The 144th running of the Travers took place here in Saratoga last week – which may as well have been last year for the rate at which the racing culture moves (and life in general too, I suppose)… Lest we forget it, I’m here to remind you thru some pics and anecdotes…. And then moving ahead, this week was the town’s final official week of summer activities. Last night a different band played on every corner, and people of all ages filled the streets. There was not a parking spot to be found – except for those of us locals who knew better and used the few open spots in the ATC parking lot. (Heck, each one of us probably has a free Adirondack Trust Company pen laying around somewhere in our car… that counts for something, right?) The streets were more densely packed with humans, canines, pigs, horses (on police duty) and reptiles than at any other time in the year. It was poppin. Oh, and my kid was almost run over by a bicycle. His heart was racing all the way home. Excitement at every turn.
Backin up to last week. Elihu thought he’d try busking in front of the track, but everyone was in such a hurry to get inside that hardly a soul tipped. He was, however, remembered by his brethren tweenager peers who shared the outside common area and sold cold water to the incoming patrons. Street kids gotta support each other. Not being sarcastic when I say you could feel the love.
Inside, this is the first scene you encounter. Lots of people milling about under a canopy of trees outside the actual grandstand building. And as it turns out, this is the main experience for many at the races; they set up a picnic area outside and listen for the race results to be announced. Kinda seems to me like they’re missing the heartbeat of the place out here.
The famous red-and-white canopy that leads into the grandstand. This is also where the horses must cross. All pedestrian traffic is stopped to let the rockstar racers walk past on their way to the paddock.
Once inside we witness some crazy sub-cultures I’m not usually privy to… bigwigs and wiry little latin dudes from the streets excitedly sharing the good news about the last race. Just what is their relationship? What’s gone down here? Mm. Wish I knew the story.
Elihu’s assessment of this highly-touted race day so far? Crowds, crowds and more crowds has this young racing fan giving the Saratoga Racetrack a thumbs down. Oh dear. Not a very good first experience here at the track.
We also get to watch the comings and goings of the horse community. There is literally a village of people behind the scenes here. And they’re all passing right in front of us. From trainers to owners to jockeys to just plain horse hands to the folks that make their food, do their laundry… a whole working town supports this racing world.
The horses might be superstars, but we have no idea.
The owners and trainers are better dressed.
You just have no idea which horse is which before they have their colors on.
But it’s fun to see all the activity so close up.
The riders have just passed us and are now getting ready to enter the starting gate. Elihu and I both admired “Will Take Charge” as he passed feet from us in his crisp blue and white…. and as he left (the last one to parade in front of us) I yelled after him to ‘Go and take charge, baby!’ We’d gotten the best and longest look at him, so in a rather off-hand way, we thought of him as our ‘pick’.
Elihu finally gets the hang of using binoculars – and is able to follow the horses for the entire race. Here they’re whipping past us. They run so fast and pass us so quickly that there’s little to see. Even the whomping of their hooves into the dirt, as impressive a sound as it is, is so short-lived that one is not even sure one heard it after they’ve passed…. Honestly, these races are all over so quickly that I’m tempted to be disappointed in the whole thing. But then you hear this tremendous roar from the grandstand… and that’s something. The energy of those who won, those who lost, those who almost won…. you can feel that. And for those who live inside this culture and for whom these horses, owners and riders have much more meaning, I can see how compelling this sport might potentially be.
I, however, am left to simply imagine what this whole world must be like from inside. I don’t take my true thrill from a race watched – or won – but rather the sight of an anonymous race horse a mere feet away from me being lead back to its stall.
So. Who won? Guess. “Will Take Charge”. Elihu and I high-fived each other in the car when this gal told us the news. Snapped a pic of her commemorative program – just so we could prove we were here. The bit about us wanting WTC to win can never be proved. Ah well.
She’s always very kind and lets Elihu try his hand at something nearby. Tonite he was trying to learn a bit about making things appear larger in the foreground. Not quite what he’d wanted to achieve, but a lesson learned. Almost. !
The three actually have a charming little act going for a while.
The tenor guitar player’s mom put together a couple of nice videos of the boys playing. Here are the links:
So a week passes in what seems like a day, and we’re back on Broadway, busking and meeting people in the lovely and serendipitous ways that we’ve come to expect… here are a few more pics from earlier tonite…
Then Elihu joined JoJo Romero for a set of reggae. It’s a new kind of groove for Elihu, but he listens well and caught on right away.
Not sure if this pic is any better. Neither’s great.
JoJo Romero and Elihu, post set…
What a week. New friends, good music, horses, dogs, pigs, pythons, frogs, goldfish and chickens… Whew.
We are all tuckered out and ready for bed. Summer’s over and school begins in just two days! Hard to believe.