08/03/2011 8:48PM

Saratoga Seen


Many of Saratoga's special moments occur far from the winner's circle.  From hawks to hearts, here's a recent sample.

Above:  Another picture-perfect day breaks at the Spa.

Above: Who's the cowboy?  Donnie Von Hemel's belt buckle recognizes one of his many training titles, and his 3-year-old colt Alternation's halter reads "OKLAHOMA DERBY 2001" (below). This cowboy's already a winner at the meet, too.  Von Hemel's Caleb's Posse won this past Monday's G2 Amsterdam Stakes.

Above:  Speaking of who's the cowboy, how's about a shout-out to the immensely popular Who's the Cowboy?  At age 9, and after 66 starts (18 wins, 11 seconds, 12 thirds), the competitive bay gelding became a millionaire in July.  He won his first stakes in August 2005 and continued to win added-money events through September 2008.  As so often happens, he slipped down into the claiming ranks.

Shown mooching a peppermint from Gary Contessa's assistant Marcelo Arenas at Saratoga last summer, Who's the Cowboy earned millionaire status at his old Jersey haunt, Monmouth Park.  

Lisa Kryston is a longtime Jersey racing fan and Cowboy's No. 1 supporter.  She visits with him regularly whenever he's in the Garden State, and she relates the old boy likes more than just hay and oats.  He also loves watermelon, yams, dandelions and other unusual treats.

Above and below:  Speaking of old-timers, Allen Jerkens already has a winner in the current Spa meet.  As Tom Durkin related when Precious Soul won on August 1, the beloved Jerkens first won at Saratoga during the Dwight Eisenhower administration!  Above, horses are silhouetted in the Jerkens' barn.  Below, Jerkens is silhouetted after Precious Soul's victory.

Above and below:  Tizway, one of the favorites for Saturday's Whitney, cuts through the fog on the Oklahoma training track.  Andres Catalan Rojas is aboard.

Above and below:  Larry Jones with his unusually lovely stakes filly Joyful Victory, in late July at Saratoga. Here's wishing for a speedy recovery for Joyful Victory, who suffered an injury in the Coaching Club American Oaks last weekend.  

Above:  That's the spot!  Eclipse Award winning turf star Gio Ponti enjoys a good roll at trainer Christophe Clement's barn. 

Above and below:  Saratoga's resident hawk - one of at least two - in some Nature Channel-like moments. In the above silhouette, a much smaller bird (at bottom right) tries to lure the hawk away - perhaps because of a nearby nest?

Steeplechasing 101.  Above and below:  Sackatoga Stables' Stephen's Revenge, considering a new career as a steeplechase horse?.....

....or maybe not.

Steeplechasing 101 continued, above:  A turf worker departs the course in unusual style...perhaps considering a career as a steeplechase horse?....

...or not.  The horse didn't try too hard, and instead simply wiped out the rail.

Above:  Advanced Steeplechasing.  OK, so this isn't at Saratoga - it's at Belmont Park last month.  But all this jumping got me thinking of this photo.  One Giant Step (really, that's his name) leaps over a fallen Slaney Rock.  According to reports, everyone was fine...and One Giant Step actually finished second that day.  Now, that's a steeplechaser!

Above: Morning's first light...  A vibrant, painterly sky forms a stunning backdrop to Saratoga's historic structure.  Another day, another chance for dreams to be realized.

Above:  Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez are certainly no strangers to the Saratoga winner's circle, but they apparently forgot to wear their white knee socks and tiaras on Wednesday.

Above:  George Weaver stablemates Sam's Buck (left) and Diceman are quite the entertaining pair.  Oh, sure, they watch the world go by every day, and they occasionally ignore each other.  But, sooner or later, each just has to see what the other is doing.

Above:  Peek-a-boo!  Handsome Preakness winner Shackleford is in the house and Travers-bound.

Above and below:  She hasn't raced yet, but this red-grey Thoroughbred filly sure is a head-turner in the mornings.  She's by Mizzen Mast, who often sires unusually colored horses, and she's trained by Tony Dutrow.  Named Wicked Mizz, the 2-year-old is a half-sister to Wickedly Perfect.

Above and below:  Made you look!  For Her Eyes Only is, well, an eye-catching 2-year-old filly by Utopia - On Call trained by Kiaran McLaughlin.

Above and below:  From the side, the Mike Hushion trainee Roman Treasure - running in this Saturday's Test - might be mistaken for countless other horses.  But, from the front, it's a different story...

Everyone who knows breeder Rob Whiteley would say the man has an unusually big heart. He's very generous with his spirit and his time, he's a beloved breeder and protector of race horses, and he has limitless respect for the merits of older mares.  He's also soft-spoken and thoughtful, and, as such, his serious heart issues 15 years ago caught many friends by surprise.  

Dr. Chris Elia performed triple-bypass surgery on Whiteley and, not long thereafter, the two began partnering on a few broodmares.  One was an old stakes mare named Jeanne Jones, who produced a Roman Ruler filly for them - and additional partner Brandywine Farm - in 2008.  Jeanne Jones is now a loved 26-year-old pensioner at Brandywine. 

That Roman Ruler was the chosen stallion was not a coincidence.  Roman Ruler was bred by Whiteley in partnership (Needham/Betz, Liberation Farm, & Ashford Stud).  Roman Ruler's dam, Silvery Swan, was bred by Whiteley as well.  Thus, the Roman Ruler - Jeanne Jones filly, born three years ago, represented three generations of Whiteley's breeding.

As Whiteley recently related by e-mail, "This whole chain of good Karma not only produced the exquisite Roman Treasure when Jeanne Jones was 23 years of age ... but marked her final gift with the sign of love."