The tradition I carry on is down south of here, about twenty or so, where the salt springs are, and Broadway too, where there’s a canoe afloat smack dab in the infield. And, a bandstand with honky tonk…doo-da doo-da…and fried dough and lobster rolls. You can picnic, or just bring a chair, or there’s a backstretch tent that you can rent with family and friends.
Thoroughbreds opened there in 1863. James Bond was there in Fleming’s Diamonds Are Forever in 1956. You might say that he’s still there, the days when he’s up from his Stillwater stable. Look for him at the Oklahoma Training Track. He ran Will’s Way in the ‘96 Travers, flat out in a flat race.
There’s plenty to see there. Maidens with stockings. Whitney fans in flowered hats. Riders in bright, motley silks. Acaro rode mounts in stable colors, his stirrups acey-deucey. Fillies that’ll foal someday, maybe, or maybe be mares. Studs to be. Secretariat was a chestnut, the Big Red. So was Alydar, thrice beat by Affirmed.
Furlongs: six to a sprint, eight to a mile, ten for the Travers. Dirt flats, fast or muddy. Inner turf firm or yielding. Claimers, Allowances, Graded Stakes I, II and III. You can bet a quinella, exacta, trifecta, or across the board; but, you can’t wager a wheel in a walkover.
Be warned, it’s the “graveyard of champions.” Upset upset Man o’ War there in 1919. It was there in 1930 that Jim Dandy, off at odds of 100-1, beat the Triple Crown winner, Gallant Fox. Rachel Alexandra, Horse of the Year, lost there in 2009 to the aptly named, late charging Persistently. In 2015, unbeaten Triple Crown Winner, American Pharoah, the 1-5 favorite, lost to 12-1 Keen Ice there, right before my very eyes.
Winners and losers, handicappers, betting the ponies amongst themselves, parier mutuel. Jostled crowds cheering and cursing from the apron in a confetti of torn ticket litter. The Exotics. “There goes my daily double, lost in a dead heat.” “Yeah, but I doubled my perfecta. What are the odds?”
“I was gonna bet the six, but I changed my mind at the window.” “Have to stick with your gut.” “What’s the next race? Any scratches?” “The ninth and the three, a false favorite.” “Who do you like?” “Let me see the program.” “Pencil?” “Maiden sprint? Box the two five for twenty.” The Exotics.
“The horses are at the post. Waiting for the seven horse. And…they’re off! Going Farrah takes the lead on the rail. Hi Five is back a length, with Tonight’s the Night third on the outside. Daily Tripper is bringing up the rear. The rest are bunched in the middle, jockeying for position.
And…it’s Going Farrah, Hi Five and Tonight’s the Night maintaining their leads around the far turn. Daily Tripper is making her move, spreading the pack. Time at the half-pole was a brisk 45.5. They’re coming to the top of the stretch, and Going Farrah is extending her lead by two lengths as Hi Five drifts back into the also rans with a sulk .
Tonight’s the Night is still running strong on the outside to make her challenge. And…here comes Daily Tripper, pulling a Silky Sullivan! It’s Going Farrah and Daily Tripper leaving the crowd with Tonight’s the Night third, three lengths back. It’s Going Farrah and Daily Tripper neck and neck down the stretch.
And...it’s Daily Tripper by a nose at the wire!! Going Farrah is second and Tonight’s the Night is third five back. What a run. That New York filly came driving all the way from the back of the field to break her maiden first time out. Her relations are waiting for her in the winner’s circle wide-eyed.”
The two five exacta paid big bucks.
Now, I’m not making this up. I’m no Damon Runyan. It’s a tradition. You can ask such of the folks as you may find there with their rolled-up Pink Sheets, and they’ll tell you themselves. An August Tradition, Saratoga.