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Blog - LIFESTYLE

Will Take Charge after winning the Travers Stakes (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)

The 150th Saratoga Travers Celebration has come and gone in a blink of an eye and as such, the 2013 Travers weekend did not disappoint, giving me great pleasure of reuniting with friends and colleagues whom I only get to see when up north in the Adirondacks this time of year.

Saratoga means the never-ending babble “would-of, could-of” talk in the late night at some tavern on Broadway, wonderful memories of seeing some of the swiftest Thoroughbreds compete on track, a track which is known for its graveyard heartbreaks, and, taking time out remembering those who have come and gone, while paying tribute to a few of the greatest athletes in Thoroughbred racing.

Friday: A beautiful morning for New York Racing Association (NYRA) to dedicate a plaque to three of the winningest all-time jockeys in Saratoga history: Angel Cordero Jr., Jerry Bailey and John Velazquez at a ceremony near the paddock to a crowd of appreciative fans, celebrating these three men on their astounding accomplishments. In attendance, I saw Hall of Fame trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Billy Mott, along with trainer Todd Pletcher, applauding these men while quietly understanding that they played an intricate part in helping these men make history by giving them such great horses to ride. The beautiful, bronze plague depicting Cordero, Bailey and Velazquez is mounted on the wall outside the jockey’s room entrance for all to see. Congratulations to all.

THE NEW PLAQUE HONORING THE THREE WINNINGEST ALL-TIME JOCKEYS

Jockey -plaque

Photo courtesy of Joan Lawrence/America's Best Racing

Saturday: The 144th running of the Travers Stakes along with its 14-race day card seemed at 8:15 a.m. - when I arrived at the track - to promise to be the longest day of racing, but the day flew by as quickly as Will Take Charge when he came running past Moreno in the main event. Moreno held onto the lead throughout the race only to give it up at the wire as Will Take Charge swept past for the win to a roaring crowd of 47,000 strong at 6 p.m. Will Take Charge gave Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas his third Travers win and  longtime owner Willis Horton and jockey Luis Saez a sweet victory.  Verrazano, the favorite, never factored in the race - it just wasn’t his day - while Kentucky Derby winner Orb could only get third for his effort. It was the classic graveyard-of-favorites dance if ever there was one. Perhaps the National Museum of Dance will give some thought to choreograph a dance “En Pointe: Graveyard Favorite,” someday.

Sunday: All aboard the Saratoga Express a.k.a. Royal Delta doing what she does best, run and run she did, taking command at the start of the Grade 1 Personal Ensign, never looking back with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith on board, sitting in coach for the express ride around the oval to a standing ovation back to the winner’s circle. What a sight it was to behold and to hear her adoring fans cheering her on.

ROYAL DELTA ROMPS IN THE PERSONAL ENSIGN

Royal Delta Joanie Blog

Photo courtesy Eclipse Sportswire

Remembrance: Jockey Mike Venezia and jockey Ramon Dominguez, a three-time winner of the Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey. Dominguez was honored with the Mike Venezia Memorial Award and presented with his 2012 Eclipse Award trophy. Dominguez, who was injured in a spill in January at Aqueduct Racetrack, announced his retirement from race riding in June.

Domiguez was the first winner since 2006 to receive the Venezia Award, which was created in 1989. The Venezia Award is given to jockeys who exemplify extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship. It is named in honor of Mike Venezia, who died as the result of injuries he suffered in a spill in 1988 at Belmont Park.

RAMON DOMINGUEZ RECEIVES THE MIKE VENEZIA MEMORIAL AWARD

Photo -Ramon -Dominguez -winner -circle

Photo courtesy of Joan Lawrence/America's Best Racing

Standing in the winner’s circle with Venezia’s wife, daughter and grandchildren was such an emotional experience for me. I knew Mike, and I was working at Belmont Park that frightful day when he died. It was and remains an experience that I will never forget; such as where I was when John F. Kennedy was shot or 9/11. The winner’s circle was packed with family, friends of racing and the entire Saratoga jockey colony, along with the outriders on their horses standing guard while we remembered a fallen colleague and honored one who had to retire from what he loves and what he does best - riding racehorses - far too soon. 

It was a great weekend of racing and Saratoga never looked more splendid at the ripe-old age of 150.

Image Description

Joan Lawrence

Joan Lawrence has worked in the racing industry for more than 20 years, starting out walking hots and then breaking yearlings. She has worked for National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) since its inception in 1998 and currently works out of their New York headquarters as Senior Manager of Communications. She resides in Floral Park, New York.

Image Description

Joan Lawrence

Joan Lawrence has worked in the racing industry for more than 20 years, starting out walking hots and then breaking yearlings. She has worked for National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) since its inception in 1998 and currently works out of their New York headquarters as Senior Manager of Communications. She resides in Floral Park, New York.

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