I received the honor earlier this summer to have Jonathan Greene and Dale Willman of Saratoga Wire, Saratoga Springs' new news web site which will be focusing on local news, approach me and ask me to write for their new endeavor. I have been wondering for a few years now what to do with this web site Funsaratoga.com. I have appreciated the positive feedback and incredible number of pageviews, not to mention the Saratogian's best blogger award in 2010, but I knew for the past few years I needed to either bring this blog to the next level, find a partner to create something new, or abandon it and move on.
I hated the idea of abandoning this web site, which I have been operating for almost 6 years. I had other very important professional pursuits ensuring police officers were effectively represented by honest and effective unions (read: my day job), so it made sense to join on with something that required only limited time from me and was aiming for something big. Saratoga Wire is something big, and I am thrilled that they asked me to blog for them.
I will be writing at least once weekly for Saratoga Wire, and you can read my first entry here which will also give you my overview of just what is happening at the Saratogian's first true competitor in several decades.
I am simply not sure what I will do with this blog, which I truly love writing. I will continue this rewarding hobby over at Saratoga Wire, and perhaps I will supplement my work for that site with other entries on my Funsaratoga.com site. Or not. Perhaps I will just soley blog on Saratoga Wire and shut this blog down. Time will tell. Please check on Saratoga Wire regularly for my submissions, give me feedback, and I will try to figure out the future of this blog in the coming weeks. It's all good - Take care folks.
Wow! What terrific weather for opening weekend. What unfortunately wasn't so terrific seemed to be the attendance - there was a nice crowd but plenty of empty seats, parking spaces, and from my very unscientific perusal - hotel parking spaces. That is not a dismal thing - I think it's just the fact that many people, both Capital District residents as well as out-of-towners, don't get too excited about track season until August. Still, with the near-perfect weather, I would have liked more people.
One guy who wasn't complaining this weekend was jockey Ramon Dominguez. Congratulations Ramon on your record six wins on Sunday!
I really appreciated the weather during the Silks and Satins 5K. It was cool and almost misty during the race - and Margarita and I enjoyed the run through the east side. A big thanks to all the volunteers and corporate sponsors.
Well there sure was a lot of hoopla about the food choices this season at the track. The owner of Hattie's sure complained with her new location in the Carousel, but there was a line for me to wait in when I went to Hattie's stand at the track on Sunday. I would think twice about going to Hattie's again - I made what I thought was a simple request and asked for an extra plate so the three of us could share a fried chicken dinner and a few salads and they said they didn't have any. I pointed to the containers they serve the food in and they said they are inventoried and they couldn't give one of them either. Four pieces of fried chicken is a lot for one person for lunch on a hot day - so we wanted to share. C'mon Hattie's get with it.
On that subject, it would be nice if they could reserve some of the tables in the Carousel for the diners at Hattie's, Shirley's etc. - there was nowhere to sit because the betters just sort of squatted there. The kicker, and therefore the answer, was that the upstairs part of the Carousel was completely empty. If they set it up for betters to sit (with TVs etc.) so the diners could dine downstairs that would work.
Still talking about track food - I see Duo also has a booth. I'm just not feelin Sushi at the track. I'm also not feelin Moe's - not so much an anti-Mexican thing - just an anti chain thing. Chains are fine in their place - like Wilton.
The music at Hats Off Weekend was fantastic as well - at least the two bands I saw were. Maximus, playing on Caroline Street, was really good. The lead singer reminded me of Leather Tuscadaro - at least from 30 feet without my glasses (You probably have to be over 40 to get that Leather Tuscadaro reference). Captain Squeeze and the Zydeco Moshers were just phenomenal, and I really enjoyed their last set, which included not only their signature cajun numbers, but some inspired renditions of Beatles and Doobies songs, to name a few.
What wasn't so great was my experience on the Saratoga Chamber's web site when I looked up info for the Hats Off Festival. I had to search the relatively small font on the front page to find the Hats Off information. That information should have been featured in a large banner or something, but the Saratoga chamber's web site is old and tired - even the colors are drab - and doesn't offer a way to feature timely information. Maybe a new site is already in the works, but if not then they really should get going on that.
When I was downtown during the festival I hated seeing the empty storefronts - the old Borders and Grey Gelding locations sure stood out. But there were some bright spots - like the new place in the old Divinly Revolution location, and Boca Bistro sure looked great.
Going further down Broadway, I predicted a while back that the Thirsty Owl Wine Tasting room would be open by track season. As the below picture shows, it sure seems like they are doing major work there and there is still a ways to go. They originally hoped to open by July 1st, but it seems more like it will be late August before they finish. Travers weekend?
Attorneys for trainer Rick Dutrow, whose 10 year suspension was just upheld by the State Supreme Court Appelate Division, defiantly declared they would appeal the latest ruling to the New York State Court of Appeals. The sports reporters covering this case apparently weren't well versed on the New York court system, because the two articles I read failed to mention that Dutrow has an extremely low chance to even have his appeal heard by New York's top court, much less win. Dutrow must request "leave to appeal" and those requests are rarely granted - in probably well less than five percent of the cases. Obtaining leave to appeal can be done, in fact I was involved in a successful effort once, but the odds are against him - and this is just to get his case before the court - then he has to win. If Rick Dutrow doesn't think these justices read the papers, and therefore know about the problems in the horse racing industry as well as Governor Andrew Cuomo's recently expressed concerns, he's not smelling the coffee. My money says this appeal goes nowhere.
Let's end with some pizza. I'm not a big coupon user but Inferno Pizza has some pretty good coupon deals in the Saratogian's What's Happening Thursday insert, as well as on-line here.
Heeere's Johnny Track season! And here's what I'm thinking near the eve of the 144th meet of the Saratoga Race Course:
If you love Saratoga a fraction as much as I do, then give a hand to John Morrissey, whose vision a century and a half ago to make Saratoga Springs a horse racing center (OK, a horse racing and gambling center) really made the Spa City what it is today, and ultimately saved us from becoming another Amsterdam, Utica etc. Without John Morrissey (and William R. Travers, John R. Hunter, and Leonard Jerome) we likely would not have a track season in Saratoga. If you don't know who John Morrissey is, then I'll link a Wikipedia entry on him here. That entry doesn't do him justice - and he wasn't all good - but he sure was a thinker and a doer, not to mention a great boxer.
The Saratoga Race Course meet may be starting on July 20th, but NBC's TV coverage of Saratoga won't start until three weeks into the season, on August 11th when the NBC Sports Network broadcasts the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap. That's a big difference from last year, when NBC was covering races starting on July 23rd. Tell me again why Time-Warner doesn't carry HRTV?
Virgin Alexander, the movie filmed in and around Saratoga Springs, gets released on Amazon today, and presumably will also be available on Netflix as well. Margarita and I saw it last year at the Spectrum, and you can read my review that I wrote about the movie here. I'll also post a video of the trailer below - note that the opening scene is Gardiner's Alley behind Uncommon Grounds above Putnam Den.
Damn they did a nice job on the Route 9P bridge over the Northway. It looks clean and modern - not to mention roomy enough for bicyclists and pedestrians.
If you were wondering what happened to Jamie Munks, who recently left the Saratogian, she is now writing for the Post-Star, which I believe is where she originally was working. She wrote this article this week about the upcoming track season.
Here's a Forbes article about Philanthropy in Saratoga Springs. Don't worry, I didn't read it either.
So is Siro's Restaurant ever going to acknowledge on their web site that their original restaurant, you know, the one that's been around since World War 2, is located in Saratoga Springs - and not Manhattan? Other than the music calendar and some historical references, you'd never know there is a Siro's in upstate NY. Ditto Siro's Facebook page, which is all about Manhattan - just three days before track season.
Speaking of NYC, a reader alerted me to this New York Times article about Genting's Aqueduct Casino, which of course affects NYRA and therefore Saratoga directly.
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame will be hosting "An Evening with Greg Montgomery" on Thursday, July 19 at 7 p.m. Greg will be discussing his series of Travers Stakes posters, which he has been doing since 1986. The event is free and open to the public. You may also purchase the 2012 poster (pictured above) and get it autographed for $50. This will be a great event. Hope to see you there.
And let's see if I can start the week off with getting the ol' blog updated. Here are one Saratogian' thoughts two and a half weeks away from track season:
Speaking of track season, it sure is starting to feel like it already arrived with the crowds, traffic etc. It's not quite up to August levels, but you can feel the proximity. That is a good thing.
Catching up on some old news, despite the limited reassurances from the Saratogian, I can't help but feel sad to know their building got sold and they'll likely be out of there in three years. I get it, it's cheaper to park someone at Uncommon Grounds on a laptop than to pay for an office in a valuable building - I just don't like it.
Speaking of the Saratogian, Jamie - we hardly knew ya! Recently departed reporter Jamie Munks was there for about a cup of coffee before she left. Let's hope they are able to find someone who sticks around for a while - JRC upping the paltry salary may help.
I missed strawberry season at the Farmers' Market! Damn. I went there a couple of weeks ago later in the morning and they were sold out. I went early on Saturday, but it's the very end of the season and the pickings were slim.
There is a pasta dinner at the Holiday Inn tonight (7/3) for those running in tomorrow's Firecracker 4. $12 will get you a dinner that Includes tossed salad, pasta with or without sauce and meatballs, rolls and iced tea or lemonade. There will also be a doughboy eating contest right after the race with 7 Esperanto customers facing off against 7 chosen Firecracker 4 runners.
When did the Mexican Connection become a "Tequilaria"? I ran by there last week and saw the sign said it was a Tequilaria and I didn't know if that was a new branding thing or something that's been around for years that I didn't notice. I found some old pics online where the Mexican Connection sign said "Cantina", so there was a change somewhere along the way. I see Mannix Marketing is handling their web site - well someone is doing a sloppy job along the way because the web site and Facebook Page alternately refer to the Nelson Avenue Restaurant as a "Tequilaria" and a "Tequilera".
On that same run, I noticed that the South Broadway Mobil is now a Red-Kap store. As is the case with all Spa City gas stations, the gas there is still overpriced, in case you were wondering.
I'm damn excited about the new theater planned for the old Price Chopper location. Tom Dimopoulos had an interesting idea when he tweeted that he'd like to see the Theater open up showing Saratoga films on all 11 screens. The Times Union also had an article last week about the movie theaters that were in the Spa City decades ago.
Another blog I like is Saratoga Mama, but she has gone back to family-friendly posts like "Vacation Bible School in Saratoga County – 2012 Roundup" and "More Perks from the Libraries in Saratoga County". C'mon Colleen! You have to utilize both of your talents, the first of course being the ability to write well on parenting issues in the Saratoga region, and the second to get fired up and go off on sub-par Saratoga Springs restaurants, and Ellwood Commons being a bust so far. Sigh. I guess I'll go back to reading You Idiot for controversy and drama.
Speaking of Ellwood Commons, I see BBL Construction is opening a Recovery Sports Bar there. Maybe they read Saratoga Mama's blog.
OK folks, that's it for now. See you at the Firecracker 4!
Here's what's in one Saratogian's mind as he wonders how summer snuck up on him yet again.
Geez what a shame I'll Have Another didn't run in the Belmont. On the positive side, at least the injury was something that's manageable and wasn't a tragedy. I'll Have Another's running would have been great for NYRA too, although I guess they had a strong crowd and tremendous betting nonetheless. Well congratulations to Union Rags and his Team. Let's hope we see him at the Travers.
I wonder what the sales figures are at the new Price Chopper, and if it will spur similar Golub family ventures in other urban areas. Hello Golubs, are you reading this? Downtown Albany, near my office please.
The Chestnut Tree Inn is back on the Market - this time for $649,000. It has been on and off the market since 2009, when it was originally listed for $725,000.
And still not far away from those three places, over on South Broadway, the Pizza House/Alexandra's Ice Cream was sold to Adirondack Trust for $410,000. I assume that is a foreclosure or another less aggressive bank takeover of a mortgaged property. The Fun Saratoga field agent, who has apparently been on strike because this is the first good tip he's given me since winter, alerted me to that one in the Saratogian.
Boy that old Beverly's location sure looks...empty.
Is that patio in the back of the West Side Stadium new?
I sure wish the Wednesday Farmer's Market would go from 4-7pm, instead of 3-6. Those of us coming from Albany have a tough time making it there by 6.
There are many reasons why Saratoga Springs is such a great place to live, and our arts scene is very high on that list. My wife and I saw Avenue Q down in NYC last year and in Saratoga last weekend, and you have have a chance to catch this hilarious Tony Award winning play this Saturday or Sunday at the Saratoga Arts Center. I highly recommend it, but don't let the puppets fool you - it's over the top with sexual humor and it's certainly not suitable for kids or those easily offended (or embarrassed). Here's a good test: if you liked the movie "There's Something About Mary", then you'll probably laugh away at Avenue Q. It's more than just sexual content, and in fact it's better described as about real life adult challenges with a bit of sexual humor thrown in. The showtimes are 2pm and 8pm on Saturday June 2, and 2pm on Sunday June 3rd. Click here for a Saratogian article on the play.