"If we had a boss..." Tom Law began.
And I cut him off, which I'm prone to do. Looking back on it, I have no idea what he was going to say, but I knew what I was going to say.
"If we had a boss . . . they wouldn't let us do this. They wouldn't let us do any of this," I said, as we drove our golf cart through the harness track looking for Desmond Farrell, Lars Becdelamotte, Bill Hickey, Eddie Miller, Joe Parker and any other little guy for the Little Guy Stable Tour (see page 7). "They'd have us maximizing revenue, filing reports for HR and holding editorial planning meetings. They definitely wouldn't have let us run a 5K this morning, with one more paper still to go."
Yes, we ran a 5K in between delivering thousands of newspapers and hitting the harness track in search of the unknown. Obviously, I was still on a runner's high - if there could be such a thing after finishing third of three runners from The Saratoga Special in the Run for the Horses 5K at SPAC.
It was getting late, 11:47 and we figured only the little guys were still at the barn. We found Richard Lugovich and Rudy Wolfendale poulticing Get Even Here, a 3-year-old filly who breezed a half-mile earlier in the morning. We stood and chatted, about Lugovich's farm near Saratoga Lake and a filly named Vague Memory, with whom Wolfendale won a graded stakes back in 2001. They were glad to see us, the first reporters to stumble into their shedrow all meet.
Then we saw Glenn DiSanto getting in his car on the other side of Gridley Street, we couldn't let him get away. I leapt out of the cart, camera on my shoulder, scaled the chain link fence. DiSanto wasn't sure if he should run or shoot, then I asked DiSanto about his favorite horse. He told me about Where's Danny, he gave me a tour of the private barn he shares with Farrell, he told me about the painted silks hanging on the fence, showed me a couple of horses. I hopped back over the fence - the first person to ever break into the harness track - and we searched for more little guys. We met Anthony Quartarolo, sitting under a tree. We chatted about horses, life. He told us it was his pony in The Special a few days ago. He thanked us for doing the paper, "You guys are good."
We felt good.
Mission accomplished, we crossed Nelson Avenue, over Clare Court, through the trees and back around to the main track. We straightened the rack at the Morning Line Kitchen as tractors scraped and harrowed the track, the early post time looming. With one more paper to go - and that runner's high still beating - we felt at ease, free, or close to free.
That was 11 hours ago.
I don't feel as free as I did then. The runner's high has fled, a memory, as I type out the final words for Saratoga 2015. This column flowed a lot better during the 26:08 it took me to complete the 5K. Funny how that works.
We covered our final stakes Saturday afternoon (sorry, Sunday and Monday winners). Liam's Map wired the Woodward. Rachel's Valentina won the Spinaway and received an ovation.
Mark and Norm Casse found a moment of redemption, when winning the Saranac after a testing stint at Saratoga.
White Rose upset the Glens Falls to bolster Bill Mott's solid meet. I sat in the box with my dad and my sister, Sheila. We took selfies, bet every race and enjoyed an afternoon at the Spa.
I'll miss the conversations - I won't have as many conversations in a month at home as I do in a day here.
Most mornings, they start with John Shirreffs, he pulls out a book about the Grand National or a 1930 article in the Chicago Tribune on his iPad. Then they bounce around from trainers to jockeys, friends to family. By the end, it's Tom, Joe and I sitting on the office tables, after we've sent the interns home, talking about the races, the paper, today's snafus and tomorrow's plans.
Saratoga has come and gone for another year. A constant clash, it can feel short and long, mesmerizing and agonizing, frustrating and liberating, draining and energizing.
Every year since 1989, I have come here for the full season. I used to leave with knee rubs from hard-pulling horses, now I leave with elbow rubs from hard-going deadlines. I used to leave with regrets, disappointed I didn't accomplish more. I haven't left with regrets since we started The Special in 2001. Disappointments, yes. Regrets, no. There's a big difference.
In 15 years, The Special has come a long way. Random fans stop us now, asking about the paper.
We get calls with submissions for Worth Repeating, By the Numbers and License Plates. Rudy Rodriguez said he kept Royal Posse fresh for the Evan Shipman by reading The Chief's wisdom in The Special. We wander into the harness track and the little guys know about the paper.
Tell that to the boss.