Stars of Yesterday: Looking Back at Best Arkansas Derby Winners
While most kids went to summer camps, we went to Saratoga. Instead of lifeguarding or waiting tables, we sold tip sheets and worked the betting windows. To us, Saratoga is summer. And it’s not just the championship racing. It’s jet skiing on the lake, concerts at SPAC, fried chicken and dough boys, and late nights on Caroline Street. Our This Week in Saratoga series highlights the very best of the racing, establishments, events and experiences in and around Saratoga which have defined our summers for the past 25 years.
This Week’s Quote: “Saratoga is tranquil and ageless, and in time this slows down the tempo and you begin to get to places outrageously late and to put off till tomorrow and generally not to care a curse. This is known as Saratoga slow fever, and anyone affected with it is likely to have recurrent attacks, each August.” Joe Palmer, 1947
Unfortunately, time in Saratoga is not moving slowly enough. It’s hard to believe, but we are already at the halfway mark of the meet. Time flies when you are having fun, and it’s certainly been a fun first three weeks of racing at the Spa.
This week is a great time to visit the track and town as it is traditionally less crowded - a gap between Whitney week and the upcoming big weekends featuring Songbird in the Alabama and, of course, in two weeks, the Travers. This week also marks the annual racing Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Always a popular event, but even more so this year as huge fan favorites Rachel Alexandra, Ramon Dominguez and Zenyatta all take their place on Union Avenue.
In this edition of This Week in Saratoga, we focus on the Hall of Fame induction, reflect on the heroics of local legend Fourstardave, and highlight many of the great events happening at and around the Spa.
This Week at the Track
Races of the Week:
This week’s headliner is the $500,000, Grade 1 Fourstardave, a one mile race on the turf to be contested Saturday. Formerly known as the “Darly’s Joy Stakes”, the race was renamed for the Sultan of Saratoga, Fourstardave, following his retirement. Dave won at least one race at the Spa for eight consecutive years spanning from 1987 thru 1994. In doing so, he became a local legend—receiving an edible key to the city and having a street near Siro’s named after him in 1996. Fourstardave retired after making 99 starts with a record of 21-18-16 and earnings of $1,636,560.
This stakes race has produced a who’s who of turf champions including Breeder’s Cup Mile winners Wise Dan, Lure, Da Hoss, and Steinlen. Fourstardave himself won this race twice during his illustrious career.
Potential 2017 Triple Crown stars will be on display Sunday in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, a 6 1/2 furlong race for two year olds. Last year’s winner of this race, Exaggerator, went on to win the Preakness and Haskell and looks primed to be the favorite in this year’s Travers.
On Friday, top sprinters compete in the Tale of the Cat Stakes. Expect fireworks early on in this one as many entrants figure to go right to the lead. Multiple Grade 1 winner Dad’s Cap headlines the field, but we think the race sets up for Viva Majorca or Gorgeous Bird - both of which should offer some value.
Tradition of the Week:
It was not America's oldest sporting venue (Saratoga Race Course) that first made the area famous. Long before longshots and stakes races, the area’s 22 natural mineral springs were the primary attraction (and the source of the town’s full name—Saratoga Springs). Starting as early as the French and Indian War, the springs have been cultivated and used for medicinal purposes.
Today, one of those natural springs is located on the grounds of the track. The Big Red Spring was moved from its natural location downtown, up to the track to allow the track patrons a chance to enjoy a free sampling of the waters. Big Red, like most of the other springs in the city, has a strong sulfuric taste which causes many samplers to spit it out upon initial tasting. Many people, however, including us, believe that the spring has powers that promote good handicapping (and cure a Caroline Street hangover).
As the knowledge of springs for which Saratoga was named has faded from the public's mind, the Big Red Spring has become an ever recurring location for pranks and trickery of first time attendees. Stand by the spring for a few minutes and watch as knowing “hosts” tell guests how delicious and refreshing the spring water is. Many guests are immediately hesitant when they see the red, rusty spigots. But one more reassurance, especially on a hot day, is all they need. Then just wait for the reaction.
This Week’s Events:
Don’t have a ticket to Friday’s Hall of Fame Ceremony? There will be a live feed of the festivities in the backyard of the racetrack by Gate B. There will be photo opportunities with miniature horses, poster giveaways, and free admission to the races for the first 500 attendees.
Also on Friday is TOBA’s Ownership Seminar - starting at 7:15 a.m. in the Curlin Cafe. Interested in learning more about race horse ownership? Definitely check out this crash course which features several speakers discussing topics such as forming ownership groups, selecting horses and working with trainers. And if all that isn’t enticing enough, the program concludes with lunch at the Shake Shack featuring guest handicapper and ABR’s own Dan Tordjman. We have participated in these fun and educational seminars in the past and highly recommend attending. Agenda and information on registering can be found here: http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1101939486337&ca=efd1b1...
Saturday features Jockey Legends Day, where several star retired riders return to Saratoga for a winner’s circle presentation and autograph session. Returning legends include—Angel Cordero, Ramon Dominguez, the Mig, Eddie Maple, Jean Cruguet , Samyn on the Green, and Jose Santos. The autograph session is from 12:00 to 1:00 outside the jockey’s room. $10 donation to profit the PDJF.
Giveaway: Monday, August 15 is beach towel day! Free beach towel with paid admission—while supplies last, of course.
This Week’s Replay:
This week’s replay clip features Tom Durkin, in rare cheerleader mode, rooting home the “Old Boy”, the Sultan of Saratoga, Fourstardave, as he dominates an allowance field for his final Saratoga victory in 1994.
This Week In the Area
Around Town: As usual in August, there is never a dearth of things to do around Saratoga. As mentioned above, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, is on Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the Fasig Tipton Sales Pavilion. Unfortunately, the event is “sold out”, so if you aren’t lucky enough to have scored tickets, check out the broadcast in the backyard of the track or on the museum website. https://www.racingmuseum.org
This year in particular is going to be good, as both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra will assume their rightful places in the Hall. The debate continues to this day about which one would have prevailed if they had met at the peak of their respective powers – exactly the type of discussion that sustains and enriches the sport of racing (although we obviously wish they had faced one another). Read more about the 2016 induction class here.
Assuming you are still up for more equine athletics, on Friday night head out to Whitney Field (2 Bloomfield Road, Greenfield Center, NY) for some Polo, as the Saratoga Polo Association presents the Barrantes Cup Tournament Pink Paddock Cup. While you are there, perhaps ask someone why a Polo Cup tournament presents a separate Pink Paddock Cup. If you have the answer, shoot us an email because we would love to know. In any event, it’s a lovely way to spend a nice summer Friday night. And the athleticism of the human and equine participants is truly impressive.
Finally, on Saturday, the National Museum of Dance hosts its 2016 Gala, which is billed as the “best gala in Saratoga during the summer season.” Undoubtedly, this will be a major event on the Saratoga social scene this week, so if you are interested contact the museum to get tickets. If Galas are not really your thing, Caroline Street is always open.
Day Trips: This week of the meet – after the Whitney but before the Alabama and the Travers – is traditionally a bit slower than some of the other weeks. It’s the perfect time to take a longer day trip (or even a trip longer than a day) into the Adirondacks. The hiking in the Adirondack region is fantastic, and offers a wide variety of hikes and other outdoor activities for all different levels of outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen.
The Adirondack Mountain Club has a wonderful website that gives you tons of information on all the different outdoor recreation options, and has a section on various hikes divided by length and difficulty. You can start at Adirondack Loj and do any number of wonderful hikes – from the easier, like Mount Jo, to the moderate, like hiking through Avalanche Pass, to the more difficult Algonquin, which is the second highest peak in the Adirondacks (Algonquin is 8.6 miles round trip, but includes some relatively steep sections, although does not require any technical mountaineering skill). After hiking (if you still have time), spend some time in Keene, a little town in the heart of the Adirondack high peak region, or drive into Lake Placid, home of the 1980 Olympics and the Miracle on Ice.
This Week in Food and Drink
This Week’s Food Profile: Karavalli Regional Indian Cuisine
Saratoga Springs is known as a foodie destination, with many great restaurants which people flock to from all over the area, both during and apart from the racing season. A big part of making Saratoga a foodie paradise is the wide array of cuisine that can be found in the area. A big part of that eclectic mix is owed to Karavalli, an Indian restaurant at 47 Caroline Street, which has a vast menu displaying the specialties of many of India’s unique regions. My favorite part of the menu is that it often identifies the region where each dish originated, making the experience a true emersion into the Indian culture.
Each visit to Karavalli begins with a complimentary round of pappadam (a lentil and chickpea cracker) with two types of chutney, a red and a green (think India’s version of chips and salsa). Although Indian food is mostly recognized for its deliciously spiced sauces and great bread (Naan, Tandoori Roti and Paratha) the appetizer of choice on our visits there is universally the Chickpea Salad. Noted on the menu as a house favorite, this dish brings an explosion of flavor you expect from Indian fare along with a unique freshness that often goes missing in many Indian restaurants. The entrees, including go-to favorites like Chicken Tikka Masala, fit the profile of flavorful dishes with too many unique spices to comprehend. For the more adventurous, we recommend the lamb specials, specifically the Bhamia Koota. This is a Calcutta Jewish specialty made with a tomato onion broth infused with tamarind and plenty of okra and spiced lamb. Other unique offerings include the Fish in Banana leaf, a Kerela specialty made with marinated fish cooked and served in banana leaf.
In addition to the great menu, the staff at Karavalli is very welcoming and always looking to make you feel comfortable. Quick with a smile and a joke, the waiters will remember your last visit and make you look forward to the next. The bar also offers an array of Indian beer, including our favorite, Taj Mahal. For the more adventurous dinners, this is a spot not to miss.
This Week’s Drink Profile: Henry Street Tap Room
Henry Street doesn’t stop at just beer. They also offer wines and a full service bar slinging specialty cocktails and a solid bourbon and scotch list. Their food offerings mimic the constantly evolving theme of the beer list. Although they have a great regular menu (which is also in a state of flux with seasons), some of the best food comes on the special board, which has daily plates of pizza, tacos, salads, grilled cheese, oysters and bread pudding. They do daily events as well, including flight specials (of beers and cheeses) for $4 on Wednesdays and paired Burger and Beer night on Sundays.
Henry Street fits well into the gastro-pub niche. It has a beautiful natural wood bar, and a rustic, unfinished feel. It is a place people can go any time of day for good beer and good food. Whether it’s for drinks and apps between the track and dinner, the first stop for a bar-crawling night on Caroline Street or for a night cap and some dessert cheese, Henry Street Tap Room has options. Just don’t be gun shy when ordering; you don’t know whether a certain item will be there on your next visit.
Food and Drink Events:
Saratoga Springs Farmers’ Market is a great place to enjoy all the freshness of summer. It has all your needs covered; local vegetables, fruits, flowers, meats, cheeses, baked goods, wines ciders and even the “Mariaville Mushroom Men”—featuring gourmet fresh mushrooms (including pioppinos, which actually taste like bacon) Wednesdays 3 – 6pm and Saturdays 9am -1pm, High Rock Park, Saratoga Springs.
Saratoga Living Magazine is presenting their weekly Moet Monday at Nove Italian Restaurant on Maple Avenue on Monday August 15 from 6-9 p.m. Although Nove is great place to go any night of the week for top notch Italian dinners and pizza, on Monday they host this week’s Moet cocktail party featuring a variety of house-specialty cocktails.
This Week in Saratoga History
August 13, 1919: 20,000 fans flock to the track to watch a heralded and undefeated two year old colt, Man of War. However, a botched start left Man of War four lengths behind his competition before he even moved. The arguably greatest horse of all time passed all other challengers in the race, except one. Man of War was a nose short, losing the race in what many call the greatest upset of all time. Of course, the name of horse who was a nose better? Upset.
August 14, 1971: Jockey Robyn Smith, perhaps better known for marrying 88 year old entertainer Fred Astaire, becomes the first female rider to win a race at Saratoga. As an exclamation point, Smith and her mount, Beaukins, broke the track record for seven furlongs.