ESCAPE TO SARATOGA

Visiting Saratoga Springs, NY and its Saratoga Race Course is an annual rite of late summer for me. The city is full of restaurants, offering a diversity of cuisine, quaint retail shops, and majestic Victorian homes and stately commercial buildings.

A stroll around the racetrack provides one with a variety of images, from men and women in their fine clothing to others laid back and outfitted for leisure. Bands offer several kinds of music and lively young people can be seen dancing to Dixieland tunes.

All of this, coupled with the finest in American racing, keeps people like me coming back year after year. One gets lost for a few days in the ambiance, a welcome respite from the problems and noise of everyday life.

The incessant blare of political television commercials are nowhere to be seen on the racetrack’s TVs and supporters of Obama and Romney put aside their differences to enjoy Americana as it is represented by a venerable town and racetrack. After Point of Entry’s win in the Sword Dancer Invitational, the junior Democratic U. S. Senator from New York, Kristen Gillibrand, graciously presented the trophy to the equally gracious winning owner, Ogden Mills Phipps–a rock solid member of the millionaires and billionaires cohort that the Senator’s side of the aisle often demonizes.

If an alien from outer space got a glimpse of Saratoga Race Course on any given race day, the extraterrestrial would no doubt conclude that this thing called horse racing–where beasts mounted by small beings called humans, and cheered on by thousands of mostly larger humans, rush around an oval—is a hugely popular event that evokes plenty of emotion.

The alien would not be privy to the political machinations that are going on with the New York Racing Association and over VLT revenues and the threat they represent to horse racing in the Empire State. Never mind that horse racing at the retail level is only the tip of the economic-development iceberg in New York state; upstream from the racetracks are breeding farms–and a sizeable agribusiness that supports the farms and racetracks.

But elected officials tend to be short-sighted individuals, focused myopically on “give me the money now” so I can cater to constituents and perhaps stay in office. That is the reality, whether the politician is in New York City, the capital of Albany, or in Washington, DC.

But the tug of war for control of NYRA can await the close of another glorious year at Saratoga, on Labor Day. For now, there are several days of racing left, and New York City and Albany may as well be on another planet. Call this escapism from the looming U. S. fiscal cliff, European central bankers, and some crazed foreign regimes, but so what. I am a seasoned citizen and can be cut some slack.

I fervently wish that Saratoga can be preserved as it is for younger generations to savor, just as generations since 1863 have done so. 2013 will mark 150 years at the Spa and maybe I’ll see you there.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business

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