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Behind the scenes… Sugar Plum Farms

California Chrome

Saratoga Race Course

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Owner/Publisher Chad Beatty

General Manager Robin Mitchell

Creative Consultant Chris Vallone Bushee

Creative Director Alyssa Jackson

Advertising Design Morgan Rook

Graphics Department Alyssa Jackson Andrew Ranalli Morgan Rook

Advertising Sales Erin Boucher Jim Daley Cindy Durfey

Contributing Writers Marion E. Altieri Alan Edstrom Dennis Hogan Katey Freeman Holmes Greg Veitch

Photographers Tracey Buyce Laura Donnell / Taylor Made Dan Heary National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Saratoga POLO Bethany Wurl / WinStar Farm

Published by

Saratoga TODAY Newspaper Five Case Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 tel: (518) 581-2480 TYLE






imenta 2016 Compl

Cover photo by Sharon Castro Behind the Sugar Plum Farms



California Chrom

Saratoga Race


Equicurean is brought to you by Saratoga TODAY Newspaper, Saratoga Publishing, LLC. Saratoga Publishing shall make every effort to avoid errors and omissions but disclaims any responsibility should they occur. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by a ny means without prior written consent of the publisher. Copyright © 2016, Saratoga TODAY Newspaper

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20 POLO 8

Welcome to Saratoga Polo

12 Schedule of Events 14 Polo Primer 18 Polo Equipment 20 What is a Polo Pony? 26 Polo Traditions • The Divot Stomp • Tailgating 34 The Science of Sabrage 38 Saratoga's Polo Passion 6  |  Equicurean  |  July 2016




90 Thoroughbreds

42 Saratoga's 153rd Racing Season 50 Fasig-Tipton 56 Conformation 58 A Day in the Life of... • A Race Horse • A Thoroughbred Trainer • A Horse Groom 64 California Chrome 68 The Man Who Loved Horses 76 Sugar Plum Farm 84 Saratoga's Checkered Past 90 Creator 94 Racing Museum

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Saratoga Polo 8  |  Equicurean  |  July 2016


ver its 118 year history, Saratoga Polo Association has been bringing worldclass polo matches to the iconic destination of Saratoga Springs. It has always been a gathering spot for the famous and infamous to see and be seen. More and more guests ranging from young families, to out-on-the-town guests, singles looking to party and play, and business people entertaining clients are enjoying the tranquil confines of Whitney Field. It’s the kind of atmosphere where everyone can spend the day or the whole summer – Saratoga Style! “In the last ten years, Saratoga Polo has continued to grow not only as one of the premier Polo Clubs in the United States, being featured in National and International ad campaigns for the U.S. POLO ASSN. apparel brand, and most recently in National Geographic Traveler Magazine” said Jim Rossi, Managing Partner at Saratoga Polo, and Lieutenant Governor for The United States Polo Association, “and the audiences at the matches have grown exponentially with offering the best way to experience polo for date nights, family reunions, and corporate celebrations.” There are 18 Matches and it kicks off with the Celebrate Saratoga Tournament featuring Ortho NY presenting the Operation Walk Cup on July 8th.


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Saratoga Polo

Matches are Friday and Sunday July 8 – Sept 4. Matches begin at 5:30pm., Gates open at 4:00pm

SEASON-LONG SEAT SUBSCRIPTIONS AND MATCH TICKETS ON SALE NOW! For seat subscriptions, tickets, and more information go to Trophies brought to you by Frankie Flores U.S. POLO ASSN. Shop at Saratoga Polo brought to you by Impressions of Saratoga


Celebrate Saratoga Tournament Ortho NY presents the Operation Walk Cup


Celebrate Saratoga Tournament Cup


Mid Summer Celebration Tournament Semi Finals


Mid Summer Celebration Tournament Finals Saratoga TODAY Cup


Veuve Clicquot Challenge Tournament Semi Finals featuring Saratoga Uncorked


Veuve Clicquot Challenge Tournament Finals


Times Union Cup Tournament Semi Finals

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Old Daley Custom Catering and Saratoga POLO Association present Smoke and Spirits For tickets go to


Times Union Cup Tournament Finals


The Whitney Cup presented by U.S. POLO ASSN. Semi Finals


The Whitney Cup presented by U.S. POLO ASSN. Finals


The Barrantes Cup Tournament Pink Paddock Cup


The Barrantes Cup Tournament Finals The Mercedes-Benz Center at Keeler Motor Car Company presents the Keeler Cup


Ylvisaker Cup Tournament Semi Finals


Ylvisaker Cup Tournament Finals


RAM TRUCK Presents The SPA Anniversary Cup Semi Finals


RAM TRUCK Presents The SPA Anniversary Cup Finals





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Polo Primer A breakdown of terms you’ll hear on a typical day at the polo field



Also called a period. There are six chukkers in a polo game (four in the Arena Polo), each lasting seven and a half minutes. After six-and-a-half minutes, a bell will sound to indicate 30 seconds remain in the period. At the end of seven and a half minutes of elapsed time, a horn will sound to terminate the period. If the score is tied at the end of last period of play, the game shall be resumed in overtime periods, known as sudden death.

Two mounted umpires (one for each side of the field) consult each other after each infringement and impose a penalty only if they agree. Ir they do not agree, they ride to the sidelines to confer with the third man, known as the referee.

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Neck Shot

A chukker begins and many plays resume with the umpire bowling the ball between the two ready teams. A ceremonial throw-in is done by a guest at the beginning of the match.

A ball which is hit under the horse’s neck from either side. This is approximately 80 percent of their game.

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This occurs when two riders make contact and attempt to push each other off the line of the ball to prevent the other from striking. The horses are the ones intended to do the pushing, although a player may use his body but not his elbows.

Anytime a ball crosses the line between the goal posts, it is considered a goal regardless of whether a horse or mallet causes the ball to go through. In order to equalize wind and turf conditions, the teams change sides after every goal scored.

tail Shot


Hitting the ball behind and across the horse’s rump.

Each of the four-team members plays a distinctly different position. Since polo is such a fluid game, the players may momentarily change positions, but they will try and return to their initial assignment. No. 1 is the most forward offensive player. No. 2 is just as offensive, but plays deeper and works harder. No. 3 is the pivot player between offense and defense and tries to tum all plays to offense. No. 4, or the back, is the defensive player whose role is principally to protect the goal.

Sideboards Boards that are 9 to II inches along the sidelines. Sideboards are optional. 16  |  Equicurean  |  July 2016



A player may spoil another’s shot by putting his mallct in the way of the striking player. A cross hook occurs when the player reaches over his opponent’s mount in an attempt to hook; this is considered a foul.

Also known as a “stick.” The shaft is made from a bamboo shoot and the head from either the bamboo root or a hardwood such as maple. These vary in length from 48 to 54 inches and are very flexible in comparison to a golf club or hockey stick.

tHIRD MAN The referee sitting at the sidelines. If and when the two umpires on the field are in disagreement, the third man makes the final decision.

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PoloEquipment Have you ever wondered what is required for the horse and rider to stay safe during a Polo match? HELMET REINS SADDLE






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Mallet- a mallet, usually 49”-54”consists of the shaft, normally made of a flexible, solid, bamboo-like wood known as Manau (from the palm family of plants) and the head, made of ash or maple. There is also a strap that goes around the player’s wrist. Helmet- Just like most contact sports, the helmet is probably the most important part of safety equipment. With the horses moving at an average speed of 40 mph, at the ball travelling at a top speed of 100mph, the hard outer shell and cushioned inner layer can prevent head trauma in an unlikely case of an accident. Ball- Usually made of solid plastic 3 to 3-1/2 inches in diameter and 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 ounces in weight. For many years they were made of wood, but because of their fragile nature, would often split in two. Player Knee and Elbow PadsOften made from shock resistant resin and leather.

Brow Band - This band is looped across the forehead to prevent the bridle from slipping backward. Bit- A metal mouthpiece helps to direct the horse. Nose Band -Helps to stop the horse from avoiding the bit. Throat Lash- helps to stop the bridle from slipping. Reins- The reins are attached to the bit rings.

Polo Wraps, Shin Boots, and Bell Boots- All of these pieces of equipment protect the lower legs of the horse. Wraps are fabric pieces wound around the lower leg of the horse, and the boots are often leather. Headpiece- This is looped over the horse's head and ears to support the bit in the mouth.

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What is a Polo Pony? Written by Katey Freeman Holme


t your first polo match you might wonder what kind of ‘ponies’ you're seeing. What you’re seeing are horses not ponies, and not even a specific breed of horse. But, indeed, they are very special horses. They combine the traits of a number of breeds. How special? Let’s begin by examining the sport. Polo began about 2,000 years ago in Persia, the present day Iran. The ruling nobility invented a game where men on horses galloped around a field hitting a ball into a goal with a mallet - a stick with a knob on the end. In the 1st century AD Persian Emperor Shapur II learned to play polo when he was seven years old in 316 AD.

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Years ago, people were smaller. It makes sense that they needed smaller horses so they could reach the ground to hit the ball. As time, diet and other factors of evolution improved, humans grew taller. With the infusion of different bloodlines - the American Quarter Horse, the Argentinean Criollo breed, Arabians and frequently Thoroughbreds - horses also increased in size. So while the first animals used in this sport were the size of today’s ponies (which are themselves a separate breed), the name stuck. Horses are measured in hands - the approximate width of a human hand which is four inches - from the ground to the slight bump at the base of a horse’s neck, called the withers (shoulders). Polo ponies average 14.2 hands to 15 hands though they can be taller. (In England they are capped at 14 hands.)

To play polo, a horse has to go against many of its instincts. They have to be willing to break free of the herd, gallop into a wall of horses coming towards them, not mind mallets flying around them occasionally getting hit by those mallets, not to mention being bumped by players and their horses - all the while trying to concentrate on where the ball is on the field - and it’s a large field, about the size of nine football fields. This is one reason many of them begin their training herding cattle which provides the concentration needed for polo. Polo is played in time periods of six chukkers each lasting seven and a half minutes. There are four players on each side, each having a string of mounts to change as needed. Horses manes are shaved or roached and tails are wrapped so mallets won’t get caught in them. It is a very demanding sport and only horses with the right temperament can compete at the highest levels. They need a good personality,

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speed, agility, intelligence and endurance. The ponies have to gallop, stop suddenly, turning on a dime and concentrate on where the ball has gone. This imposes a considerable strain on every part of a horse’s body. Polo players need a string of mounts for a full game. Finding and training these equines takes time and patience. They can begin training as early as three years old and can sometimes compete into their late teens. A big part of the training is conditioning, not only building endurance, but getting the horse used to the rigors of the game. Countless hours of practice are needed to create an equine that fits all the requirements of polo. Since many players say that their horses are 90% of their game, it’s not surprising that there’s a 90% attrition rate on prospects. Once a horse has achieved this lofty goal, he/she is treated with the respect they deserve. Indeed, some say the polo pony is perhaps one of the finest trained animals in the world. They must have the finest feed available and they must be bedded down at night in a way that is quite comfortable, even by human standards. They have to be given time off during which they are put to pasture and allowed to become just horses again. Then they’re reconditioned, and it starts all over again. Their veterinary care is documented and they are watched over as carefully as the crown jewels. Indeed, factoring in the expenses involved in maintaining a string of polo ponies - they are worth the time, expense, energy and love that’s invested. Polo ponies, the good ones, are often bred in hopes of repeating their parent’s success. They can only hope to recreate the spiritual and emotional descendants of the great war horses of millennia past.

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who should I root for?...

Are you a Yankees fan or a Red Sox fan? Patriots or Giants? When most people go to a sports event, they know which team they want to root for (or against).


t Saratoga Polo, the way that we set up teams and matches is a little bit different, because there’s something to be said about watching the play on the field and being fans of the sport of polo. “Putting together a polo team is a big deal,” said Jim Rossi, Managing Partner at Saratoga Polo. “It takes getting a certain level of player, the right amount of horses, practice time…just to get on the field.” “So at Saratoga Polo, we came up with the perfect solution to getting a consistency of quality matches and players by creating what’s called a pro pool.” A “pro pool” basically invites two professional polo players as team leaders, and invites different levels of players to play at a match. Saratoga Polo Association Polo Manager Cuko Escapite in the past has brought some fantastic world-class players to Whitney Field including Pelon Escapite, Gigi Aguerro, and many others. The pros then choose the players on their team for the match. Equicurean  |  July 2016  |  23

This often puts players who may normally play on the same team to go up against each other…sometimes even married couples like Will and Tab Orthwein end up on the same team, or sometimes on opposing sides. On many occasions, the tempo of play can be exciting and focused. Many players have mentioned that it makes for a more exciting match both for players AND the fans, because it forces you to pay attention to what’s going on right in front of you, to stay in the moment, and that the horses really play an even bigger lead role in how the match is played. You cheer for that excitement! More than anything, the thrills on the field can be exciting for future polo players in the stands, and this year, thanks to a generous grant from the United States Polo Association’s Polo Development Association, Saratoga Polo will be holding Meet and Greet Sessions before the Veuve Clicquot

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Challenge Match Finals on July 24th and the Times Union Cup Finals Match on July 31st to give fans in the stands a chance to see what it takes to play polo and learn how they can become members of the USPA. “The United States Polo Association’s Polo Development Initiative (PDI) program holds essential elements for the continued success of polo,” said Kris Bowman, USPA Polo Development, LLC Executive Director. “A pivotal part of our mission is to create opportunities for USPA Clubs to engage new fans, and develop and support the growth of polo players and members. From our youth programs to the professional level, there’s a place for everyone in polo.” New polo aficionados can join the USPA by going to www. for more information and tips. So, between the exciting play on the field, and the opportunities for fans to learn what it takes to play “The Sport of Kings” in The Queen of Spas, everyone can agree with what Saratoga Polo Manager Cuko Escapite says with a smile, when asked about who he likes to root for at the Whitney Field matches, “I root for polo…every time!”.

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ll sports have traditions, but few have ones as unique and interactive as the game of Polo. With traditions that bring the spectators onto the field and make them part of the experience, Polo offers something for everyone.

Head out to the Historic Whitney Field this summer for the 118th anniversary season at Saratoga Polo and share in the festivities, some old, some new. To help make the most of your visit we have some fun facts and tips about what to expect…

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Polo Traditions

The Divot Stomp Brought to you by The Pink Paddock


erhaps the most widely known polo tradition is the ceremonial stomping of the divots.

What is a divot? It is a mound of earth that has been torn up by the horse’s hooves as they gallop down the field, upwards of 40 miles per hour. During half-time of a match, spectators are invited to go onto the field not only help replace the mounds, but to walk about, socialize, and take in the scene. “It’s the equivalent of asking the people in the stands at a baseball game to fix the infield during a game”, said Alan Edstrom, Director of Events at Saratoga Polo. “It’s also a great civilized way for people to meet, drink and know that they are helping the match move along safely. I’ll bet you won’t get that at Yankee Stadium!”

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Polo Traditions


There are two distinct sides to the field at Saratoga Polo: The Clubhouse side, where guests are seated in the shade of a pavilion. There the guests are more likely to get dressed in their finest summer attire, and order food from the wait staff and… The Tailgating side where guests pile into a car, pull up to the edge of the field, unpack their chairs, dining room tables, and a smorgasbord of picnic goodies that sometimes rivals the feast at a king’s supper, with sometimes fashion to match. The tailgating tradition at polo is quite different than other sports. Unlike baseball and football where your

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party is isolated in parking lots, polo lets you stretch out on the green grass and host your party on the edge of the field. You’ll also see a vast spectrum of everything from man-cave inspired barbecues and Great Gatsby themed picnics, to luaus with costumed party-goers. At Saratoga Polo, the fans let their imaginations go wild, …and if you want the best of both worlds, come several times, and party on both sides of the field!

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The Science

of Sabrage


fter a polo match, everyone looks forward to celebrating a victory with bottle after bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, and joy is in the air. But leave it to polo aficionados to focus on a ceremony that combines a little bit of the bubbly with the flair of a sword, and leave it to a strong willed woman, Barbe Nicole Ponsardin – aka Veuve Clicquot, to use this “Sabrage” technique to promote her family’s Champagne in such theatrical style almost two hundred years ago. Over the years, hundreds of polo fans at Whitney Field have experienced the art of the sabrage, but very few have said “Hey, what’s the science behind the sabrage?”

Well, here you go… While the sabrage that was done by Madame Clicquot was more of a slicing the top off the bottle, the technique that guests at Saratoga Polo use is a little more nuanced. The technique that George DuPont and Brenda Lynn from the National Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame taught Saratoga Polo’s Managing Partner Jim Rossi uses an ice cold bottle, the carbonation of the Veuve Clicquot Champagne and the alignment of the sword along the bottles’ seam to literally crack the glass and pop the cork.


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Grab your sabrage sword by the hilt and align the back edge of the blade on the bottle, using the seam of the bottle as a guide

In one swift move, sweep the sword towards the bottle lip

1) Chill the

Veuve Clicquot in a bucket of ice

2) Take the bottle of

Veuve Clicquot out of the bucket and hold it by the bottom indentation

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If done correctly, the little crack will unleash the carbonation that has been warming up in the Veuve Clicquot, and the locked down cage will propel the cork and glass bottle lip forward. If ANY of these steps aren’t followed correctly, you’ll either have to try the sword move several times (in front of fans), or walk away with a smashed bottle and spilled champagne (and what a terrible shame THAT would be!). Saratoga Polo invites all its guests to join us as we present this art of the victory on legendary Whitney Field, and salute what Barbe Nicole Ponsardin made popular the tradition that Veuve Clicquot continues today, with the opportunity to sabre a bottle at a match.

No, we didn't try to Sabre this bottle!

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By Maureen Werther

Saratoga’s Local

Polo Passion


ith is origins in sixth century B.C. Persia, polo began as a training exercise for royal cavalrymen and other elite guardsmen. More than 2,000 years later, the “sport of kings” is a game of global proportions that now includes avid horsemen – and horsewomen from all walks of life. When Sabine Rodgers and her husband, Mick arrived in Saratoga Springs ten years ago, one of the first things she did after opening Saratoga Saddlery on Broadway was to become involved in the local polo scene. But, this was not her first experience with the sport. “I’ve always been passionate about horses from the time I was a young girl,” says Sabine, “and I participated in dressage and trail-riding in my native country of Germany while I was growing up there.” Then one day, when Sabine was 18 years old, a friend suggested that she try polo. “I was hooked, the minute I jumped on that horse,” she recalls. Sabine was thrilled by the horse’s agility and its ability to go from standing still to a cantor in a split second. The speed, grace and athleticism of the polo ponies is one of the things that draws people to the sport and keeps them coming back for more. Although Sabine was experienced in dressage and trail-riding, riding polo ponies was an entirely different skill. “I was horrible at it at first,” she recalls with a grin. She goes on to say that being an experienced equestrienne doesn’t automatically translate to being a capable polo rider. “When you play polo, you must train for it in an entirely different way.” Just like any other sport, it uses a specific set of muscle groups and movements that must be learned

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time to think about daily stressors that are a natural part of raising children and running a business. “The ‘high’ I experience during a game lasts for days,” says Sabine. And, it keeps her coming back for more. “It keeps me young!” Six years ago, Sabine decided to assemble her own team, the Saratoga Saddlery Polo Team. The original team was comprised entirely of women, including local riders,Tamie Ehinger, Tabatha Orthwein, and Annabel McNaught-Davis. While she was assembling her own team, Sabine also helped start the Saratoga Polo School, which operates out of the Orthwein family’s barn in Greenfield. The school has been instrumental in helping fulfill the Saratoga Polo Club’s mission of making polo more accessible to a broader audience. and mastered. Different thigh muscles are used to grip the horse, and riders must also learn to ride with one hand instead of two on the reins. Not to mention the balance and strength required to swing the mallet while moving at breakneck speed. As Sabine entered college and embarked upon a successful career as TV producer for the German version of 60 Minutes, polo took a back seat for a while. When she moved to San Diego, she did have opportunities to play on some teams there. But, by the time she and her growing famly arrived in Saratoga, she basically had to start all over again.

Today, as the sport has evolved, so has Sabine’s team. Saratoga Saddlery Polo Team is now co-ed and includes Cuko Escapite and Pelone Escapite. As the upcoming season approaches, the team practices a couple of hours several days a week, beginning with exercising the ponies and followed by “stick and ball” practice. Sabine is excited to begin the new season and test the mettle of her team. Their first game will be held on July 8th and they will play throughout the summer season. Regardless of the outcomes, Sabine continues to revel in being a part of the “sport of kings.”

Today, in “fighting” condition, Sabine is considered one of the best players in the area. She finds it exhilarating to thunder up and down the 300 by 160-yard field at 30-35 miles an hour while swinging at the ball, pivoting on a dime as she and her team use their pre-game strategies to maneuver their mounts into optimal goal-making position. While it is obviously an intensely physical game, it is also mentally challenging. This is a big part of the attraction for Sabine. “When you are on the field, you are totally focused, totally aware of every other horse and player on the field, and totally intent on making something happen,” she says. However, the intensity of the game is a huge stress reducer for Sabine. During a game, she has no

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40 DAYS July 22 to September 5 Excluding Dark Tuesdays

by Sports Illustrated, Saratoga Race Course is one of horse racing’s most beloved tracks. With historical ambiance and modern day amenities and style, Saratoga Race Course is the place to find top Thoroughbred horse racing July through Labor Day each year. The 40-day meet draws the top horses, trainers and owners in the world to try their luck at “the Spa.”

INFORMATION For information prior to the meet please phone (718) 641-4700 or (516) 488-6000.
For information during the 2016 Saratoga meet (July 22 to September 5) please call (518) 584-6200.

Known as the Graveyard of Champions, Saratoga Race Course has earned a reputation for being a challenging track for favorites. In fact, the dominant Man O’ War lost his only race against the aptly named Upset here at Saratoga.

POST TIMES: 1 P.M. DAILY except: 11:35 a.m. on Travers Day, Saturday, August 27, 12:30 p.m. on Monday, September 5 – Labor Day

SARATOGA RACE COURSE is a 350-acre racetrack in Saratoga Springs NY. The 2016 meet will be 40 days long from Friday, July 22 to Labor Day, Monday, September 5. Saratoga is the home of the 147th Running of the Travers Stakes on August 27. MAIN COURSE: 1 1/8 Miles
 TOTAL SEATING CAPACITY: 18,000, including picnic tables and benches. GENERAL PARKING: Free
 TRACKSIDE PARKING $12. Gates open at 6:45a.m.
 (Refunds available until 10 a.m. No refunds on Travers Day Saturday, August 27) PREFERRED PARKING: Trackside parking is $12.

photo by Bernard Baruch

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Track Info 40 DAYS.

Friday, July 22 - Monday, September 5. No racing on Tuesdays.

ADMISSION: Grandstand admission is $5; Clubhouse admission is $8. Children 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Admission gates open at 11 a.m. on weekdays and 10:30 a.m. on weekends. On Travers Day, Saturday, August 27, gates open at 7 a.m. Travers Day admission is $10 for Grandstand; $20 for Clubhouse. Admission is included with all reserved seats purchased in advance. 44  |  Equicurean  |  July 2016

DAILY CLUBHOUSE AND GRANDSTAND RESERVED SEATS: Daily individual reserved seats in the Clubhouse

and Grandstand, which include admission, may be purchased in advance online through A limited number of reserved seats for the current day is available for purchase beginning at 9 a.m. at the Reserved Seat Box Office, located at Gate A on Union Avenue. (7 a.m. on Travers Day, Saturday, August 27). There is a limit of four seats per person. Cash, American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Discover are accepted. All tickets purchased in advance of race day include the cost of admission.

WEEKLY RESERVED SEAT PLANS: Weekly ticket plans, which include admission, provide a reserved seat in the Clubhouse or Grandstand for six consecutive days of the meet from Wednesday through Monday (Friday through Monday for Opening Weekend). Weekly ticket plans may be purchased online through NYRA AccountManager. Week-long reserved seat plans for the 2016 meet at Saratoga Race Course are available as follows: • Week 1, Opening Weekend: Fri. July 22 through Mon. July 25 • Week 2, featuring the Jim Dandy: Wed. July 27 through Mon. Aug. 1 • Week 3, featuring the Whitney: Wed. Aug. 3 through Mon. Aug. 8 • Week 4, featuring the Fourstardave: Wed. Aug. 10 through Mon. Aug. 15 • Week 5, featuring the Alabama: Wed. Aug. 17 through Mon. Aug. 22 • Week 6, featuring the Travers: Wed. Aug. 24 through Mon. Aug. 29 • Week 7, featuring the Woodward: Wed. Aug. 31 through Mon. Sept. 5


Full-season plans, which include admission, provide a reserved seat in the Clubhouse or Grandstand for the full 40-day season. Full season ticket plans may be purchased online through NYRA AccountManager.

SARATOGA SEASON PASSES: A season pass provides fans with admission to 40 days of world-class thoroughbred racing at Saratoga Race Course, including the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on Saturday, August 27 and the Grade 1, $1.25 million Whitney on Saturday, August 6. The costs for 2016 season passes are $35 for Grandstand and $55 for Clubhouse. Season passes do not include reserved seating and are valid for one admission. Season passes may be purchased online through NYRA AccountManager or at more than 200 Stewart’s Shops locations. SARATOGA SEASON PERKS: The 2016 season will feature an expanded Saratoga Season Perks program with exclusive offers for season pass and season ticket plan holders, including: • Guarantee of one premium Saratoga giveaway on each giveaway day (must be obtained by 3 p.m. in person on the day of the giveaway at Saratoga Race Course) • 10 percent savings to more than 40 retail, restaurant and professional services locations in downtown Saratoga Springs, in partnership with the Saratoga Downtown Business Association (valid June 1, 2016 through March 1, 2017) • Numerous discounts to Saratoga Race Course food, beverage and merchandise vendors • Access to a special pre-sale for daily Saratoga Race Course reserved seat tickets • 10 percent savings to additional New York Racing Association partners, including: • Select classical series performances at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater engagements and full-priced amphitheater seats to evening performances of the Philadelphia Orchestra and New York City Ballet (excluding the Gala Fundraiser); • Tri-City ValleyCats home baseball games, the New York-Penn League affiliate of the Houston Astros; • Select New York mountains and ski resorts, including Belleayre, Catamount, Gore, Plattekill and Whiteface during the 2016-17 winter season; • Siena College men's and women's home basketball games during the 2016-17 season The list of incentives, deals and discounts is available at and will be continually updated with new participating organizations. A season pass must be activated in order to receive Saratoga Season Perks discounts and incentives. Season pass holders are required to provide a photo in order to activate their season pass. Activation instructions, including information on how to upload a digital photo, are available at

FOURSTARDAVE SPORTS BAR: Located within close proximity to the trackside apron, the Fourstardave Sports Bar includes more than seven dozen tables available for paid reservation and a sports bar which features an extensive craft beer selection, popular food vendors, and 40 flat-screen televisions. The new hospitality space also provides protection from the elements. Configurations include options for up to six people, four people, and new for 2016, twoperson tables. Two-person tables will be available for $20 on weekdays (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) and $30 on weekends (Saturday and Sunday). Four-person tables will be available for $35 on weekdays and $60 on weekends. Six-person tables will be available for $50 on weekdays and $90 on weekends. Table reservation fee does not include admission. Personal coolers and outside food and beverage will not be permitted in the Fourstardave Sports Bar; on-track food and beverage is allowed. The Fourstardave Sports Bar opens at 11 a.m. on weekdays and 10:30 a.m. on weekends. All ticket holders must exchange a ticket for a wristband upon entry. Reserved seating options in the Fourstardave Sports Bar are available for paid reservation through or by calling the NYRA Box Office at 844-NYRA-TIX. RESERVED PICNIC AREA: The reserved picnic area is comprised of approximately 100 picnic tables, which each seat up to six guests, located adjacent to the paddock and offering premier viewing of horses being saddled before a race. Reserved picnic tables will be available for $30 on weekdays - a savings of $10 in comparison to 2015 pricing - and $60 on weekends. Table reservation fee does not include admission. Personal coolers are allowed in the reserved picnic area; coolers may contain plastic bottles or cans and are subject to search by NYRA security. Additional chairs, tents and umbrellas are prohibited. For a full list of prohibited items, visit The reserved picnic area opens at 11 a.m. on weekdays and 10:30 a.m. on weekends. All ticket holders must exchange a ticket for a wristband upon entry. Reserved seating options in the picnic area are available for paid reservation through or by calling the NYRA Box Office at 844-NYRA-TIX. SARATOGA VIRTUAL VENUE: Fans may take advantage of the all-new Saratoga Virtual Venue seating map to digitally preview their seat location and sightlines, as well as table locations in the Fourstardave Sports Bar and reserved picnic area, before purchasing tickets. DINING RESERVATIONS: Dining reservations at the Turf Terrace, Club Terrace and the Porch are available by phone at (888) 516-6972. Reservations are limited, based on availability, and are nontransferable. Seating charge payment is required upon reservation; seating charges are final and non-refundable. For more information on dining at Saratoga Race Course, visit GROUP HOSPITALITY: Full and partial hospitality space bookings for Saratoga Race Course are currently available for the following hospitality areas: At the Rail Pavilion; Luxury Suites (whole suite rentals only); Paddock Tent; Festival Tent; Big Red Spring Tent; Easy Goer (Upper Carousel); and Top of the Stretch. Group sales reservations may be made through the NYRA Box Office by phone at (844) NYRA-TIX. BREAKFAST AT SARATOGA: Breakfast at Saratoga is a long-standing tradition. Breakfast is served on The Porch of the Clubhouse, overlooking the morning workouts of the thoroughbreds on the main track each racing day from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Trackside parking is refunded for those guests exiting the track by 10 a.m. The cost of the buffet breakfast is $17.95 per person. INFORMATION: For questions about reservations for the 2016 season, contact the NYRA Box Office at (844) NYRA-TIX, via email at or online at

Equicurean  |  July 2016  |  45

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Track Dress Code

PADDOCK SADDLING AREA & WINNER’S CIRCLE: No shorts or abbreviated wear permitted. Gentlemen–collared shirts required. Box Seat Area: No shorts or jeans permitted. Gentlemen – suits or sports jackets required.

TURF TERRACE: Neat Casual Attire, No jeans, shorts or abbreviated wear permitted. Gentlemen – collared shirts required (Management reserves the right to use its discretion to determine Neat Casual Attire).

AT THE RAIL PAVILION, THE PORCH, CLUB TERRACE & CAROUSEL RESTAURANT: Gentlemen – No Tank Tops No short-shorts, cut-offs or abbreviated wear permitted.

photo by Susie Rasiher

Proper attire at management’s discretion.

LUXURY SUITES: No abbreviated wear permitted. Gentlemen - No tank tops Proper attire at management’s discretion.

CLUBHOUSE: No short shorts, cut-offs or abbreviated wear permitted. No tank tops. Proper attire at management’s discretion

GRANDSTAND: Shirts and shoes required. People 12 years and over must abide by the dress code.

Equicurean  |  July 2016  |  47

Dining at theTrack

The Turf Terrace Dining Room is located on the third and fourth floors of the Clubhouse. The multi-level trackside dining area offers a great view of all the racing action overlooking the finish line. An a la carte menu is served in a formal open-air setting. The Club Terrace is located behind the box seat area on the second floor of the Clubhouse, overlooking the backyard & paddock. It offers a popular selection of appetizers, refreshing salads and specialty sandwiches in a casual openair setting. Television monitors are available for viewing of the races. The Porch is located on the track level of the Clubhouse just a few feet from the outside rail. It offers an a la carte menu in a casual open-air setting.

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Please go to or call (518) 584-6200 x 2260 for specific guidelines regarding: Dress Code, Reservations, Seating Charges and the Cancellation Policy regarding any of the dining options mentioned above. Breakfast at Saratoga is a long-standing tradition. Every racing day from 7 to 9:30 a.m., breakfast is served on The Porch of the Clubhouse while the Thoroughbreds prepare for future races. Mary Ryan, a lifelong horsewoman, provides expert commentary for the workouts. Admission to breakfast is free with the exception of Travers Day when a $10 Clubhouse admission fee is required. Dress code is casual attire, trackside parking is $10, but refundable if you leave by 10 am. The Breakfast Buffet is $8 per person, weekdays and 10 per person weekends plus tax and gratuity. One of the highlights of the breakfast program is the free walking tour of our famous and historic stable area (weather permitting). The first tram that takes you to the stable area leaves the main Clubhouse entrance at 7:30 a.m. with additional trams leaving approximately every 15 minutes. The last tour departs at around 9:00 a.m. (The Tour is available every race day except Travers Day and Labor Day.)

Product Spotlight

“It’s the worldwide brand with hometown roots.”

EMBRACE THE RACE® is the exclusive provider of The Apparel for the Horse Racing Lifestyle® and The Official Apparel of Horse Racing®. With headquarters in downtown Saratoga Springs, EMBRACE THE RACE® offers luxury clothing and accessories for horse racing enthusiasts around the world.

From hats and ties, dresses and polos, sweaters, accessories and more - for men, women and children – there is something for everyone who believes in The Passion of Horse Racing®.

The Passion of Horse Racing® The timeless sense of opportunity and possibilities. The allure and pursuit of achievement. The memories and moments that form a never ending bond among those who share the experience.

Wear What You Love™ Visit the EMBRACE THE RACE® Company Store at 12 Circular Street across from Congress Park and the Holiday Inn, private parking available. Shopping is also available with select Saratoga retailers, online at or call (518) 580 4500 to arrange a private shopping experience.

Equicurean  |  July 2016  |  49

FASIG-TIPTON 2016 SARATOGA SALES A U G U S T 8 - 9 : T H E S A R AT O G A S A L E | A U G U S T 1 3 - 1 4 : N Y BR E D P R E F E R R E D Y E A R L I N G S

Auctions will begin at 7 pm each evening in the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion in Saratoga Springs.

In 2015, The Saratoga Sale sold 145 selected yearlings for $46,755,000, an average of $322,448 per yearling.

S TAT I S T I C S F O R 8 / 1 0 / 2 0 1 5 T H R U 8 / 1 1 / 2 0 1 5 S A L E Date

8/10/2015 8/11/2015 TOTALS


70 75 145


$21,745,000 $25,010,000 $46,755,000


$310,643 $333,467 $322,448

Not Sold


15 11 26

$225,000 $275,000 $250,000

S TAT I S T I C S F O R 8 / 4 / 2 0 1 4 T H R U 8 / 5 / 2 0 1 4 S A L E Date

8/4/2014 8/5/2014 TOTALS


64 50


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$18,267,000 $15,017,000 $33,284,000


$285,422 $300,340


Not Sold

7 20 27


$232,500 $237,500 $237,500

S A R AT O G A S E L E C T E D Y E A R L I N G S (2015 TOP SALES) Hip #

Sex Sire

70 168 34 170 49 160 202 182 163 44 126 196 88 140 104 73 195 7 9 38 62 79 180 187 106 115 118 167 5 36 78 102 193 205







In data recently released by BloodHorse MarketWatch, The Saratoga Sale once again ranks at the top of all major U.S. yearling sales by percentage of Grade 1 winners, Graded Stakes Winners, and Stakes Winners produced from horses sold.

Equicurean  |  July 2016  |  51

FASIG-TIPTON S TAT I S T I C S F O R 8 / 1 5 / 2 0 1 5 T H R U 8 / 1 6 / 2 0 1 5 S A L E Date


8/15/2015 8/16/2015 TOTALS

88 94 182


$7,126,500 $7,750,000 $14,876,500


$80,983 $82,447 $81,739

Not Sold

40 30 70

Median $51,000 $70,000 $65,000

S TAT I S T I C S F O R 8 / 9 / 2 0 1 4 T H R U 8 / 1 0 / 2 0 1 4 S A L E Date


8/10/2014 TOTALS

84 176





$7,165,000 $14,099,000

Average $75,370

$85,298 $80,108

Not Sold


44 96



$77,500 $65,000

S A R AT O G A S E L E C T E D Y E A R L I N G S ( T O P S A L E S ) Hip # 416 380 491 333 351 403 508 377 385 482 541 572 338 375 362 526 552 348 374 391 454 550 578 497 566 345 464 490 514

Sex Sire



52  |  Equicurean  |  July 2016





$350,000 $300,000 $300,000 $290,000 $255,000 $250,000 $250,000 $230,000 $220,000 $220,000 $210,000 $210,000 $200,000 $180,000 $175,000 $175,000 $175,000 $170,000 $170,000 $170,000 $170,000 $170,000 $170,000 $160,000 $160,000 $150,000 $150,000 $150,000 $150,000

Equicurean  |  July 2016  |  53

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California Chrome


By Laura Donnell / Taylor Made


Written By Marion E. Altieri

California Chrome, and Conformation: the Science Behind the Beauty.

When California Chrome crossed the Dubai World Cup finish line first by five easy lengths in late March, race fans saw a buff, strong bull of a horse. A horse who, with time and nurturing, had gone from being a Kentucky Derby- and Preakness-winning Thoroughbred to being a truly dominant Force of Nature. What fans saw was his extraordinary conformation—and that superior conformation was what drove him like a freight train around that final turn and into history books. If you’re not familiar—what is Conformation? Well, it’s one of the things that buyers of Thoroughbreds consider when scoping out a horse for purchase, one of the key

56  |  Equicurean  |  July 2016

considerations. Conformation is the way a horse is physically put together. The bones, muscles and proportions of the animal are the characteristics that ultimately prepare them for their job—that of running quickly with great efficiency. Human beauty is relative—every culture and every individual has standards of beauty that may not jive with those of anyone else.

Everyone is beautiful to somebody. This is not the case in the equine world: each breed has standards of beauty. That beauty is not superficial, but rather tied directly at the unconscious level to expectations for the jobs of horses within said breed. Draft horses work

hard for a living: they are stocky and muscular, with thick legs and strong backs. Thoroughbreds must be able to run fast, with grace, for grace of movement actually is a factor in the science of winning races. Long, elegant strides are the domain of those who win purses, while jackrabbit runners are far-less likely to take the day. This is a most egalitarian concept: a Thoroughbred doesn't win a race because s/he is liked better by the stewards or race announcer. No one votes: this is not a popularity contest. A Thoroughbred must cross the finish line first to win a race. As in architecture, two concepts are inextricably bound up together—concern for equine conformation is a matter of form follows function. Whether a horse's main function is to run fast and win races, or to escape predators in the wild west—its form has been "fearfully and wonderfully made" to accommodate that most basic of instincts.

(The measuring stick for conformation: a perfect square should be formed by its legs, back and distance between the hooves. A distasteful thought, but if you can envision a Thoroughbred with its head cut off at the neck—that squareness, or lack thereof, will be revealed. The mighty Secretariat formed a perfect square, to the naked eye using that yardstick.) Indeed, Secretariat was as perfect as possible, and undoubtedly California Chrome—the highest-earning Thoroughbred in North American history—is a breathtakingly beautiful example of conformational exquisiteness. California Chrome’s body is built to facilitate acceleration, speed, and ability to defy drag and gravity. These things must work together in harmony—and then, these mechanics of his biology had to work together with his focus, drive and will to win. Even the “bulk” of his body— his muscles—are all about acceleration. Without those heavy muscle, Chrome would be just another horse—a good horse, perhaps—but not as accomplished. Those muscles are the key to thrust, speed and acceleration.

The legs, hind end, neck, withers and abdomen all must work together like a machine, creating a rhythm that is easily maintained until the end of the race.

The machinery that gives a Thoroughbred his locomotion—the self-powered, patterned motion of limbs or other anatomical parts—is vitally essential, from the core. A horse may be appealing to the eye, but if the parts aren't hung together in a way that facilitates smooth action and a long stride—beauty means nothing.

The legs, hind end, neck, withers and abdomen all must work together like a machine, creating a rhythm that is easily maintained until the end of the race. The runners may speed up in the stretch, but the original stride and way of moving of each horse remains essentially the same. Many factors go into the study of conformation: yes, it's about musculature; skeletal structure and mass. But it's the way those physical attributes come together with the spirit of the horse—that one unquantifiable factor—that determines the horse's chances of becoming a champion. Energy must overcome drag, inertia and gravity, and that is achieved by the mechanical workings of the biological attributes of the horse. Even the fact that horses are unguligrade—they are of a class of animals who walk and run on their toes—is a contributor to the relative perfection of the animal. (Of course, horses lacking excellent conformation have made monster names for themselves in the sport: Seabiscuit and John Henry come into the conversation, for both achieved hugely in spite of conformational averageness—or worse.)

Notice Chrome’s conformation shot here, taken at Taylor Made Sales by Laura Donnell. See the depth and breadth of his chest; his long, straight legs and round hind end (his engine)— all of which work together with his straight back, high withers (shoulders) and long, perfect neck to make a running machine that obviously propels him forward with power and authority. Horse sales and races will continue in the months and years to follow California Chrome’s most impressive win to date—because yes, buyers will continue to buy Thoroughbreds because they pray that they can find another California Chrome. Hope springs eternal. And yes, there may be another horse in the sales ring—perhaps eventhis year!—whose conformation comes together with pedigree and heart to create another Champion for the ages. But for now, we can gaze upon and sigh, and admire California Chrome and his equine perfection. An equine deity, standing on the Earth among us. Conformation will be studied and respected as a key factor as long as horsepeople keep hope in their hearts, and science on their minds. Conformation is not the only determining factor, but it's the first that buyers and sellers notice—and the one that has the most clout when doing the mathematics of physics, that sweet science that aids and abets the quest to win at this sport that offers more intangible rewards than any athletic endeavour on Earth. Equicurean  |  July 2016  |  57

Written by Katey Freeman Holmes

A Day in the Life

of a Race Horse

Ginned Up is a beautiful four-year-old, New York-bred daughter of Indian Charlie (Thoroughbred filly) is trained by Gary Contessa. While she enjoys her life as a racehorse, her day is typical: that is, Ginned Up’s routines are basically as those that America Pharoah had when he was still racing. All racehorses have similar days, and there’s comfort in the sameness of that routine:


Rise and shine! Horses love to sleep— Seabiscuit was famous for digging his naptime—but like human athletes, a Thoroughbred’s day begins and ends early. By 4:30AM, the grooms have begun the hum of their daily chores, which begins with Grooming, hoof picking and vet wrapping if warranted.

5:30PM: Next on the agenda is working out, if that’s on today’s schedule for the horse. Horses go out onto the track in groups, beginning at 5:30, every half-hour. (In our case, Ginned Up and her companions.) If today’s a workout day, then she’s tacked up (saddle, etc.); if today’s not a workout day, she may go back into her stall after her groom finishes mucking (cleaning) her bedding. There, she can graze on the hay that’s always hanging next to her doorway, or she may choose to play with her Jolly Ball and chat with passing humans. 58  |  Equicurean  |  July 2016

If today is a workout day, she’ll go to the track for any of various workouts: galloping, breezing or sometimes, just a walk around the track. The level of exercise a horse receives and the intensity depends heavily on the current health of the horse, and the trainer’s near-future plans for that particular horse. No two horses have the same exercise schedule or intensity: this process, like feeding, is individualized. Horses who aren’t working out will get their breakfast at that time, so that everyone can eat by a reasonable hour. Feeding is as individual as the horses, themselves. While most trainers use one brand of feed, each horse’s nutritional needs are met with a variety of additives, including molasses, carrots and supplements. Just as with human athletes, a racehorse’s body is her vehicle—and that vehicle, while needing to stay buff, must also get all the fuel necessary to create energy to run and stay healthy at the same time.

Horses who do workout go back to the barn for hotwalking and a bath before getting their breakfast. A Thoroughbred’s standing heart rate is 44bpm, but when working out— especially a strenuous workout or a race—that rate will raise, considerably. The horse then is called, “hot.” So a hotwalker takes the horse gently around a walking ring, stopping frequently for drinks of water which help cool down the horse and normalize the heartrate. Next is a refreshing bath, which most horses enjoy thoroughly. Often horses play with the grooms who are trying to bathe or hold them, grabbing sponges and knocking over buckets of water. Following the warm bath, the horse is taken back to her stall—then given breakfast— and allowed to nap. nd yes, many racehorses will sleep the day away. Horses who haven’t worked out on a particular day may very well be racing that day—so they’re allowed to nap and save their energy for their race, later in the afternoon. If they race, they get the same routine as those who worked out earlier in the day: race, hotwalking, bath, nap. The horse’s day ends with a delicious, nutritious supper— mints and other treats, often—and lights are out shortly after the last race of the day. The grooms wrap up their work;

hit the lights and let the magnificent equine athletes sleep to their hearts’ content, until tomorrow brings another day of grazing, working out, racing and socializing with other horses and their human companions.

Every trainer has a unique style and, for this article, up and coming trainer, Abigail Adsit and veteran trainer, Gary Contessa, provided vital time from their programs to explain to me all the factors that go into maintaining a race horse while it’s competing.

Equicurean  |  July 2016  |  59

Written by Marion E. Altieri

A Day in the Life of a Thoroughbred Trainer

Big Hay Alice

Gary C. Contessa is a New York-based horse trainer, who’s been in the business for 40 years. After 40 years, his daily life of training horses is down to a science—but Gary’s enthusiasm for educating the public about horse racing, in concert with his community service work—makes for very, very long days. Especially at Saratoga:

Gary Contessa, watching morning workouts.


After getting a big six hours of sleep, Gary Contessa awakens to begin his day.

barn with horses as they work out, then come off the track. Check legs of each horse again, after work outs.


8AM – 10:30ishAM:

Heading to the barn, with a cup of coffee inhand; his iPad, briefcase and pounds of paperwork to start the day.


Arrive at barn, set up office for the day: open briefcase, get out ownership papers, the Racing Form, conditions books, iPad. Get technology running, check in with Assistant Trainer. Meet with Assistant Trainer, go over every horse’s need for that day, and make notes on the next couple of days.

5:15AM: Start feeling the legs, checking first-hand each horse who will work out that morning, before the first set goes out at 5:30. 5:30AM – 10:30AM:

Go between the Oklahoma Training Track (right behind his barn), and the

60  |  Equicurean  |  July 2016

In-between checking horses’ legs and watching them work at the Oklahoma, Contessa may be able to take 10 minutes here-and-there to create a video with his team, for his educational YouTube channel.


Sit at table outside barn, go over notes from work outs. Meet with (horse) owners to discuss their horses’ respective progresses. Give barn tours for owners, and others who’ve won the tour in a charity raffle or other event.


On four Tuesdays during the Saratoga meet, Contessa will teach Clinics again this year. Two at his barn on the Oklahoma; one in the Hall of Fame; the fourth a walking tour of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

12 Noonish, Wednesdays-Mondays:

Get ready for the races: be sure that the horses are being prepped by their grooms, and walked to the paddock in time for the Call to the Post. Put on suit, shirt and tie— regardless of the heat. Walk or take golf cart over to paddock before every race in which he has a horse entered: Greet horse’s owner(s), then saddle, bit-and-bridle the horse, and give them a Good Luck pat. Depending on when his horses race—and of course, this applies to every trainer—Contessa will bounce back-andforth between the track and his barn. There may be winners’ circle pictures for which to pose. Before the races, there may be horses to claim or to put into claiming.

Gary Contessa interviewing Seattle Slew’s jockey, Jean Cruguet, for Gary Conessa Television on YouTube. Photo by Georgia Rush

Back at the barn, at the end of the races, all trainers recap the day with Assistant Trainer and plan tomorrow’s work schedule. But in Saratoga, six days out of seven, it’s not a matter of wrapping it up and heading home at the end of the race day: there are (business) parties to attend; speaking engagements, charity fund-raisers and spending time with owners who have put their horses in Contessa’s care.

In this very important way, Gary Contessa is like every other trainer: his work never is done during the Saratoga meet. This is where passion for the sport, and love of horses, comes into play, for no one could keep up such an insane schedule without being shored up by the rewards that only passion and love offer a hard-working man (or woman!). Gary Contessa Conformation Clinic at Saratoga barn, 2015. Photo by Georgia Rush.

Gary Contessa at Saratoga, by Dennis Hogan

Equicurean  |  July 2016  |  61

Written by Marion E. Altieri

A Day in the Life

of a Horse Groom A Horse Groom’s Day: Hard Labor, Huge Rewards...

At first we intended to highlight the day and life of a single groom, but then we realized that, while that woman or man would gain some recognition—we would in effect be excluding all the thousands of other grooms who do their work with all their hearts, every day of the year. With that in mind, we present here a typical day, of a typical groom. Being that the duties are the same—the world-over, and regardless of breed of horse or discipline— being a horse groom really can be a ticket to opportunity. Knowing how to tend to the daily needs of one horse in Saratoga gives a groom who wishes, the chance to work at any farm—any race track—any equestrian center, anywhere on Earth. Therefore, the job of groom is a far-more desirable career choice than many reading this would believe.


If you haven’t done so already, rise and shine. At least, rise and get ready for work.


Be at the barn—coffee in-hand—and begin reading the schedule for the day. Assess the needs of each of the horses for whom you care. (Depending on the barn, farm or trainer, a groom may be responsible for up to six or more horses, with whom relationships are forged.) Awaken horses, and begin regimen: • Muck (clean) stall • Groom horse (brush, hoof-pick, comb mane and tail) • Apply salve to legs, or ice down legs and hooves, if a horse needs it at that time. • Wrap legs with vet wrap, or apply polos (protective leg wraps), according to each horse’s needs.

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photo by Eric Kalet

If your horse(s) aren’t working out that day, the next step may be to give them their breakfasts and let them nap. If the horses in your care are scheduled to work out that morning, you jog them out (jog next to them as they jog), so the trainer or assistant can see them before the exercise rider mounts. Following the work out, your next jobs: • Wait ‘til the hotwalker has walked your horse(s), or walk them yourself (if you have time). • Bathe, brush and comb • In the stall, give breakfast and let horse rest Providing all these services to every horse in your care can take all day, of course. Somewhere in there, you need to take a break for lunch: since you don’t get a semi-official break until around 2PM, lunch often has to wait until then. But the backstretch snack bar’s open, so you’re good. But one or more of your horses may be racing today starting at 1PM or earlier, so you don a brightly-colored vest, which you wear to accompany your horse into the paddock. There, you’ll work with the trainer and assistant trainer to tack up the horse, calm her down and get her ready for her race.

As your horse and her jockey leave the paddock for the track, you, too, will race—to the rail—where you’ll watch your beautiful charge race. Next, meet her in the winner’s circle to have your picture taken with her and her other connections. If she didn’t win—and even when she does—you’ll hose her down right there on the track, to begin the cooling process which will continue back at the barn with the hotwalker.

Back at the barn: once all the horses in your care in your care have completed their cycles of waking, grooming, work outs, post-workouts and races—it’s the end of your long day. But all work and no play—or at least, no time to chill— would make anyone’s life horrible. So, while grooms all love horses—they wouldn’t do the job if they didn’t—after a 10-, 12-hour workday, it’s great to know that all grooms, hotwalkers and other barn workers can find refreshment, fun and companionship in and around the Rec Center

and tent on the Oklahoma in the evening. Mrs. Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson spearheaded a program several years ago, which is going strong in 2016. Every night except Saturdays (big stakes days), the tent and environs will feature meals, games, sports, BINGO or serve as meeting space for regional trips to lakes, etc. All these activities and comestibles are free to the dedicated people who work every day to assure the health, safety and oversee the general welfare of the equine athletes.

Without grooms on the frontlines—a trainer may never know if a horse is lame, or has a cut, fever or other health problem. Grooms really are the Best Friends of their horses, and should be proud of the good, honest work they do. Our sport depends on the work of grooms—please thank a groom, the next (or first!) time you meet a woman or man who does this hard, but emotionally rewarding, job.

Equicurean  |  July 2016  |  63

Written by Marion E. Altieri

California Ch One for the Ages

What makes a great race horse? A truly extraordinary, Champion race horse? That is, a horse whose name is written in history books— uttered in hushed tones—brings tears to the eyes of even the most self-conscious humans. What goes into the creation and self-creation of such a being? What is it that takes a gangly-legged, bleating baby horse and turns him into a living, breathing, snorting example of Perfection, Personified? Is it all physical, or does Heart—that untouchable attribute, that everyone recognizes but no one 64  |  Equicurean  |  July 2016

can describe—does Heart contribute to the recipe? And what about brains? Some people—those who don’t know horses, or perhaps have a deeply-rooted need to feel superior—say that horses (Thoroughbreds especially) are “dumb.” This cannot be, for horses have managed to outlive humans on this planet for over 4,000,000 years. Horses have outrun, outmaneuvered, outthought human predators—and four-legged predators, as well—literally for four-million years.

Photo by Laura Donnell / Taylor Made

So many things make up a genuine hero horse. So many attributes and experiences that could come together differently, but—when by some stroke of luck (really, of God)—these things do happen all at the same time, in the same body, mind and spirit of an equine—then, you see, you have a Horse for the Ages. California Chrome is one such horse. From his Triple Crown campaign of 2014 through his smashing victory in this year’s Dubai World Cup, this race horse always has shown his true colors. Whatever his situation—whether on rest or leaving competitors in his dust—California Chrome always has been true to himself. (This concept of self-knowledge and fidelity to one’s inner Truth is not reserved for humans, as anyone who loves horses knows. For horses are sentient beings, aware of their surroundings—the humans with whom they interact—and the threats and opportunities before them. And there may be no-more sentient a horse than California Chrome.)


As the humans who spend time with him (including those in California Chrome, LLC, who own him) know—Chrome really is a horse with one hoof on Earth, another in direct communication with heavenly forces. His body, intelligence, pedigree and spirit mixed together, and in that recipe, resulted in a horse racing superstar of otherworldly proportions. photo by Taylor Made

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/Taylor Made

Frank Taylor, Vice President of Boarding & Operations, Taylor Made Sales Agency, Inc. confirms, “Chrome has many things that make him great. He is the most accomplished son of the Seattle Slew / AP Indy line. He has great conformation. His action on the track is flawless. He has earned more than any horse in history…but his best attribute is his mind. He is the smartest horse I have ever been around!” This not only is high praise from one of North America’s leading horsemen—this is an amazing statement precisely because Frank Taylor and his family at Taylor Made have seen, sold and owned more Champion Thoroughbreds in the last 40 years than most people experience in a two lifetimes. If Mr. Taylor says that California Chrome is “…the smartest horse [he’s] ever been around…”—that’s not fiction. To impress a horseman of Mr. Taylor’s stature that strongly, Chrome must be The Real Deal. Intellectually and literally, heads-and-shoulders above the crowd. 66  |  Equicurean  |  July 2016

Yes, California Chrome is a horse with very few peers worldwide. His ranking in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse list (1 January – 5 June 2016) was #2, coming in closely (a mere three points) behind A Shin Hikari, the Japanese turf whiz. (The majority of horses on the Longines list are turf horses, so for Chrome to be #2 behind a turf genius is not a matter of high praise—Chrome is up there because he earned it.) “Chromies,” as his devout fans are called, have known all along that California Chrome is a deity in the Pantheon of great race horses. A horse whose name will grace the Hall of Fame as soon as he’s eligible. A horse whose spirit, guts and genius have propelled him through tough times—through illness and other obstacles—to that magical moment when he pounded for home at Meydan—and some of the world’s best Thoroughbreds saw only his big, perfect, chestnutcolored engine because he was so far ahead.

The Chromies and his owners are right: California Chrome has reserves inside him that are so deep, they may never be measured. But whatever the yardstick for measuring a genuinely great Thoroughbred—it’s a sure bet that California Chrome now and forever will be renowned, beloved and known as, The Best of the Best. photo by Taylor Made

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The Man Who Loved Horses By Dennis G. Hogan

John Hettinger

photos by Author and Akindale Farm


he city of Poughkeepsie stands fortress-like along the western edge of New York’s Dutchess County; though its din quiets and lights fade as one ventures east. Almost at once, rolling hills and lush meadows primed for both pasture and paddock unfurl like mile-wide carpets before the topography gives rise to the peaks of the Hudson Highlands. Ask anyone familiar with the area and they’ll assure you, ‘it’s horse country.’

And it’s within this sweet-spot that you’ll find Akindale Farm. Akindale began as a roughly 50-acre parcel purchased in the 1940’s by financier Albert Hettinger and his wife Catherine as a respite from the rigors of Wall Street and gridlock of Manhattan. The Hettingers’ one son John was just a boy when they bought the place. And lured by the prospect of days spent fishing, the stewardship of a pony

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The Hettinger home at Akindale

From humble beginnings… In the early 1970’s, the Hettingers returned to the states, and to Akindale. Shortly thereafter tragedy occurred as their oldest son John died of cancer. Bill was just about 11 at the time. “It was a terrible thing. Being a parent and grandparent now I can’t imagine how hard it was for my parents.” Said Bill. The loss was a great hardship for the family though they counted their blessings and continued to forge their new life upon the farm. Bill Hettinger spends much of his time in Florida these days though he recalls those early years at Akindale.

Akindale rescues on the farm and plenty of open space for his dogs to run about, it’s no surprise that John’s favorite thing in the world was summers on the farm. Years passed and John headed off to college. His love of four-legged creatures never wavered as he found himself astride polo ponies and outfitted in Yale blue. He soon met his wife Betty, and although he majored in American History, he took a job in Mexico as a sales and marketing representative with the Celanese company. The couple next headed off to San Roque, Spain. There John dabbled in real estate and developed a block of vacation homes in view of the Rock of Gibralter; he and Betty were also building a family and raising three sons: John, Bill and Jim.

“New York State had passed a law that encouraged the breeding of Thoroughbreds, so my dad decided to breed horses there. He purchased the old dairy farm across the road, which was around 500 acres. It was pretty run down and a much bigger endeavor to develop, but Dad had it in mind to get a stallion and that necessitated expanding the farm.” Akindale’s first stallion was Sir Wimborne, a son of European star Sir Ivor, that they imported from Ireland. “That was a very positive thing and Dad did very well with him in New York. He then got two others: D’accord, a son of Secretariat, and a French bred by the name of Buckpoint. In time, we also brought in An Act.” With a breeding operation in full swing, Akindale homebreds began lighting up the board - both in the sales ring and at the races. One day a 17-year-old high school senior by the name of Tammy Price showed up looking for a job. She began working in the office in 1980, and is still there today. “It was very busy.” Said Tammy. “It would be nothing for 60-70 mares to foal here. And It was very important for Mr. Hettinger to acquire his own mares and breed them to his own studs. He didn’t want to go buy race horses - he wanted to breed his own. Equicurean  |  July 2016  |  69

John Hettinger and Akindale’s first stud Sir Wimborne

“In the 80’s we built the training facility and Mr. Hettinger was very handson. Every morning he would get on his pony and watch their progression from foaling to breaking to training.” Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito first met John Hettinger in 1978. He credits the man with giving him his first big break. “Our association alone was a big break, both on the track and off.” Said Zito. “He was kind of a mentor to me; actually, I think we both learned from each other. We had a number of good horses: Prospector’s Flag, and Warfie, to name a few. And John was the epitome of class. Everything was done for the horse and done in the proper way.” Hettinger’s attention to detail, regard for the animal, and reputation for integrity became his calling card. And Akindale’s charges in grey and white stripes with cherry cap were a solid addition to the burgeoning New York State breeding program. He became a trustee of NYRA, a board member of the Jockey Club, and chairman of the Grayson Jockey Research Foundation. Though it was his association with the sales company Fasig Tipton, that is regarded as a watershed moment in the modern-day history of the Thoroughbred industry.

Clouds gather… D. G. Van Clief helped establish both the NTRA and the Breeeders’ Cup. He’s presently the chairman of the Virginia Racing Commission. In 1987, and at John Hettinger’s request, he joined the board of Fasig Tipton. “John was already on the board, and I’ll always remember that first meeting I attended. John was there with his attorney and I thought, ‘what have I gotten myself into?’ The truth was the company was in deep financial trouble. “Founded by a Mr. Fasig and a Mr. Tipton back in 1898, it’s the oldest equine auction house in America - and that was its core business. Though in the 1980’s, it expanded to include an appraisal service, an insurance agency, a real estate business, and it had launched the Fairhill Training Center in Maryland. Essentially, it had become a mini-conglomerate. 70  |  Equicurean  |  July 2016

“Well, the market went into decline and the tax code changes of ’86 wiped out many of the advantages that made partnerships attractive. Add that to the fact that the secondary businesses were losing money. “Any one of these circumstances would put a company in a tight spot, though all three at once was like a perfect storm that threatened the company’s very survival. My back of the envelope calculations had us locking the gates of our various facilities within three months. “One day John and I were walking down the streets of midtown Manhattan and he said, “Fasig Tipton has been a great old company that has rendered service to this industry for nearly a century. I, for one, would hate to see it fade away. If you’ll continue on the board, I’ll lead the group and create a financing package, and I think we have a shot at fixing this.” “The Hettinger family put up the lion’s share of the financing. We found additional financing and restructured our debt, sold off the ancillary businesses that were sapping time, talent and money, and we put the right leadership team in place - many of whom are still with the company. “The first few years were lean but over time it paid off. Eventually, the company was on a footing that would exceed even the best days of its 100-year history. And you can give John Hettinger all the credit.”

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Hettinger’s commanding presence in the industry continued well into 1990’s, though by this time the breeding and racing operations at Akindale had slowed considerably. Then in ’94, another storm appeared on the horizon. Bill Hettinger remembers getting the news. “My parents called and said Dad had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. My wife and I were living in Florida, and we said, ‘ok, we’ll be there tomorrow.’ It was sort of a death sentence and Dad was faced with the notion that he’d better get his affairs in order. My first reaction was, ‘let’s not go with that; we need to gain more opinions.’ “I contacted a friend who was an eminent cancer surgeon. I described the mass as being the size of a small orange. He said, ‘well, there’s no way it’s malignant, or he wouldn’t be able to walk.’ And he was right. It turned out to be tumors of the lining of the brain, and they were benign. Dad’s surgery was successful and he recovered very well.”

To the rescue… Despite the setback, John Hettinger soldiered on and appeared unfazed as he continued to rustle about the property alongside his cherished Pointers, all in search of quail and pheasant. Near the close of the decade he was introduced to Diana Pikulski. She’s been with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation since its inception in the early 80’s. “It was probably around 1999, I came to lunch at his house in Saratoga; I either changed his life or wrecked his life, I’m not exactly sure. I was there to talk about horse slaughter. I also introduced him to Chris Heyde, who works with the Animal Welfare Institute, in Washington, D.C. AWI was lobbying for legislation that would end horse slaughter in the U.S.

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“We knew John’s reputation: his best friends were horses; and he was quite moved by the discussion. He assured us he was going to do something about this. “People were just starting to get their heads around how many horses - and race horses, were winding up in kill pens. The general feeling in the industry was, ‘maybe you knew this was happening or maybe it was a secret.’ And John was motivated to save as many as he could. He said, ‘this is going public,’ and because of his stature within the industry, nobody was going to be able to look away. “As a spokesman he was convincing and eloquent; many of his letters are some of my favorite pieces of writing. He took the American Horse Council to task. They referred to these animals as ‘the unwanted horse.’ John said, ‘there’s no unwanted horse - there’s just irresponsible owners.’ And it was bandied about that slaughter was a necessary evil, yet John countered this claim to argue, ‘you’re going to tell me that we need to kill these horses so there’s no chance they’ll be neglected by irresponsible owners?’ It was a self-serving argument and one he simply could not accept.”

Hettinger’s appeals to end slaughter

“I don’t know what was in his head.” Said Bill Hettinger. “I think he simply realized that other lives matter. He was not a PETA person, so to speak, but he considered horses to be friends and he felt privileged to have a career and a life that included a daily association with them.” Hettinger wrote letters to Congress, took out full-page ads in the NY Times, and encouraged other members of the industry to get on board and help fight what he considered a height of inhumanity. The results of his efforts were nothing short of a paradigm shift. In 2000, he was awarded Thoroughbred racing’s highest honor, the Eclipse Award, for his work to eliminate slaughter within the United States. John Hettinger’s office and Eclipse Award

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“John’s an icon and a legend.” Said Rogers Clark. “Before he came along I don’t think people realized there was a problem. They’d just say, ‘ok, well let’s look at next year’s 2-year-old crop,’ and that’s fine, but these animals can live to be 30, and we need to have a succinct plan to finish the circle of what we are as owners and as an industry.”

Walking the walk…

“He was a pioneer with aftercare, a pioneer with Fasig Tipton, and a pioneer in so many other fashions of the game.” Said Nick Zito. "He may not have had horses like the Phipps or the Mellons, but he made a huge contribution to the New York breeding program, and the industry as a whole. The world needs more John Hettingers."

Hettinger became a game changer in the field of Thoroughbred aftercare, and he forged this legacy under extreme hardship; although his initial surgery was successful and his tumors benign, they were also recurrent. Despite the prognosis, his advocacy continued. In 2001, he began Blue Horse Charities, an offshoot of Fasig Tipton. It allowed purchasers to check off whether they’d like a percentage of their transaction to go toward rescue and rehoming programs. Akindale also became part of the solution. It had always been their policy to offer a permanent home to any horse bred on the farm, though in 2005, they found room for even more. And so began Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue, a sanctuary for horses in danger of slaughter and neglect. Many in the program came from New Holland, PA, an auction site for the aforementioned ‘unwanted.’ Erin Pfister has spent 22 years at Akindale, and recalls the early effort. “We were fortunate to know Bev Strauss of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Rescue. She would go to New Holland every Monday to pick out horses that appeared adoptable and she’d send them up to us. Some were too far gone to be saved and we euthanized many. John was so much for this. If we could humanely euthanize them it was a very peaceful ending, and they’d be spared the horrors of being transported.”

A final act… John Hettinger had several more surgeries during these years, and although his health was waning, his tireless effort and steady hand again won the day. Bills before Congress to ban slaughter in the U.S. had stalled, but legislative efforts in both Texas and Illinois, the two states where abattoirs still functioned, had essentially made it impossible for them to continue. Both facilities were foreign interests serving foreign nations, yet now they were gone. Hettinger glowed upon hearing the news. A short time later, in September of 2008, John Hettinger died peacefully at his Akindale home. He was just a few months shy of his 75th birthday.

A legacy of life… Stacie Clark Rogers is the Operations Consultant for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, a consortium of 56 rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming agencies in North America. 74  |  Equicurean  |  July 2016

John Hettinger and his wife Betty Tammy Price still manages the office at Akindale. She reflected upon her 36-year career at the farm. “Both Mr. Hettinger and his wife, they are very dear to me. Most places you work you’re kind of just the employee. Here you were part of a family. It’s just a beautiful place to be.” Betty Hettinger splits her time between New York and Florida. Her other son Jim operates a restaurant in Michigan. Bill still owns a few race horses and Akindale is still campaigning under the tutelage of trainer Kate Feron. Though Bill confides that someday Akindale will be fully charged with the rescue operation. Erin Pfister heads up the ‘day- to-day’ at ATBR. “I think John would be so proud of where we are now.” Said Erin. “Sometimes I feel he’ll shine through in horses, or birds, especially around his office and barn; that was his favorite place. It’s at those times I ask for guidance, and he must be listening because I think we’re doing o.k..” Erin managed a laugh, then added, “I hope we are. We owe it to him.”

To learn more go to

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Visions of Sugar Plums (Sugar Plum Farm, that is!) Written by Marion E. Altieri, Photos by

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Tracey Buyce


hen asked to name an extraordinary Thoroughbred farm— one that’s both beautiful and functionally state-of-theart—most people will mention any of the many magnificent properties in and around Lexington, Kentucky. Saratoga may come to mind, but many race fans aren’t familiar with the farms here: most farms are outside the city limits, quietly away from the traffic and tourism which marks the Saratoga race meet.

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And many Saratoga-regional farms keep a low profile, being more interested in just going about their business than anything else. But one new farm proudly sits in the city of Saratoga Springs, and as such feels the responsibility to represent the city in every way, including architecturally and the long, nurturing relationship of this place with The Horse. Enter Sugar Plum Racing LLC—the magnificent new farm at the corner of Gilbert Road and Union Avenue near Exit 14 of the Northway (Route 87). The modest owners of Sugar Plum Farm had a goal in mind, to create a space that’s healthy for horses and other animals—and is worthy of Saratoga, and the city’s unmatched role in the history of the sport of Thoroughbred racing. Yes, this farm is within the city limits of Saratoga Springs, and—like her beautiful older sister, Saratoga Race Course just down Union Avenue—it has a mandate to uphold: Horses First. This is the first and really singularly-most important mission: to breed, race, and care for horses in the best, most conscientious ways possible. Yes, the buildings and property are elegant and second-to-none, but the beautiful outside is merely a reflection, the outward expression of each step that’s been taken to assure that every horse who resides here has the Best Life Possible. First, some background on Sugar Plum Farm: named for Sugar Plum Girl, a beautiful daughter of Lemon Drop Kid.

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“Sugar,” as she was nicknamed, was one of the first horses the LLC put onto the track. In 2006, the land became available-the LLC purchased it, and put up the black fencing. It was widely speculated in the area, that someone would build a horse farm there—it was horse fencing, after all. But the land sat for quite a while, because anything worth doing, is worth doing right. “Go big, or go home,” as ‘tis said, and for Sugar Plum Farm, “going big” means, “doing it right.” The farm’s owners didn’t want to create anything that fell short of being absolutely correct, and to them that meant, a physical representation of their belief that a racehorse is the responsibility of the owner for the rest of the horse’s life.

That horse’s health: the responsibility of the owner. The fate of the horse after its racing career—or if the horse never has a racing career: the responsibility of the owner. When Sugar Plum Farm LLC gives a horse away, they keep the racing papers so that horse never can race again. And the new owner is told that, should it ever become necessary to get rid of the horse—they (the LLC) will pick up the horse and take her back to their farm where s/he will live out the life in safety and love. If/when the farm is maxed out, the LLC will find an alternate permanent, loving home for that horse.

But the odds of a horse being returned have just gotten smaller: besides an outstanding Farm Manager, who looks out for the health and welfare of every horse there, Sugar Plum Farm now has a trainer--she holds a Baccalaureate in Animal Behavior Psychology--whose job it is to train horses for other jobs outside of horse racing. Whether a Sugar Plum Thoroughbred makes it onto the track--and on the track--every horse will be an astute practitioner of any of a number of equine athletic endeavors. So finding appropriate homes for "retiring" horses will be that-much easier. How many farms make Thoroughbreds to race-but also train them to be useful and fulfilled in other sports? This may be a new concept---if so, it started here in Saratoga, on Sugar Plum Farm. That is responsible horse ownership. That is the way it should be done. That is the very foundation of Sugar Plum Farm: yes, the farm is beautiful, but every bit of that beauty is designed with the health and comfort of the resident horses in mind. Most horses get sick in the barn, so these barns were designed with the intention of breeding, growing, racing and keeping healthy, hearty horses.

arm gar Plum F © 2016 Su

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This careful consideration and investment of time and money had everything to do with love as the base of it all. All horses should be loved and cared-for their entire lives: the owners of Sugar Plum Farm believe sincerely that it’s not enough merely to create a horse or own a horse. There’s no such thing as a disposable horse. They (literally) put their money and their beliefs into action, and have made a horse farm that features: * Large, breezy 14’ x 14’ stalls. Room for a 1,200-pound animal to move. Room for a horse and her baby to live together without tripping over each other. * No solid walls standing between the horses and the hallways and the extra-wide doorways. Every stall has metal, mesh “fencing” for walls— the horses can see everything in the barn, and everyone. * The inclusion of these innovative, open-air walls means that horses constantly breathe clean, fresh air. Ventilation is essential to a horse’s pulmonary health, and thereby, to circulation and every other biological process.

© 2016 S ugar Plu m Farm

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* No artificial anything: the copper on the cupolas is 100% copper. And the cupolas? Not just a pretty add-on: it’s not an architectural coincidence that most Kentucky horse farms feature cupolas on barn roofs, for cupolas contribute ventilation in many directions from above. * A misting system, to keep flies at bay. Flies carry disease, so shunning them from the barn is one more way to keep horses well and happy.

Just as with humans, emotions contribute to the well-being of a horse—or any animal. The horses on Sugar Plum Farm enjoy great emotional benefits, including their resident pals, happy sister goats, Thelma and Louise. The horses can look out at the beautiful Canada geese who reside at the pond. The horses know that they’re safe—and certainly they know that they are loved.

* Fans in every stall, pointing down onto the stall’s resident(s).

Happy horses, like humans with joy in their hearts—are animals who have an advantage. If every person involved in Thoroughbred racing loved, understood and provided for the horses in their care, a’la Sugar Plum Farm LLC—the sport would benefit in every way.

A misting system, fans in each stall, and clear, constant ventilation may seem to be “luxuries” to some people— but horsepeople, those who really know the equine species— understand that good horsemanship means giving everything you can to keep your horses not just alive—but alive and kicking.

Sugar Plum Farm's owner sums it up best: "'s not about the people, it's about the horses. We realize that we're fortunate enough to be able to do this, we're sure that are others, too. Most nights we go to the barn to water the horses, and ponder again isn't necessary to win a lot of races... we win every night."

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Written by Greg Veitch


he Saratoga Race Course is known as the “Graveyard of Champions” for all of the historic upsets that have taken place over the years at the famed oval. It was only last year that Triple Crown Champion American Pharaoh was beaten by Keen Ice in the Travers Stakes and joined other favorites to suffer defeat at the Spa. The success of the longshot at Saratoga is part of its charm, but not every race has been run fairly. During the golden age of the gangsters in Saratoga (from 1920-1940), a few unscrupulous horsemen engaged in some nefarious activities to stack the odds in their favor.

“During the 1920’s and 1930’s the “Sport of Kings” was plagued by nefarious characters tampering with the majestic race horses. Saratoga was not immune from the activities of gangsters and criminals and many instances of poisoning and sponging of horses were discovered.” Photo Credit: Saratoga Springs History Museum

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The infamous crime boss Arnold Rothstein, nicknamed “the Brain,” was an annual summer visitor to Saratoga for more or less two decades starting in 1904. He owned a famous gambling resort on Church Street and was married in a private home on Washington Street. Many people believe that Rothstein

Arnold Rothstein


days I make 20 bets. Some days, I make none… so I wait, plan, marshal my resources. And when I finally see an opportunity and there is a bet to make, I bet it all."
 - Arnold Rothstein

was responsible for fixing the 1919 World Series and although he escaped indictment for that scandal, many of his associates did not. There are some reports that Rothstein may have manipulated the odds of the 1921 Travers Stakes, a race won by his own horse, Sporting Blood.

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“The owners of Gallant Fox were so concerned with the champion’s safety that a fence was built around his stall at Saratoga and armed guards placed at his barn around the clock to ensure no one meddled with the colt. The Triple Crown Winner is pictured here with his trainer, “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons.” Photo Courtesy the National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame.

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George Negri sponger

In 1930 a horse named Sun Mission was favored to win the first race on July 31 at Saratoga. On his way to the post it was noticed that something was wrong with the horse, and it was soon discovered that someone had pushed a sponge up the animal’s nostril in a clumsy attempt to “sponge” the horse. Sun Mission finished third that day and other reports of horses having been tampered with during the meet caused the owners of Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox to build a fence around his barn and hire armed guards to protect the horse around the clock. Sometimes the spongers were caught and arrested as in the case of Sun Mission and Panetian, who in 1932 was favored in the Burgomaster Handicap at Saratoga. But Panetian was scratched after a botched sponging job was discovered prior to the race. Other times these despicable men would succeed in their criminal efforts and reap the benefits of strategically placed bets. Still other times a sponger’s association with all-powerful underworld figures shielded them from prosecution as happened in 1936 when four

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spongers were caught by Saratoga Police, but released on the orders of the Chief of Police, Patrick Rox. Horse sponging was so prevalent throughout racing that the practice was made a felony in New York State in the early 1930’s, yet men of evil intent had other methods of manipulating races and the drugging, or “doping” of horses was another favorite technique of the underworld. Ladana, who finished second in the Test Stakes and was running at top form in the summer of 1931 was poisoned on August 14. The attempt to dull the filly’s performance was discovered before the race and Ladana was scratched on the track veterinarian’s orders. The unusually large amount of money bet on her closest competition, Happy Scot, was for naught.

Michael Napolitano sponger

James Meehan, a one-time associate of Arnold Rothstein who was probably present at the scene of Rothstein’s murder in 1928 in New York City, was indicted for being the leader of a ring of horse dopers and spongers that routinely drugged horses to clean up at the betting window, including at Saratoga in the early 1930’s. Even the most prominent of horse owners were not immune from conspirators with designs on tampering with horses. Both Alfred G. Vanderbilt’s horse Airflame and Joseph E. Weidner’s colt Optic, were both victims of doping in 1938. The State Racing Commission soon found reason to believe that a gang of criminals had been trying to bribe grooms at the track in order to get access to horses, particularly horses favored to win upcoming races. Unfortunately the culprits were occasionally successful. Saratoga Springs in the 1920’s and 1930’s was truly a gangster’s paradise. National organized crime figures found the environment at the Spa rather welcoming. All manner of vice and violence were perpetrated around the Spa City in those days and it should come as no surprise that these evildoers penetrated the “Sport of Kings” and plied their nefarious tradecraft on the hallowed grounds of the Saratoga Race Course.

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photo by Dan Heary

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Creator: The Chosen One


Written by Marion E. Altieri

he introduction to this article must be in the first person, for Synchronicity (“meaningful coincidence”) comes into play in the story of Belmont Stakes winner, Creator. Two Synchronicities, then a third—that I am the writer asked to do this piece.

#1: In 2004, I was living somewhat-near JFK airport in New York, and was given a wonderful assignment by Michael Blowen of Old Friends: go to the Japan Air tarmac at midnight on a November eve, and greet two new Old Friends residents as they came home to America. Such an honor. The two gorgeous Thoroughbreds landed, and I greeted them, then called Michael to describe their demeanor and physical appearances. One sweet soul was the aptly-named Sunshine Forever. The other, a mighty presence who did not suffer fools gladly—was named, Creator. #2: Fast-forward to Wednesday, June 8, 2016. At the Belmont Stakes post position draw, Bobby Flay stood to talk about his excitement that his horse, Creator, would be in the Belmont. He said that he had a dream of winning with WinStar Farm, the majority owner in the horse. I turned to my friend and colleague, Georgia, and pronounced, “Creator is going to win the Belmont.” How did I know? Because two nights before, I’d dream’t of Bobby Flay— standing at a podium, wearing that exact-same suit—and saying those words. Creator would win the Belmont, and Georgia was my witness.

New York Racing Association (NYRA)

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photo by Dan Heary

These two experiences are Synchronicities, a theory put forth by Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung. Over his doorway and on his gravestone in Latin, it reads, “Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit.” (“Bidden or not bidden, God is present.”) Creator, the magnificent, gorgeously ripped dapple-grey horse and reigning Belmont Stakes winner, has a life and career that are divinely ordered because both WinStar Farm’s owner, Kenny Troutt, and the farm’s President, Elliott Walden have bidden (invited) God not just into their personal lives, but in their business dealings. And that includes the careers of the farm’s horses. Both gentlemen are sincere Christians: God is bidden, in their lives and in the operation of the remarkable Thoroughbred breeding and racing farm in Versailles, Kentucky.

photo by Bethany Wurl / WinStar Farm

Walden had been waiting for years to be able to name a horse, Creator. (Jockey Club rules dictate appropriate waiting periods for names: two horses can’t have racing careers at the same time, with the same name.) In December 2014, the name was released and Walden claimed it. Shortly after WinStar’s beautiful grey turned two on January 1, 2015, he was named, Creator. (Walden and Troutt have given biblical names to other horses in the WinStar stable, as well: currently, they have New Testament and Benediction.) So Creator had the perfect name, but had a difficult beginning of his career: it took him six attempts to win a race. So Walden and Troutt decided to send him to Arkansas, to Steve Asmussen:

photo by Bethany Wurl / WinStar Farm

“We sent Creator to Steve Asmussen because he’s had a lot of success with Tapits, and he’s done a wonderful job with him. Creator always had the right look – balanced, athletic and a good mover. When he really began to improve after breaking his maiden, we were hopeful he would be able to win a grade 1 and he proved himself to be a top class 3 year-old after winning the Arkansas Derby.

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As for the Belmont, his dam had provided some distance in his pedigree so we thought it might be a great spot for him. Everything just fell in to line in the Belmont, which is very rare. It was a great day for WinStar and we can’t wait to see what’s next for him.” Neither can we. Many people had faith in Creator in the Belmont, and they weren’t disappointed. The vibrant, elegantly-conformed son of Tapit is at the very beginning of what which should be a strong, rewarding career on the

track. If looks alone dictated a racehorse’s success, Creator would win every race, for he is truly singularly-beautiful. But looks are not what win races—that is left to talent, stride, pedigree and temperament. Creator has all these attributes in spades, and a team of owners and managers who prayerfully are guiding him, steering him through the maze of races that will chart his path to horse racing stardom. It’s easy to see why, with a team like this—and God as his namesake—Creator’s success is written in the stars, it’s meant to be.

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National Museum of


191 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs NY 12866 (518)584-0400

MUSEUM HOURS Racing Season Daily 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Adults Students Senior Citizens (55 and older) Children 5 and under Members

$7.00 $5.00 $5.00 Free Free


NYRA employees (Please show NYRA identification). Hall of Fame members Active United States military personnel and their accompanying family members. (Proper military identification is required). Museum Members. (Please show membership card). Members of the NY Thoroughbred Breeders with membership card/pin Members of AMA (American Museum Association) with card Saratoga Polo members. (Please show your lanyard).


AAA Discount Buy one, get one free on adult admissions ($7) Buy one, get one free with Downtown Business Association Card During the racing season

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National Museum of

RACING & Hall of Fame MOVIE SCHEDULE Race America will be shown in the Hall of Fame Wednesday - Monday at 10 and 11 a.m. and on Tuesdays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saratoga 150 will be shown daily in the Hall of Fame at 12 p.m. Live simulcast of races at Saratoga Race Course is shown in the Hall of Fame on racing days from 2 to 5 p.m.*

RIDE THE HORSE RACING SIMULATOR The racing simulator is a mechanical horse synchronized to move with jockey cam videos. The simulator will enable our visitors to mount up and experience a jockey’s point of view. There are three levels of difficulty: Warm Up, Apprentice, and Jockey. We provide a unique experience that will allow the rider to appreciate a few of the qualities required to be a jockey. However, the ride is physically demanding and is not suitable for everyone.

IN ORDER TO USE THE SIMULATOR A VISITOR MUST: Sign a release Buy a ticket ($5.00 with a paid museum admission members ride free) Be at least 48” tall Demonstrate the ability to mount the non-motorized equicizer Wear appropriate clothing - no open-toed shoes are allowed. VISITORS SHOULD NOT RIDE IF THEY: Have a bad back, neck, or bone condition Are pregnant Have had recent surgery or illness Have heart trouble Have high blood pressure

JOHN A. MORRIS RESEARCH LIBRARY The John A. Morris Research Library houses over 5,000 monographs and serials concerning thoroughbred racing in the United States and aboard. Biographies, racing manuals, and stud books are included in the collection, along with issues from the Blood-Horse, Daily Racing Form Chart Books, and the Thoroughbred Times. The Library also holds numerous research files and archival materials on artists, horses (particularly Hall of Famers) jockeys, trainers, racetracks and other people in the horse racing industry.


Jockey Jerry Bailey aboard the racing simulator. The racing simulator is a mechanical horse, synchronized to move with jockey-cam videos. It allows visitors to mount up and experience the thrill of racing from the jockey's point of view. 96  |  Equicurean  |  July 2016

The National Museum of Racing houses over 15,000 photographic images that are separate from the general research collection. All photograph inquiries must be emailed to the Curator at

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