Fourstardave is a horse who has always been close to my heart: a perennial figure in Saratoga, Dave won a race at the Spa at least once a year from 1987-1994. Fourstardave features heavily in my childhood memories of horse racing, and I’m not alone: after he passed away in 2002 he was interred on the backstretch at Saratoga. So it seems perfectly fitting that, on my last full day of the year at Saratoga, I was lucky enough to witness the race named for one of the horses who shaped my career.
Saturday began as so many wonderful Saratoga days do: with a beautiful sunrise promising another picture-perfect upstate New York summer afternoon … which is exactly what we got!
When I arrived at Saratoga Race Course, there were already hordes of horse racing fans in attendance; so I spent about an hour wandering the beautiful grounds seeing what people were up to. I’m so glad that I did! I saw everything from beer pong to ladies having their makeup professionally done at a Bobbi Brown pop-up stand. When I tell you that there really is something for everyone at Saratoga, you can take that to the bank!
Another reason why I love Saratoga is that it’s a living, breathing fashion show in the world’s most glorious setting. Everywhere you turn, people are dressed to the nines in tribute to horse racing’s rich and elegant tradition at Saratoga.
As always, I was in a long maxi dress for the day: it’s my go-to look for racing since I feel dressed-up but I can’t embarrass myself too much when I duck under rails and climb over stuff in an attempt to get a good photo. Behold: my photo finish mirror selfie:
I also love Saratoga because there are so many fantastic people to see: I ran into a great friend of mine, Nicole Russo, and we couldn’t resist taking another selfie – just because we had maybe the best view of the racetrack in the world!
#Saratoga selfie with the fabulous @nrusso! #The Spaaaaaaa pic.twitter.com/1fZVtYVtuO
— Penelope P. Miller (@PenelopePMiller) August 9, 2014
I also saw my friend Eric Kalet, who is not only a top-notch photographer but an all-around fantastic human being; he was in the winner’s circle hanging out with legendary jockeys Richard Migliore, Angel Cordero and Laffit Pincay, Jr. Saratoga is a place where there are as many stars in the stands as there are in the sky!
I’m not kidding about the celebrity factor; on Thursday alone, I spotted the Dos Equis guy, gold medal winner Shaun White and Coach Bill Parcells just while I was wandering around. It was very cool!
Of course, the very best part of Fourstardave Day is, in my mind at least, the Fourstardave! This race had attracted six of the top turf horses in the nation, and I couldn’t wait to see who would come out on top. The heavy favorite was Silver Max, the only Thoroughbred to defeat 2013’s Horse of the Year Wise Dan last year. Silver Max wasn’t going to have it easy, though: Seek Again looked to be tough, and Jack Milton looked to be a serious challenger as well. As the horses paraded in the paddock, I was once again struck by just how hard their caretakers work to make their charges shine so beautifully for raceday.
When the race began, favorite Silver Max stumbled and lost momentum coming out of the gate; however, he recovered quickly and was the leader as the field swept down the turf course to enter the first turn.
As the horses travelled down the backstretch, the huge crowd roared behind me as fans cheered for their chosen Thoroughbred.
And as the equine and human athletes reentered the stretch to battle for home, it was Seek Again who courageously fought his way through a wall of horses to win the Fourstardave in course record setting fashion under the skillful handling of jockey Joel Rosario.
As I sat in the press box at Saratoga wrapping up my Fourstardave day, I realized that the very last race was about to go off; so I jumped out of my seat and watched the whole race live from the windows overlooking the historic race course. As I watched the horses have a thrilling battle to the finish for my last race at the Spa this year, I was treated to another thrilling race call from legendary race caller Tom Durkin. The man has been a staple at the Spa – and all New York Racing Association tracks – for as long as I can remember, and this year on August 31, he will call his very last race. The idea of Saratoga without Tom Durkin is unimaginable to me, but I count myself as incredibly lucky to have heard some of the most wonderful race calls I can remember.
I think I just heard Tom Durkin call a race live for the last time in my life. The thought has me near tears in the press box. #ThankYouTom
— Penelope P. Miller (@PenelopePMiller) August 9, 2014
With that, it was time for me to pack up and leave the Spa. While exiting Saratoga always a bittersweet moment, I know just how lucky we as fans are to have this race course as a beacon of all things that represents why Thoroughbred racing is so wonderful. I implore you to come for a visit as soon as you can: I promise you that you will love it. I’ll leave you with a few more images of the beautiful Saratoga, and let me know in the comments what your favorite thing about the Spa is!
Tune in to Fox Sports 1 on Aug. 10 for the Saratoga Special Stakes
and on Aug. 17 for the Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes.
The on-air duties will be handled by Greg Wolf, Richard Migliore, Andy Serling, Simon Bray, and Alyssa Ali. In conjunction with the broadcast, Racing 101's Joe Kristufek will be hosting a live fan TweetUP - @ABRLive #TJC Tour - beginning at 2 p.m. ET.