I came to dread the yearly trek up to the Adirondacks. My nightly stipend for a hotel was $60, forcing me miles out of town to the dreariest of dumps. There was no “up front” expense money, so to make my meager paycheck stretch, as well as my already overburdened credit card, I was compelled to find the cheapest pizza joints for my dinner.
Aside from the major stakes races, I had to cover the annual Fasig-Tipton select yearling sale, but under the crudest of circumstances. The motel I stayed at each year was a good fit for my pocketbook, but didn’t have a phone jack that I could plug my laptop into (remember, this was way before the wireless revolution).
I would have to write my story and then schlep the laptop to the motel office, where the only phone jack was located. Oftentimes the connection wasn’t made, and I’d have to try again and again. This was often right up against the midnight deadline, and the editors weren’t happy about it, and neither was I.
One time, upon failure of the laptop modem to connect, I had to dictate my story to a part-timer on the sports desk, who dutifully typed it into the system, but the story went to press replete with misspelled horse names.
In short, the “August place to be” turned into the “unhappiest place for me.” Upon the paper pulling the plug on the Saratoga trips in 2003 because of budgetary woes, I vowed only to watch and wager on Saratoga from the comfort of my living room.
But recently, my attitude towards Saratoga Springs has softened. Both of my daughters, who are extremely interested in the sport, asked to spend a few days there in 2010, and so off we went. We had a wonderful time, and I began to see the historic city through a tourist’s eyes, and not through the eyes of someone who was being inconvenienced.
Last year, we went back during the week of the yearling sale, but met my friend Dawn Newman, who owns Fox Tale Stud in Coopersburg, Pa. I can honestly say that it was the best vacation I’ve ever had – a whirlwind of horses, history, handicapping and yes, meals that were much better than those cut-rate pizzas downed with second-rate beer.
We’re meeting up again this year, and instead of reluctantly packing my bags, I’m eagerly anticipating seeing the rich and famous at the Fasig-Tipton salesgrounds, and those gorgeous, million-dollar yearlings. The best part of all is that I don’t have to bring my laptop, or write a single story.
Saratoga, here we come!
FINISH LINES: I didn’t remember seeing this anywhere on the web, but champion Forever Together, owned during her racing days by the Augustin Stable of George Strawbridge, Jr. and trained by Jonathan Sheppard, had her first foal, a filly by Smart Strike, this spring … Rumors are flying that there may be a change in a key official position at Parx Racing soon … The fickle nature of the racing game can often drain even the most robust of bank accounts, unless one goes into the business with the wherewithal to withstand severe downturns. Recently, we’ve learned of one stallion owner/breeder/stable owner who is experiencing such a turn of fortune, leaving a mountain of unpaid bills. We wish them – and their creditors - the best.