Saratoga. Where the original Toga party was thrown by Sara.
Saratoga is known for two things. The Battle of Saratoga, which was the turning point in the American Revolutionary War, and the Spa.
There's nothing like a day at the Spa. AKA the Saratoga Race Course for the uninitiated. I don't know why they call it the Spa. Maybe it's because of the famous Old Red Spring on the grounds. Not sure why that makes it a Spa, but it's a great nickname so shut up.
Nothing will exhaust you mentally, physically and emotionally like a full day of sitting in a lawn chair reading a forum and walking back and forth between the window and the paddock, back to the window, back to the paddock, back to the ATM, back to the window, back to the mental institution. The track is the ultimate breeding grounds for the elite of elite and the redneck of redneck. A clash of class. $10,000 suits and $10 jean shorts. And at the end of every race, you're either a winner or a loser. Everyone has an opportunity to taste victory. Gambling knows no economic or social status.
Saturday August 3rd was the 91st running of the annual Whitney. A win-and-you're-in race for the 6 million dollar Breeder's Cup in November. A race who's namesake pioneered the sport, particularly in the state of New York and Saratoga. To make it that much more special, Marylou Whitney was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame the day before the race. Sadly, it was posthumously as she passed away two weeks before the ceremony, on July 19th, in the city she loved so much. Talk about a tear jerker. I was lucky enough to be there on Friday the 2nd and Saturday the 3rd. Here's how I did:
On Friday I had my share of defeat. I lost exactas and trifectas by less than a length in nearly every race. I got my ass kicked but cashed enough tickets to go home with about 1/2 of my original bankroll. I'll call that a success to get through 10 races without having to hit the ATM and still having some cash in my pocket going into Saturday. Friday was a warm up anyway for the Whitney.
Saturday I woke up with a new found enthusiasm for life. I had done my research. I had consulted my consultants. It was time to execute on 11 races capped off by the Test in the 8th and the Whitney in the 9th.
I didn't find a winner until the 6th on a horse named En Wye Cee trained by Todd Pletcher and jockeyed by Jose Ortiz. Ortiz is the winningest jockey at the Spa in 2019 and Pletcher is in my top-3 favorite trainers but I honestly picked this horse because I live in NYC and felt an obligation. Either way it provided me some breathing room for the main events.
In the 7th I had the 5 and the 8 across the board, they finished in place and show so I cashed a few more tickets and was ready to roll for the upcoming big ones.
In the Test, a running of the top 3 year old Fillies, I had an inside tip about Serengetti Empress. Bellafina was getting all the love and came out as the favorite. I threw them in an Exacta box and took Serengetti Empress across the board. Well lo and behold the third horse Covfefe, who was expected to set the pace and looked like a great horse but I eliminated from my purview because you can't bet on everyone, went wire to wire for the win with Empress and Bellafina finishing 2nd and 3rd. I was able to cash on the Serengetti Empress place and show bets but lost the Exacta. I'll give $100 to anyone who can pronounce Covfefe. Get a real name, horse.
I just googled Covfefe after writing that sentence to see if I was some idiot who didn't know what Covfefe was and the ruling is... I kind of am. Here is the only thing I can imagine Covfefe being named after:
Which in hindsight, had I known this, I 100% would have at least put some money behind her. Naming a horse after a Trump Tweet Typo (alliteration) is the kind of style I will put my money behind.
Onto the WWWWWWHITNEY:
The Whitney Stakes, formerly known as the Whitney Handicap until 2013, is a G1 stakes race for 3+ year olds. It's 10 furlongs, or 1 1/8 miles if you don't measure things in furlongs. The current purse is $1.2 million. That's a lotta clams! Bob Baffert had the favorite in McKinzie. The second favorite, Thunder Snow, scratched before the race giving McKinzie an even bigger edge. Even so, the race was packed with talent. Vino Rosso, who raced against Justify in the 2018 Derby & Belmont, trained by Pletcher, and ridden by the legend Johnny Velazquez. Preservationist, the pace setter who was coming off 4 straight victories, including a win over last year's Travers champ Catholic Boy. Yoshida, the Japanese wonder. Yeah, they have horses in Japan too. There were a few other horses involved, but to me, it was a 4 horse race and I bet it that way. See ticket below for my 5 (Vino) 6 (McKinzie) 7 (Yoshida) 8 (Preservationist) SUPA FECTA:
And wouldn't you fuckin know it.
(I boxed the Superfecta so the horses could finish in any order as long as they all finished top 4. It turns a $2 bet into a $48 bet but pro tip: always box it).
Preservationist predictably set the pace out of the gates and held the early lead through the first two turns. McKinzie proved too strong and took the lead down the stretch to win by a few lengths. Not all that surprising but with McKinzie being such an odds on favorite plus I don't like Baffert cause I'm a Pletcher guy, I wasn't going to bet on him straight up. Thankfully I checked my emotions enough to throw him in the Superfecta to cash in. Yoshida was the biggest surprise in the group finishing second. That's what gave the Superfecta a little bit of boost on the payout. I won't go into why I liked Yoshida but it was mostly because of my appreciation for Masato Yoshii. I'll give you a second to google Masato. Ok cool. Being a Pletcher guy I was always going to take Vino and I liked Preservationist's speed ratings enough to trust him as the fourth leg.
Watching those horses cross the line and have the official results posted on the board was pure euphoria. And yeah, the payout wasn't so great because none of these horse had great odds, but I don't give a shit. If anyone could have hit the superfecta, they would have. For those that don't bet on horses, a superfecta is like hitting for the cycle in baseball. It's like bringing down a triple-double in basketball. It's like returning a kick 99 yards to the house in football. It's rare air. And to hit it on the Whitney was a badass way to end the weekend.
Also I played 54 holes for like $84 total which really capped off the weekend.
Saratoga, I love you.