Saratoga Reflections


At this time of year I like to look back at things uppermost in my mind at the conclusion of the Saratoga racing season.

Following is my list for 2010:

Jonathan Sheppard

The Hall of Fame trainer won all the Thursday steeplechase events except the last, which was won by his old friend and rival Tom Voss.

Sheppard captured the A.P. Smithwick with Divine Fortune and the New York Turf Writers with Sermon of Love.

Steeplechase racing is a grand tradition here, dating back to at least 1864, and a visit to the paddock for these races in our time is a reminder of the sporting quality of Saratoga racing.

Sheppard also trains female turf champion Forever Together, who was seeking her third consecutive Diana Handicap this year.

When I visited him about that race he was in a reflective mood about the game he deeply loves.

Sheppard commented on the year-round nature of the game and how many view it in strictly business terms today.

“Shoot, wouldn’t it be best for your business if your horses did run fewer times, but did so in higher competition and at their peak for earning money?”

It sure would, Jonathan.

Senator Eric Adams

Also known as Senator “Show Me The Money” Adams, he made an appearance in downtown Saratoga Springs on Aug. 13 regarding the legislative approval of Genting New York LLC as the operator of a slots facility at Aqueduct.

Genting is based in Malaysia.

It is bad enough that New York leaders could not come up with an American company to run this long overdue project, but Sen. Adams’s attitude toward Saratoga Springs was really something to see.

Adams, a Democrat who represents the 20th Senate District, is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, refused to answer a question concerning the loss of VLT revenue to this city.

Saratoga Springs is the only host city in the state which does not receive such revenue, thanks to New York’s rescinding of it two years ago.

“Don’t try to rain on our (Aqueduct) VLT parade,” said Adams in response to a questioner.

Well, Senator, we unwashed Saratogians have quite a bit to do with the success of horse racing in this state.

We hope you enjoyed your visit, and when you return, try not to rain on us again.

And perhaps show a little more leadership when a citizen asks a question.

The Alonsos return

It was great to see Anthony and Mary Alonso back in Saratoga Springs in late July, celebrating the exhibit of Tony’s work at Holiday Inn.

They greeted old friend such as Harry and Helen Snyder of Saratoga Springs, John and Bibi Withers of Palm Springs, and Derek and Maryl Towle of Montreal.

Virginia O’Brien

The matriarch of Saratoga harness racing died on Aug. 1 at age 91.

This community lost a dear friend, who was possibly the happiest person any of us will ever know.

Virginia was also a knowledgeable thoroughbred fan and she is still in our minds these many weeks after her passing.


Trainer Tim Snyder, who also owns Lisa’s Booby Trap, told me “she nearly jumped through the roof of her stall” during an evening of local fireworks.

Welcome to Saratoga, Tim, where such things happen on a regular basis in our city.

Thankfully she wasn’t hurt.

We’ve developed a penchant in this city for partying and littering that includes behavior that is rude.

Worst example this year came at 7:30 on the morning of Sunday, July 4, with boom-box music to celebrate a road race.

Great way to wake up, on a Sunday no less.


Trainer Tom Voss sent out Always First to win the John’s Call Stakes on Aug. 6, named for the horse he trained to win the Grade I Sword Dancer here in 2000.

Shug McGaughey saddled Persistently to upset Rachel Alexandra in the Personal Ensign on Aug. 29, named for the immortal filly he trained.

Persistently and Personal Ensign are both products of the Phipps family operation.

Seth Benzel

The personable young trainer enjoyed a fine meeting, topped by Dynaslew’s victory in the Grade II Ballston Spa on Travers Day.

Seth calls the Oklahoma Training Track home.

Travers TV

Once on ABC, it moved to ESPN for a few years and this year was broadcast on MSG-Plus.

Its presence on MSG was not generally known, at least according to a few folks who let us know.

Doug Fout

The steeplechase conditioner had high hopes for Dark Equation in this year’s New York Turf Writers Steeplechase.

The 9-year-old had won it in 2008 and Fout was hoping to win it again, and perhaps retire him after the race.

Fout and owner Beverly Steinman had patiently brought him back following an old injury that knocked him out during the 2009 Saratoga meeting.

“I have that bone X-rayed the day before and day after each race,” said Fout. “He is our family pet and loved by everyone.

“And he is the same way, totally enjoys what he is doing and is so calm about it. You can put a child on his back and not worry.”

Dark Equation didn’t make it back, as the injury began to heat up again.

Fout retired him and has taken him home to his farm in Middleburg, Virginia.

by Michael Veitch


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