Dog Days to Independence Day to Saratoga Days…
By Shawn Rychling
Last time I wrote for this space we talked about the Dog Days of Summer and how for New York horseplayers they seem to fall in the five- to six-week period between the Belmont Stakes and the opening of Saratoga Race Course.
Well they really hit this week with some oppressive heat that even forced the cancellation of racing last Sunday, July 1, when temperatures approached the 100 mark and heat indices pushed even higher. Horses do not like heat at all and are in fact better suited to cold weather than the heat, and if not for the lack of safety of a snow-covered track and human danger from the cold, fewer winter race cards would be cancelled.
In any event, the heat moderated by July 4 and racing went on as scheduled on the country’s 242nd birthday. We here at the Hot List hope you had a wonderful celebration on the 4th of July and took time to appreciate the greatness of this nation and the vision and foresight of those who fought for our independence two-and-half centuries ago.
Racing is back, but the dog days seem to continue as Belmont is plagued by short fields on most days as horses seem to be gearing up for Saratoga.
And the Spa will open just two weeks from now on Friday, July 20 and run for 40 days of racing through Labor Day, Monday Sept. 3.
This year, will be this writer’s 28th consecutive Travers Stakes going back to 1991 when Pat Day rode Corporate Report to victory.
It was the next year, the 1992 Travers, when this horseplayer fell in love with Saratoga.
Going into that day, I think in yearly trips to the Spa since 1987, I had failed to cash even a small winning ticket.
Determined to break that misery, I was obsessed with fleshing out the Travers winner. I had dabbled in handicapping and systems for picking longshots, but was a genuine novice just two years out of college.
That day I found a quiet spot and studied the Travers PPs – the 7th of just 9 races day believe it or not – and landed on Thunder Rumble. The colt had won the Jim Dandy just three weeks earlier at 24-1. He had done so by racing wide and still having enough left.
A modest New York-bred, Thunder Rumble was being ignored by the Travers’ bettors and was sitting at about 10-1. I pressed hard on the horse across the board and in several exactas. Thunder Rumble went off at 7-1 and breaking from post 10 he powered to a 4-length win.
I cashed for nearly $1,000, which was quite a sum, and I was hooked.
I learned a lot that day about handicapping and looking a trips, and trainer intent, and horses that were being primed to peak at the right time.
But Saratoga can be a much simpler experience too.
Fast forward to July 27, 2003. A friend and I are in a hurry to make the first race and bet the double. This was back double wagering wasn’t offered on every race. We were desperate to find a parking spot across the street form the main gate. We finally found and got in at 5 minutes before post for the opener. We looked down and saw a horse named Park the Car entered in the first. We bet it to win and wheeled him in the double. He paid $10.40 and made our weekend.
That is Saratoga and we can start enjoying it for another year just 14 days from now!
Best of luck and find out how to get all our Hot List analysis for at Interbets.com.