hurdles, carrying about 150 pounds. It’s absolutely beautiful watching them go over jumps, especially when its a grey. Yeah, I am partial to greys.
Maya Charlie, 2nd time by. 8.11.11
The race however set up for Opera Heroine, who after sitting chilly, overpowered them all in the final turn and over the last hurdle
Opera Heroine wins the Ms. Ogden Phipps Stakes 8.11.11
The other two big races where the Lucy Scribner Stakes and another rendition of the New York Stallion Signature Series.
The Lucy Scribner was won by Cascadilla Falls, who stalked the pace early and took the lead after the first quarter mile, more than likely when Funny Sunny swerved to avoid the breakdown of Doing Great. He never looked back and went on to win. Even writing this days entries, there is no heart. You could hear it in the call when Doing Great went down, all the emotion left his voice and it was just a somber call. Doing Great started to wobble mid way on the turn and fell, catastrophically. I will not go into any more detail than this — it took a lot out of me and for those readers who are not as devoted as I in the game, do not want them to get the wrong impression.
Cascadilla Falls wins the Lucy Scribner Stakes
Rest in peace, Doing Great
In the last race I could stomach watching, the New York Stallion Series, Hessonite proved he was stronger than his mineral counterpart (yes I looked it up) when he linked up with Freud’s Honor at about the 1/16th pole and put him away. They where determined, synchronized and in an all out duel to the wire, with Hessonite prevailing by a head
Hessonite denies Freud's Honor a win in the NY Signature Stallion Series 8.11.11
After the races I went out and had a copious amount of liquor at my new favorite haunt, Harvest and Hearth (off of 67). Best flippin’ pizza ever. It was a nice interruption to what I had witnessed that afternoon.
Ok, I have been rocking the same position for the past 2.5 hours to write this entry, it’s time for a break. Maybe time to go visit Panera, since I was thinking about that three hours ago. Holy crap its been three hours.
Stay Classy, Saratoga. The rest is coming soon.