It's the moments that make the meet. All together, when put together, they complete another endless summer. Good and bad, harrowing and fulfilling, depressing and elating, they come at you, hard and fast.
Walking up to the window to bet Miss Lamour because she's pretty and hearing her number being called out at the next window, looking over to see who's lowering my price and seeing Helen Groves, the owner/breeder. Guess she thought she was pretty too. She wins at a big price.
Telling Miss Lamour's trainer Michael Matz you bet his filly and he admits his trepidation about jockey Luis Saez putting Assateague on the lead the same way he did with Miss Lamour. Then, a week later, watching Saez melt Assateague into third in the De La Rose and light up the toteboard.
George and Cindy Weaver working together every morning and somehow laughing - most of the time.
Picking up a hitch-hiking hotwalker and delivering him to Dale Romans' barn and watching their faces, amused and bewildered all at the same time.
Watching the works from the turn, after the break on the main track and seeing the exercise riders earn every penny they are paid. I don't miss riding.
Offering the sign of the cross while passing Scott Schwartz's pink golf cart, broken from a fallen tree earlier in the meet.
Listening to Gary Sciacca compare his stable to Christophe Clement's stable, "All you have to do is call up The Queen, 'Queen, send me two horses.' Me, it's different. You think you got problems, come over to my shed row, I'll show you problems." And watching Clement laugh.
Finding a cell phone on the Oklahoma track and trying to figure out the owner, realizing it's all in Spanish, waiting until it rang, then delivering it to Gary Contessa's barn, then being offered a 5 dollar bill as a reward. We didn't take it.
Seeing Ryan Jones and Gabby Gaudet return, at least as pinch hitters, for year number two.
Offering life advice to the youth I respect while at the bar at Sperry's for the first and only time this meet.
Watching the Honorable Miss with the Chief, silently on a TV with no volume, leaning out of a chair, hoping for the wire as Classic Point tried to stave off Dance To Bristol. Chief never uttering a sound until they crossed the finish, "They got me on the wire, didn't they?"
Seeing the frustration in Irad Ortiz's eyes after his second disqualification.
Spotting the relief in the eyes of trainers when they win their first of the meet, one by one, hoping that all of them find that relief.
Ryan Martin bounding to the track every morning, wide-eyed by his first summer in Saratoga.
Damien Rock's eyes as he sees Charlie LoPresti for the first time after Wise Dan's lightning move on the turf. Two horsemen, agog over God's gift.
Jack Fisher sweeping the double, walking into the winner's circle and saying to Jonathan Sheppard, "I feel like Jonathan Sheppard." I've seen Fisher limp home after many public failures at Saratoga (some I caused), it was nice to see the hardest working trainer I know win two big ones.
Laird George sprinting away from the big screen when Labonte fell late in the allowance Thursday. It's the hardest on the caretakers.
Seeing old-school journalism from Tom Law, the best addition to The Special since Time Warner hooked up Roadrunner.
Reading an email from Quint Kessenich, long departed but never forgotten at The Special, complimenting our work and offering his memories of Nick Zito watching Commentator win the Whitney, "He carried that horse."
Yelling to Charlie LoPresti that Successful Dan fell over in the paddock chute on the way to the track for the Whitney, seeing his face go ashen, then seeing Reeve McGaughey and Rock tell LoPresti about it at the big screen TV. LoPresti saying, "I was gung ho until that happened." Then thinking to myself, "So was I. So was I."
Dave Harmon walking into my brother's office and saying, "Joe, Joe" for the 13th night of the 13th season.
Retreating to the office at 7:30, after covering the Whitney and seeing Joe, still at his computer, still laying out pages, 13 years since the beginning of The Special. I think of Chuckie Sullivan when he tells Will Hunting that every time he comes to his house to pick him up, he wishes he wasn't there, wishes he was doing something with his life. I'm always relieved when I see my older brother, the glue of The Special, gluing.
Those are the moments thus far, there have been many others and will be many others. Summer's quilt, one patch at a time.