09/28/2011 11:03PM

Saratoga Scenes - the meet's last days


My mom helped me buy my first real camera.  She drove me to the track - including to see Secretariat work out when I was 12 - and took me to Kentucky when I was 16.  She even took me to OTB to help me place my first non-track bet (Bold Forbes in the '76 Derby) and my second bet (Bold Forbes over MacKenzie Bridge in the Belmont). For Derbies during my teen years, she'd buy Kentucky Fried Chicken and mint julep mix (we loved the chicken, at least), and we'd settle in in front of the TV.

Since I've been covering races professionally, I often called my mom from trackside just before post time, telling her what color shirt I was wearing because she liked trying to pick me out of the crowd on TV (if she did, she'd call back, all excited, to tell me).  She kept my books on her living room coffee table.  She even showed off the Daily Racing Form to anyone standing in front or behind her in line at the supermarket.  

My mom, Nancy Thorkildsen, died September 18.  She was the smartest, funniest woman I've ever known.  I'll miss my cheerleader more than I can say.

Above:  Although my mother thought horses were beautiful, she feared them.  After all, they were very large, and they can move fast.  When I took her to a photo shoot and told her to come in the paddock, this is as close as she'd get to grazing mares and foals.  I could picture her, if they suddenly galloped her way - and the visual of her high-tailing it makes me laugh out loud.  Below:  the two of us.

And now, to begin catching up - after a prolonged silence - here's a collection of photos from the end of the Saratoga meet.  

Above:  The last few days always bring the monarch butterflies,  fluttering southbound.  Some years, there are only a few.  This year, many spent time trackside before heading on their way.

Above:  A chilly morning for Break up the Game, 2008 bay colt by Bernardini - Pennant Champion.  Break up the Game is a Shug McGaughey trainee for the Phipps Stable.

Above:  Morning sun casts a shadow of a roof finial.

Above and below:   Each morning is a mind game for 3-year-old Code Z, an unraced son of Cryptoclearance - Uffizi (his name sprouts from his sire and his dam, whose nickname is Z).  Owner Teri Bohl carefully cuts up carrots each night and, while Code Z is out training, she pushes them into the stall window screen.  "Their lives are so structured when they're at the track," Teri says.  "When he comes back, I want him to have something to do."

Above and below: Code Z takes the bait, day after day....crunching up carrots from the screen and along his stall wall, and dipping his head to root peppermints out of his hay at trainer David Donk's barn. Teri has seven horses right now, all retirees except Code Z.  She's training several retirees for second careers, understanding a horse likes a purpose.  If Code Z doesn't make the grade at the track, he'd be great for a pony club or something similar due to his gentle nature, she says.  But, of course, hopes run high for his racing career.  

Above:  Josie Carroll kept Cindy's Joy at Saratoga for weeks and, on closing day, it paid off.  The lovely grey filly won the first race.

Above and below:  Robbie Davis suited up and began a career as a trainer on September 4, saddling Sandyinthesun.  His daughter Jackie was aboard and, while the results weren't the best, I'm rooting for many good days ahead for Robbie.

Above:  Robbie and Jackie Davis in the paddock before the race and, below, afterward.

Above and below:  It seems a light year away now, but Hurricane Irene stormed through Saratoga on August 28, leaving some damage but mostly just dumping boatloads of rain.  Below, Little Dale watches the rain fall from the Dale Romans' barn.

Above and below:  More from Hurricane Irene afternoon.  Bill Mott's barn, a.k.a. Lake Mott, above, and the flooded tunnel under Clare Court, below.

Above:  Divalarious (Distorted Humor - Alidiva) - This lovely 3-year-old Chad Brown trainee is out of a most remarkable mare.  Alidiva is the only mare in history to produce the winners of three G1 races in one year - Taipan, Sleepytime and Ali Royal.  Alidiva was named both Ireland's and Italy's Broodmare of the Year award in 1997.

Above:  J W Blue, Tony Dutrow's handsome 3yo Sky Mesa colt, enjoys a good roll the week after his third-place finish in the Travers Stakes.

Above:  Tony and Kim Dutrow's pony Iggy, is such a sweetie...but, why, oh why, do I think of him as a little devil?!

Above and below:  EEEEK!!!!  This adorable barn kitty Manny - who owns Melanie Zaniewski, ;) an assistant at Tony Dutrow's NY barn - can't wait for trouble.  And, like most kitties, something simple as a pine cone can get him in a tizzy.

Above and below:  The very handsome Flat Out was a determined second in the Woodward, behind Havre de Grace, for trainer Scooter Dickey (below).

Above:  In a nod to tradition, at seventeen minutes to post, throughout the race meet, this bell is rung seven times.

Above:  Seeker (2009 by Hard Spun - Classic Olympio), Steve Asmussen - braids, after his maiden win on September 5.

Above:  Ask the Moon runs away from the pack in the G1 Personal Ensign - making it two Grade Is for her during the 2011 meet. 

Above:  They don't come more regally bred than Deluxe (left), whose dam, Hasili, has already produced G1 winners Banks Hill, Intercontinental, Heat Haze, Cacique and Champs Elysse.  How about that!

Above:  A torrential downpour didn't extinguish Fire with Fire's victorious run on a gloomy August 25.

Above:  Rainy afternoon and, below, sun-drenched morning.

Above:  Closeup of the loose-horse siren, Oklahoma side.

Above:  Goggles, mud and Julien Leparoux.

Above:  McKinley Square...so not happy.

Above and below:  OK, so I've written about Caixa Eletronica before - when he toted 127 pounds to victory at the Spa early in the meet.  Well, on August 26, he upped the ante by winning the Johnstown Handicap under 131 pounds.  John Velazquez rode with a heavier-than-usual saddle, in addition to lead weights.  When valet Barry Downes was asked if he ever carries such heavy tack to and from the scales, he said, "Never, other than for the jumpers."  

Above:  Caixa Eletronica wins the Johnstown under 131 pounds, and below, Todd Pletcher, Mike Repole, John Velazquez and assistant Tristan Barry leave the winner's circle.

Above:  Shy...not.

Above:  Eddie Kenneally's very unusually patterned pony.

Above:  Yahoo!, says turf champ Gio Ponti.

Above:  King Congie flies high on a stormy Saratoga afternoon.

Above:  This mourning dove took cover in the jockeys quarters, raising two broods during the race meet.  When the jocks packed up and headed downstate, this family was still in residence.

Above:  Trinniberg, a son of Teuflesberg who looked absolutely adorable with the red pom-pom in his foretop every day, ran second in the Hopeful on closing day.  Below:  Any ideas who this cute Trinniberg stablemate is?  I came by the barn a few times to ask but kept missing his people.  He wore a halter with name plate, but it listed Trinniberg's pedigree.  He and Trinniberg were the only two in the shedrow with those pom-poms.  :)

Above:  Huh?  Christine Daae is pretty as a picture, despite the ear cotton.

Above:  Giants Play wears some fashionable (or not) netting for her races.

Above:  Rajiv Maragh bares his teeth.

Above:  The new infield TV monitors were bright and large.

Above:  Georgie's Angel - isn't she a pretty girl?

Above:  Dale Romans trainee News Pending goes "sproing!"

Above:  Jackson Bend and Corey Nakatani, all smiles, after their G1 Forego Handicap victory.  

Above:  Grassy (outside) and En Fuego make for a beautiful team working on the Saratoga turf.  Soon after this photo was taken, Grassy headed to Belmont and won the G2 Bowling Green.

Above and below:  Happy to see Wine Police win again at Saratoga, taking the Distorted Humor Stakes with Julien Leparoux aboard.

Above:  Salsa Mambo tests the limits of the starting gate September 4.

Above and below:  The end of the meet brought rain, mud and gloom...which, somehow, felt fitting.

Above:  Speedy Wesley Ward trainee Flashpoint.  

Above: Seth Benzel proudly holds the tall-headed stakes mare Dynaslew.

Above and below:  Say cheeseeeeeeeeee!  Josie Carroll's 2yo trainee Indian Evening couldn't be more entertaining.  He likes to play, hop, pick up sticks, push people and, well, generally be a really good-natured pest.  Here, he tries to convince assistant Ruth Schmidt that it's time to go out to graze.

Above:  Bruce Levine's barn, September blooms.

Above:  Tizway's trainer Jim Bond with Charlie.

Above:  When the bloom is off the carnations....  The Travers' floral wreath, the week after, earned by the kind and oft-overlooked Stay Thirsty (below).

Above and below:  OK, is it just me, or does this lawn jockey a.) not look one bit like Javier Castellano and b.) give you the creeps?

Above:  Sidneys Candy enjoys his greens.

Above:  Uncle Mo eyes the camera.

Above:  These flowers rest in front of the old clubhouse box of Alfred G. Vanderbilt, who died in 1999.  For years afterward, a devoted racing (and Vanderbilt) fan called Tim Tam added a spray of pink flowers to the mix for A G Vanderbilt Stakes' day.    

Above and below:  Sea Hero, hoof and head, in the Saratoga paddock.

Above:  The 'dogs,' wet track, morning training.

Above:  Straight to It takes a tumble during a steeplechase race.  Both horse and rider got up and walked off, apparently uninjured.

Above:  Eddie Castro and mud.

Above:  Bill Mott and rain.

Above:  2010 steeplechase champ Slip Away is by Skip Away.  The resemblance between the two is remarkable.

Above:  Outrider's pony.

Above:  Awesome backdrop, Saratoga, late afternoon on closing day.

Above:  Currency Swap outlasts Trinniberg to take the Hopeful Stakes under a delightfully ominous (but cool) sky.

Above:  Miguel Mena's helmet.

Above:  Pletcher set waits for morning training.  The second horse back is Uncle Mo, in case you couldn't tell.

Above:  Shadows paint the Allen Jerkens barn.

Above:  The adorable Tammy Fox shares some loving with Dale Romans' classic winner, and fan favorite, Shackleford.

Above:  Welcome to town, cowboy/trainer Larry Jones!  Jones personally drove his star filly Havre de Grace to Saratoga for the Woodward.

Above:  Shouldn't that 'carpet' be red?

Above:  Havre de Grace casts us the look of eagles upon her arrival.

Above:  Larry Jones hopped aboard Havre de Grace in the mornings by way of an orange bucket.

Above and below:  Havre de Grace shows her tail to the boys in the Woodward.  Flat Out ran second.

Above:  Havre de Grace, bath time.

Above:  How proud is Larry Jones after Havre de Grace's Woodward victory...

Above:  ...and how proud is Havre de Grace.

Above:  Havre de Grace and Larry Jones, the evening of their Woodward victory.

Above:  The only thing left of the 'Hot Summer,' after the meet's end, was an empty stall.

Above:  The day after the meet, next to an empty horse path leading into the paddock, colorful push-pins marked the end of another Saratoga season.