Features

New Look: Dirt track overhaul changes Spa for the better

Notice anything different when you started watching the races from Saratoga this season? 

No, no, no. Not the vacant stands, everyone expected that. What about the main track? The dirt, or more specific the color of the dirt. Surely that was noticed by those watching on TVs, laptops, tablets or phones. 

Broken Jewels: Ex-Hcp. Triple Crown races share card

When the voice on the other end of the phone belongs to Jerry D. Bailey and in answering a question about a horse he rode 36 years ago he mentions the horse in the same sentence as Cigar, it instantly becomes an E.F. Hutton moment.

When Jerry Bailey talks Cigar, people listen.

The inquiry concerned Fit To Fight, winner of the New York Handicap Triple Crown in 1984, the fourth and most likely last horse to accomplish that feat. 

Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour: Michael McCarthy

Michael McCarthy is thinking about traveling from his Del Mar base to Keeneland when Rushie makes an expected start in next Saturday’s Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. 

 “I feel OK about it, but it’s going to be a game-day decision,” McCarthy said. “You know why I feel OK about it? Because I’ve already had this stuff.”

Yeah, McCarthy has counted the days since coming down with Covid-19. 

Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour: Mike Stidham

“A day in the life…” That’s how Mike Stidham starts off the conversation while checking on one of his three venues Thursday morning. Stidham and his partner, Hilary Pridham, were at Monmouth Park, looking over 65 horses with assistant Ben Trask. Pick another day and they might be overseeing their 48 horses at Fair Hill Training Center. In a few weeks, they’ll be at Keeneland to see assistant TC Stuckey and their 10-horse brigade. After that, perhaps, Colonial Downs with a projected 20 for the Virginia meet. 

Tiz Tagg: NY-bred colt dominates Belmont for classic trainer

“Sorry about yesterday, sometimes you get this thing so jammed up I don’t pay any attention to it.”

It was 5:53 Friday night, the Belmont Stakes loomed in 23 hours, 49 minutes and Barclay Tagg had unjammed his phone to call The Special. We had left a message Thursday and added a “missed call” Friday morning, another Friday afternoon and still another Friday evening. 

Highest Five

It was early evening on Memorial Day in 1982 and Dr. J. David Richardson had just returned home from Churchill Downs, where, in pre-simulcasting days, he had to go into the racing office to watch the Met Mile from Belmont Park on a small, black-and-white TV. Conquistador Cielo ran off the screen, romping to a 7 ¼-length win while setting a track record of 1:33.