Summer #4 - 2009
by Dick Healy
Saratoga has always showered special
attention on its famous ladies, dating all the way back to Lillian Russell.
With the running of this coming Saturday’s Grade 1 Woodward Stakes,
attention will be drawn to a four-legged, 3-year-old filly, Rachel
Alexandra, who will go up against older male thoroughbreds in what racing
experts say might well be the most interesting race of the current season.
Rachel won the 2009 Preakness and the
Haskell Invitational, but skipped last weekend’s Travers, so we may have a
crowd in excess of 40,000 coming to see this contest. Rachel is unbeaten
this year, yet she’ll be trying to be the only filly in 60 years to beat the
men. A filly has not won the Woodward since Twilight Tear and Busher did so
in the back to back seasons of 1944 and 1945.
Weather in Saratoga is expected to
cooperate for the Woodward, whereas Travers Day rain dominated making for a
sloppy track. Despite the rain a respectable crowd of 34,000 came out to see
Belmont winner, Summer Bird, win the Travers. The entire Saratoga scene is
so attractive, offering visitors so many diverse things to do and see,
including the Race Course’s magnetic pull, visitors come out rain or shine.
On Monday, New York Racing Association
President and CEO, Charlie Hayward, told a press gathering in the track’s
winner circle that this last week of racing is especially geared to attract
late season racing fans. Final stretch week events and perks include free
grandstand admission on Wednesday for military personnel, the giveaway of
$1,000 wagering vouchers on Thursday. A $1,000 college scholarship giveaway
on Friday, and the ever popular downtown Saratoga music festival from 7 to
11 p. m. Saturday and Sunday.
Earlier in the meet NYRA gave away Alabama
caps, and short and long-sleeved T-shirts. This Sunday track goers will be
given a bright red ski hat with Saratoga bold white lettering. Certainly a
hat that will be noticed on the slopes come this winter.
What we’re seeing in Saratoga this season
is a concerted effort by all parties involved, meaning the Chamber of
Commerce, NYRA, Fasig-Tipton Sales, the National Museum of Racing and
various restaurants and merchants, to showcase the historic track.
It’s been a grand season, and I will continue through Labor Day weekend.