Saturday, August 28, 2010

Midsummer Derby

Only twenty minutes away from Saratoga Springs, we didn't realize we were so close to the epicenter of New York horse racing.  The season only lasts a short six weeks, but folks come from all over the country to this historic landmark to win big, watch history in the making and throw back a couple of cocktails in the summer sun.  With race season drawing to an end, we knew we couldn't spend our first summer upstate and miss the famed Travers Stakes.

Hardcore Horse Tailgating
Part of the Midsummer Derby, the $1 million Travers Stakes is the crown jewel of the week long festivities at the Saratoga Race Course.  We were so bummed that the mean diet made us miss the ice cream eating contest they had earlier in the week!  Tens of thousands come out for the big event and many are lined up when the park opens at 7:30 a.m. on Travers Day.  Horse racing here includes serious would think these people were at at SEC Football game the way they carry on!

The 1 1/4 mile race is a showcase of the country's top three-year-olds and generally sees a lot of serious, famous competitors.  FYI:  Man o' War won the race in 1920 and the trophy presented to winners, made by Tiffany & Co., is called the Man o' War award.  Winners also have their stable colors painted on the canoe that floats in the middle of the lake in the center of the track for the next racing season.

Go Super Saver!
When Drosselmeyer (winner of the Belmont Stakes) and Lookin at Lucky (winner of the Preakness Stakes) dropped out from the 141st running of the Travers Stakes, plenty of other horses stepped up to the plate.  In fact, the race had 11 horses this year!  Some of the famous fillies were A Little Warm, Ice Box (2nd at Kentucky Derby), Miner's Reserve, First Dude (named for Sarah Palin's husband) and Fly Down.

Packed house
The field of competition was tough, but we put our money on 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, with 6-1 odds.  Super Saver also clenched the Arkansas Derby earlier this year in Hot Springs, so we figured if he could run in our neck of the woods, he had to be sure money, right?  We placed our bet and found a cozy spot at the fence...with a gazillion other people.

And guess what...sure enough, we lost.

And here they come!
Super Saver had a strong start but never rallied.  As the #11 horse, she spent the race on the outside and never was able to make a move.  #7 Afleet Express came right off the final turn, moved away from the rail and took the lead from #1 Miner's Reserve to win by a nose.  Like photo finish win by a nose!  It was exciting waiting to hear the results!  While we didn't have the winning numbers, from the sound of the 45,000+ crowd inside the track, plenty of folks did.

In just under two minutes, a jockey and a horse won $1 million bucks and we were close enough to feel the dirt shake.  Check it out from our point of view: