I'm back blogging, and as you can see above I am starting off with bad (albeit necessary for some of you) news. If you pay your Saratoga Springs city taxes in quarterly installments, don't forget to drop your third quarter payment off to city hall or get the envelope postmarked (not a meter mark) by this Thursday, September 1, 2011 to avoid late fees. Click here for the tax payment page on the Saratoga Springs city web site. If all that wasn't depressing enough, I'll hit you with a double whammy and tell you that Saratoga Springs school tax bills will be mailed out soon, and those will be due in early October.
City tax payments may be mailed to the Commissioner of Finance, PO Box 328, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-0328 or hand delivered to City Hall at 474 Broadway. The tax office is located on the first floor of City Hall, first door on the left when entering from Broadway. The office hours are Monday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. All checks should be made payable to COMMISSIONER OF FINANCE.
I caught this report yesterday from the AP with the headline "Report Finds Horse Racing is on a Slippery Track". It was interesting, if not exactly uplifting. It was carried by several news organizations around the country, and it listed Saratoga Springs as the location for the report.
OK, I guess my mind is working overtime lately. More random thoughts:
The Bonacio Market Center development at Division and Railroad Place sure is taking shape and making its presence felt in that neighborhood. People complain about development in Saratoga Springs, and while it shouldn't happen without some oversight, we should be grateful that our city, poor economy or not, constantly has new construction occurring. I've said it many times before, so many other cities would kill to have our "problems". I took some pictures of the structure, but I'm having trouble downloading them. So just imagine a lot of steel and concrete hanging over that corner.
Saratoga is a pedestrian friendly city - sort of. There may be nice places to walk and plenty of sidewalks, but you're taking your life into your hands once you step on the street - regardless of whether you have the right of way or not. Some drivers in this city, especially, but not exclusively, during track season, drive like maniacs and pedestrians are invisible to them.
I attended the presentation Wednesday evening by NYRA Race Track historian Paul Roberts, who gave what was essentially a powerpoint presentation on the history of the Saratoga Race Course buildings and development. It was good and interesting, but it felt like a little bit of a sales pitch for public support for NYRA and the association's plans for the track. A preemptive strike, if you will, against any emotional outcries against change. I'm OK with NYRA these days - sure they make some missteps - but they are much better than they used to be and they are running a successful program with three aging facilities in a dying sport. I'll give credit where credit is due and recognize what they have accomplished.
Speaking of those NYRA plans, did you see that they inlcude removing the tent along the rail (The "At The Rail Pavilion") past the finish line and adding a permanent structure there? I've heard rumor it will be a multifloor structure with a restaurant on top. They also plan to add a permanent structure at the top of the stretch, among other changes.
I am enjoying reading The Saratoga Special, the daily Saratoga Race Course focused newspaper available for free at the track and various other establishments around town. It is run by former steeplechase jockey Sean Clancy and his brother Joe Clancy. I especially like the "Worth Repeating" section, which is a list of interesting and often funny quotes of people around the race track. BTW, my wife and I are presently reading Saratoga Days, the book that Sean Clancy wrote about 12 years ago about his life in Saratoga as a steeplechase jockey. It is a really enjoyable read for anybody who loves Saratoga and Clancy's passion is infectious.
Staying on the subject of books about Saratoga Horse Racing, Brendan O'Meara recently released his book Six Weeks in Saratoga, How Three Year Old Filly Rachel Alexandra beat the boys and Became Horse of the Year. Brendan will be signing copies at the Saratoga Visitors Center from 3-5pm today, and you can also get copies at Barnes & Noble and Saratoga Saddlery.
I ate at Leon's Mexican Restaurant on Crescent Street near the track the other day. There was nothing wrong with my dinner, just nothing great either. In this economy, and with three other Mexican restaurants within a mile of Leon's, I think a place has to be really fantastic to do well.
Speaking of restaurants, with all of the vacancies and turnover of restaurants in this town, I am still disappointed nobody has opened a really great seafood restaurant. Angelo, are you reading this?
I have been hearing Patrick Donges reporting on WAMC radio. It is good to hear the former Saratogian reporter doing well in his chosen profession.
Kyle York, whom is a regular commenter on this and other blogs as well as a regular attendee at city hall meetings, has some thoughts on Saratoga's 9/11 Memorial - he asked me to provide a link which I am doing here.
Saratoga Springs has been the site of what I'll call immoral and sometimes illegal vices since the times even before the famed Revolutionary War battle here, and those vices involve more than just gambling. Some things haven't changed over the years, decades, centuries, and an ad appearing every day on the front page of The Pink Sheet reads "Adore Escort Services - Ready, Willing & Waiting..."
I heard an apropos description of Hidden Gardens Extraordinary Floral Design Antiques - the place on Maple Avenue between the police station and the City Center with several rusted statues and other odd pieces out front. My friend was trying to explain it to me and he said "You know, the place that looks like Sanford & Son." Funny.
Whew! I thought I had 4 thoughts tops. OK folks, have a great weekend and don't lose too much at the track.
A lecture on Saratoga's Legendary Race Course will be held tonight at the Fasig-Tipton pavilion on East Avenue. I have seen Mr. Roberts speak on this issue before and he's a very knowledgable and engaging speaker.
LECTURE TOMORROW NIGHT! The Spa - Saratoga's Legendary Race Course Wednesday, August 10 7pm Humphrey S. Finney Sales Pavilion, Fasig-Tipton 250 East Avenue, Saratoga Springs
The third and final lecture in our Race Course Architecture series with speaker Paul Roberts will feature the history of the Saratoga Race Course. Mr. Roberts will present this lecture based on his new book of the same title. Mr. Roberts will discuss the Race Course, the nation's oldest surviving sports facility from its origins until today. He will explore in detail the historic architecture and important landscape features of the property and how 150 years of racing has changed the face of the track. In addition, he will discuss the important architectural features that remain which need care, attention, and preservation as NYRA moves into the future. Mr. Roberts will conduct a book signing after the lecture. Books will be available before and after the lecture for $22. Proceeds from books sales benefit the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation.
This lecture is co-sponsored by NYRA and Fasig-Tipton.
$10 SSPF members/$15 non-members Registration is preferred but not required. Call 518-587-5030 or email email@example.com.
The Race Course Architecture lecture series was sponsored by NYRA.
Summer Sunday Strolls
Tours begin at 10:30am $5 members/$8 non-members Rain or shine
August 14 Down in the Valley: Explore "The Gut" SW Corner of Phila St & Henry St
August 21 Trackside: Racing in Saratoga SE Corner of Nelson Ave & Union Ave
August 28 A Very Good Year: Broadway in 1874 NW Corner of Congress St & Broadway
September 4 Wealth & Wellness: Franklin Square NW Corner of Division St & Broadway
September 11 A Campus & Queen Annes: Union Ave SE Corner of Union Ave & Circular St
September 18 Wealth & Wellness: Franklin Square NW Corner of Division St & Broadway
On July 16, 2011 the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation hosted a day just for members at the Saratoga Race Course's Oklahoma Track. This behind the scenes morning, was complete with breakfast donated by Panera Bread as well as a tour of the back-stretch, with SSPF executive director Samantha Bosshart and Charlie Wheeler, SSPF Board Member and Community Relations Manager at Saratoga Race Course.
Approximately 40 members attended and enjoyed watching the Oklahoma Track being prepped for the morning excercises while horses warmed up for their daily routine. The tour of the backstretch and the area known as Horse Haven was enjoyed by all.
If you did not attend, but think you might enjoy similar events or would like to receive discounts on similar programming...become a member today!
Becoming a member is easy! Click on the link below to join safely and securely on-line.
Here we go as we approach the midpoint of track season:
I thought that both John Velazquez and Todd Pletcher were running away with the jockey and trainer titles, respectively, however Ramon Dominguez (19 wins) and Javier Castellano (18 wins) are at least arguably within striking distance of Velazquez's 26 wins. My money is still on Velazquez, especially because he teams up with Todd Pletcher so much. Pletcher seems a lock to win the trainer title, unless something unforseen happens. His 19 wins is more than double his closest rival Chad Brown, who has 9 wins . How come Velazquez seems to get his rare losses only when I bet on him?
I am still addicted to the shakes at the shake shack. Think the Barney Miller episode with the hash laced brownies.
Geez those Billy Fucillo commercials with Linda Rice seem a bit awkward, but then again I guess any Billy Fucillo commercial is awkward.
Nicole Russo at The Saratogian sure writes a lot of articles during track season, and they are very enjoyable to read. When reading her articles I often think "is this an AP piece" and then I turn back to the byline and see that she wrote it. Barbara, are you reading this? She deserves a raise.
I have had a busy summer and missed Kevin Dillon, a star from the HBO series Entourage, attending the opening of Siro's Trattoria a few weeks ago. As you likely know, Dillon, and his co-star Kevin Connolly, are minority partners in the restaurant venture. BTW, the Spa City has another connection to Entourage. Celebrity Chef Bobby Flay, an avid thoroughbred fan and horse owner who is a regular in Saratoga during track season, will apparently be playing himself as the love interest of Ari Gold's wife in upcoming episodes. BTW, a skinny Turtle seems like a skinny Santa Clause - it just doesn't seem right. You'd have to be a fan to understand that last comment.
I haven't made a steeplechase race in several years. The first race on Thursday is usually a steeplechase race, where the horses are racing and jumping over hedges at the same time. These races can be four minutes or longer, making them an interesting change of pace. Hopefully I'll make it there this Thursday in time to catch one - they're enjoyable to watch.
I am enjoying the NBC/Versus broadcasts of the stakes races at Saratoga. I also saw that ABC showed The Haskell last week. What's with this sudden network interest in horse racing? Saratoga has never had this much coverage - and I never saw the Haskell on a major network before. I'm guessing the long and short of it is that it's cheap programming. Whatever the reason I'm happy this great sport is getting more coverage.
Finally, I'll congratulate Mike and Liz Phillips of The Cupcake Lab - now known simply as "The Lab" - for receivng approval to serve beer and wine, which allowed them to expand their hours and menu. The Lab is filling an underserved niche here in Saratoga Springs by offering great food (made from scratch) in a casual, quick, and reasonably priced atmosphere. The Saratogian wrote a nice article on it here.