It rains differently in Saratoga. Louder, longer, more vertical, as if it comes from a higher sky. Tuesday, it fell long and steady, a wet soundtrack to a morning that came too soon after a long, late newspaper deadline.
So I listened. And thought.
Why no gutters on your roofs, Saratoga? I'm sure it's got something to do with snow and ice, but gutters are no longer new-fangled conveniences. Give 'em a try.
Does the rain affect the springs? Again, not my area of expertise but wouldn't an excess of surface water running and flowing and zigging and zagging all over town wind up underground mixing with the mineral water? Might make the Big Red Spring taste better.
Do the horses mind? We say they don't, but they must care about going out in it. Training, racing, pinning their ears and trying to outrun each other. There must be days where they'd rather just stay in their stalls and snooze.
How long does it take a jockey to get clean again after a day of riding on a sloppy track? One shower can't get it all, can it?
Will the turf be good, yielding or soft today? I'm going with good, maybe yielding. It was pretty dry to start with, it drains better than your average lawn and there was some sun in the afternoon. Of course, it's raining again . . . on the yielding side of good.
Should I re-do the Daily Racing Form Closer Looks on the Wednesday and Thursday jump races with soft(er) turf in mind? Sorry, but the rain helps frontrunners, Europeans and small horses with big, flat feet.
Why can't someone invent a tarp and a water-management system for a turf course? We've got Gore-Tex, 3-D printing, satellite navigation and E-Z Pass. And we can't keep rain off grass?
Why is weather so extreme here anyway? I'm sure it's the mountains or the barometric pressure or something but it can get wild - in a hurry.
If you had to rank Saratoga storms, could you? My list (maybe not in order) would include:
- Birdstone's Travers in 2004. Angry storm. They canceled the last race and everyone - everyone - was drenched in the winner's circle afterward.
- The day a friend from home pretended to take a shower, with his clothes on, while standing in a motel parking lot. We were kids and we laughed until our stomachs hurt.
- Holding Pattern's Travers in 1974. Little Current was second and came from so far back it seemed like he rallied out of the trees between the track and Yaddo. Others in the field included the filly Chris Evert, Accipiter and Gold And Myrrh. The track looked like chocolate milk. The race is on YouTube, and you should watch it.
- Zabenz's New York Turf Writers Cup in 2002. I remember standing in the paddock as the rain fell in long, wide swaths like something at Great Escape when the bucket tips over. The horse had come from Australia and finished third seven days earlier. In one of the greatest backside mistakes of all-time, his groom asked Allen Jerkens if he could pony the horse around Clare Court one morning. The Chief said yes, he could, but they might be better off getting someone else.
- The day Hawaiki, I think, won for my father in 1983. I don't remember rain, but I remember walking up the track toward the test barn, carrying buckets (we weren't confident enough to leave them there ahead of time) while wearing yellow pants and Docksides. The track was so sloppy, I took off my shoes, put them in a bucket, rolled up my pant legs and waded up the track.
- Hurricane Irene in 2011. The storm and flooding ravaged other parts of the East Coast, but spared Saratoga much of its wrath. The threat canceled racing the day after the Travers and we canceled the Sunday paper (since there would be no one to read it). I, bravely I like to tell myself, headed home to help move the oldest Clancy son Ryan into the University of Maryland for his freshman year. I made it as far as Trenton, N.J., where flooded roads, fallen trees, and the EMERGENCY BROADCAST SIGNAL (and it was not a test) on the car radio forced me to abandon the trip and spend the night.
Tuesday won't make the list, but it was a nice day listen and think.