All posts by cactus SON

40 Days: A Salute to Saratoga–The Grease Shack

From Mary Lou to Tom; Jim Dandy to Fourstardave; Siro’s to backyard tailgating; and morning workouts to give aways; Saratoga has a cast of heroes, customs, and institutions which make it, in our opinion, the most unique sporting venue on Earth. Over the next 40 Days, we will profile 40 of these legends and traditions, adding our own memories and experiences from 30 plus years of summering at the Spa. It’s our Salute to Saratoga. We hope you enjoy following along.

Yes this is a Salute to Saratoga, but the traditions and institutions that make this place great are not limited the confines of the track. It is often said, to achieve greatness you have to be willing to go the extra mile. If you are looking to fill your belly and still have enough money to bet the pick six, that extra mile will lead you outside the Nelson Avenue entrance to place tucked under a pair of oak trees, which we lovingly call the “Grease Shack”.

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40 Days: A Salute to Saratoga–National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame

From Mary Lou to Tom; Jim Dandy to Fourstardave; Siro’s to backyard tailgating; and morning workouts to give aways; Saratoga has a cast of heroes, customs, and institutions which make it, in our opinion, the most unique sporting venue on Earth. Over the next 40 Days, we will profile 40 of these legends and traditions, adding our own memories and experiences from 30 plus years of summering at the Spa. It’s our Salute to Saratoga. We hope you enjoy following along.

In all sports, greatness is honored. Heroes are vaulted to a level of immortality by placing them in household names like Cooperstown and Canton. Thoroughbred horse racing is no different, and it makes sense that this sports history is honored in the town where it has been supported continuously for over 150 years. The National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs pays homage to the heroes and figures who made this great sport what it is.

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40 Days: A Salute to Saratoga–John’s Call

From Mary Lou to Tom; Jim Dandy to Fourstardave; Siro’s to backyard tailgating; and morning workouts to give aways; Saratoga has a cast of heroes, customs, and institutions which make it, in our opinion, the most unique sporting venue on Earth. Over the next 40 Days, we will profile 40 of these legends and traditions, adding our own memories and experiences from 30 plus years of summering at the Spa. It’s our Salute to Saratoga. We hope you enjoy following along.

Tradition, legend, hero. All of these words conjure up the past, times gone bye and stories of “the good old days”. As we have discussed in prior posts, traditions and respect for the past are things that make Saratoga special. There are many things that are done at Saratoga “the old way”. It’s throw-back operation, where the past is honored.

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40 Days: A Salute to Saratoga–Rachel Alexandra

From Mary Lou to Tom; Jim Dandy to Fourstardave; Siro’s to backyard tailgating; and morning workouts to give aways; Saratoga has a cast of heroes, customs, and institutions which make it, in our opinion, the most unique sporting venue on Earth. Over the next 40 Days, we will profile 40 of these legends and traditions, adding our own memories and experiences from 30 plus years of summering at the Spa. It’s our Salute to Saratoga. We hope you enjoy following along.

 

Day 5:  Rachel Alexandra and the “Raising of the Rafters”

RachelAlexandraWoodward09_2AC298

What would Salute to Saratoga be without some of the incredible horses who have made this place special over the years. There is a litany of Champions to choose from who raced at Saratoga to add to this list.  However, there are fewer who made their Championship-defining performances on the hallowed grounds of Saratoga race Course. In honor of #FillyFriday, and her offspring Rachel’s Valentina making her first start of her career on Sunday, today we salute Rachel Alexandra. A filly who captivated the Saratoga public for an entire 2009 season, and capped it off with a gritty, unparalleled performance to close out the meet in the Woodward.

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40 Days: A Salute to Saratoga – Ode to the Chowder Bar

From Mary Lou to Tom; Jim Dandy to Fourstardave; Siro’s to backyard tailgating; and morning workouts to give aways; Saratoga has a cast of heroes, customs, and institutions which make it, in our opinion, the most unique sporting venue on Earth. Over the next 40 Days, we will profile 40 of these legends and traditions, adding our own memories and experiences from 30 plus years of summering at the Spa. It’s our Salute to Saratoga. We hope you enjoy following along.

Any place that has been in business for over two hundred years as a daytime sporting event location must have some special and unique concessions to keep  the fans nourished all day. Saratoga Race Course is no exception. As “the summer place to be”, many people think of  Italian ice,  lemonade, hot dogs and sausage and peppers as the staples on the race track diet. We have seen concessions come and go. The Italian Ice Truck is no more, as is the delicious Saratoga Chicken Company. The years haveseen new, more mainstream commercial items added to this “regular” list. Current track-goers list Mac and Cheese, Moe’s Mexican Tacos, Shake-shack Burgers and Hattie’s Chicken Sandwich as the favorite go-to places for on track eats.

But there has been a constant figure at Saratoga in the 25 plus years we have graced its hallowed grounds. Often overlooked by the causal observed, but beloved by many regulars and members of the old guard, the Chowder Bar, located under grandstand section G, dishes out what we believe to be the unofficial food item of Saratoga Race Course: Manhattan Clam Chowder.

At first glance, it seems strange that hot seafood soup would take the lead for food vendors at summer destination in the foothills of the Adirondacks. But people flock to the Chowder Bar and its standing tables day after day to get a bite of that clam-filled tomatey-spicy goodness. And although it is summer, on a chilly afternoon where the track itself might resemble soup, a bowl of chowder provides the perfect meal to make the day a winner no matter how cold your picks are.

Many who venture here are gluttons for punishment (like myself) and douse the stuff with  as much black pepper and Tabasco as can fit in the steaming bowl. It’s like some sort of pagan ritual, where everyone is trying to sweat out the demons of a previous bad-beat. Curious first-timers often balk at the Chowder Bar serving Manhattan instead of the more mainstream New England Clam Chowder. But those who try it, almost always come back for more. Served with saltines, the tomato-based soup is full of other potatoes, carrots, celery onion and of course chopped clams to make a salty-spicy flavor like no other.

So if you haven’t been, or have been side-tracked by the Mac and Cheese Truck, make a trip down to the Chowder Bar and experience a Saratoga tradition that does not always get it’s due.

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Lessons From the Past 37 Years: Don’t Move Too Late

Since Affirmed beat Alydar yet again to take the Triple Crown in 1978, 13 horses have come to Belmont with a chance to join the most exclusive club in Thoroughbred Racing.  Now its American Pharoah’s turn.  In the words of George Santayana, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  American Pharoah has a lot of take-aways from the last 13 failed Triple Crown attempts.  It might be June, but for American Pharoah, school is in session.

Like most things in life, horse races often come down to timing.  A winner is often decided by not necessarily which horse is the fastest, but which horse does his best running at the right time.

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Lessons From the Past 37 Years: Avoid the Track Bias

Since Affirmed beat Alydar yet again to take the Triple Crown in 1978, 13 horses have come to Belmont with a chance to join the most exclusive club in Thoroughbred Racing.  Now its American Pharoah’s turn.  In the words of George Santayana, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  American Pharoah has a lot of take-aways from the last 13 failed Triple Crown attempts.  It might be June, but for American Pharoah, school is in session.

Track bias appear all over America. Some are inherent and exist nearly everyday, example: speed at Monmouth.  Some can be man-made, example: the golden rail at Churchill 2011 Breeders’ Cup, thanks Butch. Others are the result of natural forces, example: a speed bias can result on some sloppy tracks. Still others are a combination of forces, example: the speed bias often found on the inner turf at Saratoga. However, regardless of how the bias is created, it is vitally important to any Triple Crown hopeful to be aware of them and change your plans accordingly to avoid becoming another statistic.

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12 Days of Derby: No. 2 — Monarchos

In the run up to the 2015 Kentucky Derby, the Thorobros took a good hard look at the past 20 years of Derbies and tried to rank the top twelve. We were able to arrive at this highly scientific ranking through a complicated logarithm that generated a foolproof list of the best Kentucky Derbies of the past two decades. This year’s renewal of America’s most famous horse race looks to be particularly strong – perhaps we will have a new addition to these rankings come May 3, 2015. Continue reading 12 Days of Derby: No. 2 — Monarchos

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12 Days of Derby — Number 4 – Funny Cide

In the run up to the 2015 Kentucky Derby, the Thorobros took a good hard look at the past 20 years of Derbies and tried to rank the top twelve. We were able to arrive at this highly scientific ranking through a complicated logarithm that generated a foolproof list of the best Kentucky Derbies of the past two decades. This year’s renewal of America’s most famous horse race looks to be particularly strong – perhaps we will have a new addition to these rankings come May 3, 2015.

Number 4: Funny Cide

When we conjured up this idea, we thought about all the elements that make a Derby great. Not just the running of the race itself, but the story lines and the history they create. We have come to realize that there is no such thing as a “typical” Derby winner. Although many of them share characteristics, there is not one thing that seems to always occur. However, there are some trends that seem to appear almost every year. (see Mazur’s Crushing the Derby).

However, some years those trends are bucked and a horse and the people that are associated with him break all the rules. That is what happened in 2003 with Funny Cide.

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12 Days of Derby – Number 7 Fusaichi Pegasus

In the run up to the 2015 Kentucky Derby, the Thorobros took a good hard look at the past 20 years of Derbies and tried to rank the top twelve. We were able to arrive at this highly scientific ranking through a complicated logarithm that generated a foolproof list of the best Kentucky Derbies of the past two decades. This year’s renewal of America’s most famous horse race looks to be particularly strong – perhaps we will have a new addition to these rankings come May 3, 2015.

Number 7: Fusaichi Pegasus

The Build Up

The only ‘international’ star to win the Derby in recent years. FuPeg as his fans know him, was a highly regarded racing prospect who raced for Japanese owners Fusao Sekiguchi. Although he never raced in Japan, he was a star there before he even touched the track by the nature of his owner’s huge receipt for the horse: $4 million as a yearling.

Once he made it to the track, FuPeg lived up to the hype by finishing second first out, then running a streak of 4 wins in a row, capped off by the Wood Memorial, before entering the gate in the Kentucky Derby. FuPeg began his career in California and raced his first four starts there, but proved to be a road warrior by going to New York to take his final Derby prep.

The Neil Drysdale trainee proved to be a deserving Derby favorite. However he would have to break the streak of defeated Derby favorites that was last broken back in 1979 by Spectacular Bid.

The Race 

Although FuPeg was all the talk derby week, he was not the only horse with a chance in the race. The 1999 BC Juvenile winner Anees was in the line up as well, along with other horses destined for greatness in future Grade One Winners Captain Steve, War Chant, and Commendable. However, interestingly missing was the horse who recently finished second to him in the Wood, Red Bullet.

As the gates opened, FuPeg got off to a great start. The 19 horse field took to usually speedy fractions. Kent Desormeaux guided FuPeg to the rail to save ground, and start to make a slow inside move up the backside. As the field made it’s way into the turn FuPeg was passing horses but still had plenty to do. Sitting in the  second flight, Kent D angled FuPeg out and gave a clear run down the stretch. At the eighth pole, FuPeg had taken the lead and took off to open up by 2-3 lengths and continued his win streak in the Derby and totally vindicated his $4 million purchase price.

 The 2000 Derby

The Aftermath

After FuPeg’s win, he did what every other Derby winner does: try to win the Triple Crown. After close calls in the last three years, it was all but assumed by the public, including my own 11 year old self who was to attend my first Belmont, that FuPeg would win the Preakness.

However, FuPeg’s run ended at the hands of his Wood Memorial foe Red Bullet in Baltimore. FuPeg did not race in the Belmont, although he did win the Jerome later that year as a prep for the Breeders Cup Classic where he finished a disappointing 6th behind late-blooming 3 year old Tiznow.

However,  Fusao Sekiguchi made out like a bandit when he sold FuPeg to Coolmore for a reported  cool $60-70 million. However, FuPeg has not lived up to that price in breeding shed, having failed to produce a high number of grade 1 runners. But his Derby performance totally vindicated all of his praise and promise as a yearling and is deserving of a spot on our list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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