Monday, July 29, 2013

By a nose

Let's be honest here. I may be a gray-haired grandma on the outside, but on the inside, I am still a twelve-year-old girl who is crazy for horses.

 So when I received  the general invitation to join some Rotary folks for a day at the track, I said, yes, absolutely!

Being a local, I knew to leave my car in the free NYRA parking area at the Oklahoma Training Track. It's a bit longer of a walk to the main track, but for a horse-lover like me, it also offered a glimpse of the goings on in the backstretch area.
 I don't know if this happens at all race tracks, but at Saratoga, there are lots of opportunities to get pretty close to the horses.

 No doubt this is intended, so that bettors can get a good look at the race entries and be assured that there is nothing wrong with their picks.

Honestly, I care little about the betting, but I do love to look at these amazing animals.

 Today was a gorgeous day to be outdoors and the Saratoga track is a great place to hang out.

The grounds are beautifully kept, there are bands playing here and there, the food is good and plentiful, the bathrooms are clean, the employees are cheerful and helpful. If you prefer, you can bring your own picnic and cooler. For a three dollar admission, it's not a bad place to spend a summer afternoon.

 I did make a few modest bets, but only had a winner in one race. My winner in the seventh race got bumped back to second place because of "interference". Darn.

I've been reading Jane Smiley's pretty good 2003 novel, Horse Heaven, so I kept thinking about that as I watched the horses being readied for their races. Smiley gives a good picture of the many facets of thoroughbred racing.

Saratoga likes to promote a certain glamorous ambience for its summer meet. Hats are a big thing here. I should say, big hats are a big thing here. You can buy one at the track, if you are in the mood.

This is the 150th anniversary of horse racing in Saratoga. If you've never been, there are many ways to explore the track. Check out breakfast at the track  or just bring your own McMuffin and watch the early morning workouts. You can take a tour of the Oklahoma Training Track and backstretch through the National Museum of  Racing. Or just plunk down three bucks and spend a pleasant day among some beautiful animals. And if you decide to take a flutter (make a bet) but are shy about what to do, the friendly guys in the red vests will explain it all to you. You have until September 2, and then it all disappears until next year.