Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The 2009 Thoroughbed race meet is only a memory now in beautiful Saratoga Springs, New York, as the chill of fall descends on the spa town. Flocks of geese squawk overhead as they make their way south for the winter and simultaneously signal the end of summer. But the last hardy horsemen remain on the backstretch, training their horses on the historic Oklahoma Training Track.
The Oklahoma Track, which is about 1/3 mile from the main course across Union Avenue, was actually the original track used for racing from 1863 until 1909, when the current grandstand and main track were opened. Oklahoma may seem like an odd name for a track in upper New York State, but legend has it that one day long ago someone complained that the training track was so far away from the main track that it might as well be in Oklahoma, and the name stuck.
If you had been at this same spot just a two months ago, you could have seen the great Rachel Alexandra breeze 5 furlongs in a bullet 1:00.37 with exercise rider Dominic Terry aboard on a foggy Monday morning as she prepared for the Travers Stakes. If you stood along the rail, you likely would have rubbed elbows with trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Calvin Borel as they looked on.
But now only about 400 horses remain at Saratoga, many of whom will be heading for Aqueduct, Florida, or even California when Saratoga closes down for the winter in a few weeks. In the meantime, horses and humans alike are enjoying the brisk fall mornings, understandably reluctant to let go of another season.