It would all start with a list.

A few days before we'd leave, it would be on my father's dresser. "Q Tips, Listerine, pens, socks, underwear...", and on and on it went. One would think he was Jimmy Hoffa going away for a stretch, but in reality, it was how he would prepare for our two night excursion to Saratoga year after year. Obviously, normative society doesn't feel compelled to itemize the most trivial minutia for a 48 hour pass to nirvana, but this wasn't just any Saratoga fan. This was the uuber fan. The greatest Saratoga fan outside of that one in your family...or your co workers' family...or maybe your neighbor... You get the idea. 

We'd shove off at 5:15 in the morning. A time that didn't work for me then, and works even less for me know. He, on the other hand, was as bright eyed and bushy tailed as whatever bushy tailed is supposed to mean. We'd roll into town too early to check in, but that was okay, because we'd go right to the Spa City diner for breakfast. Traditions, you know. After breakfast, while I'd be playing a video game or two in the now abandoned entranceway, he'd be at the table performing origami with his brand new Racing Form. Ripping out the tracks not needed, ( Simulcast ? What's that?? ) then re-folding it so it fit perfectly into the back pants of his shorts pocket. ( Which of course were accessorized with matching hush puppies, because isn't that what fathers do ? )

We'd then check into the best kept secret in town -- the Brentwood motel. Located a horseshoe's throw from the seven furlong chute, and across the street from some breakfast joint which is now the hot spot to go after the races---assuming of course, that you don't want to hear what someone six inches away from you is saying. He would take me to watch the horses enter the starting gate in the morning. It wasn't our place to venture farther than that, you know, but that was okay, because that was the world to an 8 year old.

We'd head over to the races, and go right upstairs to make sure that the plastic owls hanging from the rafters hadn't flown off over the winter. Of course they hadn't, but tradition, you know. We'd meander over to the Big Red Spring for a funny tasting water, but you didn't mind it because they'd give you these nifty red and white souvenir cups. ( A tradition that has since gone the way of periodontists' mouth rinsing dixie cups, but waddya gonna do? )

We'd watch 'em get saddled before the race, then he'd watch me try to get an autograph from a rider who was just beaten by 30. We'd go and sit by the same area in the paddock under the tree, which was a nice little tradition, until someone needed a condo built there. On rainy days we'd scoot to a bench under the old scratch board inside from where the bandshell is. Yes, men would walk out on a catwalk and write all of the changes & results on a giant board, then go back through a door that was as mysterious to me as how that quarter kept ending up under my pillow through the years.

"Can you taste the twin lobsters, Pat?", he would gleefully say throughout the day to my mother ( and the months leading up to that day ) as tradition dictated that we dine at the long gone Weathervane restaurant. $9.95 they were, with a coupon from The Pink Sheet. He never bought a Pink Sheet, but we always ended up with the coupon somehow. He made sure that he had the last bite of the last lobster on the table. Not because he was pacing himself, mind you, but because tradition said that he had to torture my mother over it.

We'd play a round of mini golf afterwards at Murphy's right next door. It's still there these days, but you'd need to use your imagination to remember playing the "Starting Gate" hole, or even the long straightaway of "The Yaddo". Think hard enough, and you can even remember the sounds of your old man holing one out on the "Skee Ball" hole.

Maybe it wasn't a successful day at the track ( for the $10 you bet ), or maybe you got snubbed on a few autographs, but you didn't care, because you were in receipt of something much more valuable at the time. Something passed on that you can never lose, or forget, or put a price tag on.

Those days are long gone, and my father is as well. When he moved on, I asked Bill Nader of NYRA if we could do a race dedication for him and have a plaque put where my parents sat. "Gee Kevin, that may be hard" he glumly said in his office "if we did that then everyone would want one. When was his birthday?" he asked. "August 13", I told him. After an odd stare and a substantial pause, he said "That was MY father's birthday. Where do you want the plaque?"

Something about fathers and sons.

The plaque was unveiled, the race was run, and who was the winner? "The Daddy", of course. Why wouldn't it be?

Every year afterwards, my mother would sit there during her summer sojourns. Getting as close to him as possible. A catharsis, of sorts.

On the night of her passing a few years ago, just before she left ( during the Saratoga meet, no less ), I said "Mom, just give me any sign that you're with him, and that all is well. That you're both happy." Two hours later I entered her house only to find it burglarized. Only it wasn't burglarized at all. A picture had fallen off the wall and landed unbroken on the floor...It was the winners' circle photo of "The Daddy"---with my mother in it. They were together again, in his favorite place---and a list wasn't needed to ensure a good time.

So today I'll give the plaque a bit of a shine, and sit there and sip a beer with Bijou, just as I have done every year.

Because tradition dictates it, you know...


This homage was published the last two years, but has been brought back by popular demand. Additionally, if this annual piece about Bijou resonated a certain way, you'll be happy to know that I was asked to do a reading for "Our American Stories" (1.7 million weekly listeners), and while the verbiage is pretty much the same, there are some subtle differences, including background music. Here it is...  )


I'd like to leave this bit of info here for y'all. When we're using the DRF Formulator platform while writing our columns, if we say "Sprints", for the most part we mean any one turn race, and when we say "Routes", we mean any TWO turn race. ( For example, we consider a 1 1/8th mile race at Belmont an elongated sprint, and a 6 1/2 furlong race at a Charles Town a route. ) We feel this way, because in our eyes, it's the number of turns that necessitate more energy than being relaxed on a straightaway. Sometimes the sample size for our study can be too large to manually break down, so there may be a few from one category in another, but usually the end result is pretty much the same. Additionally, when it comes to layoffs, we consider more than 50 days in a dirt to dirt scenario a layoff, more than 58 days in D to T or T to D a layoff, and more than 67 days in a turf to turf deal a L/O.

Today's Beatable Favorite(s): Race 3 - #11 Sharing

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Saratoga - 8/11 - Happy Birthday Bijou


Race  1

1.One Eyed Jack 

2.Majority Rules

3.Fireball Shot

These three and no more for all our rolling action to open up the card. #2 ONE EYED JACK should be no worse than 3rd here for all you show punters, as although the debut may appear average at first glance, the Tomlinson figure for that distance was about 50 points less than today's, so improvement can be expected. The place horse from that afternoon was a runner up once again, but the speed figure was elevated by four points. #4 MAJORITY RULES has closed out the exacta in both starts to date, and is an obvious factor once again. #6 FIREBALL SHOT is approaching professional maiden territory these days, but we'd be remiss in excluding underneath.


Race  2

1.Super Dude 

2.Krewe Chief


We have absolutely no read on this race whatsoever, so tread lightly...  #4 SUPER DUDE may prove to be a smart purchase by Randi, who doesn't dig this deeply all to often. He promptly puts this one back on the gramma, where he's done some nice work, and pre-claim pilot comes back. #1 KREWE CHIEF has hit the board in about half of his lifetime starts & gets some post relief today. #2 DONTBLAMEROCKET has been kept in jail since the May 24th purchase, but nonetheless is hiked up in class today, and this one has hit the board in 7 of 8.  OFF TURF: 9-4-2-1-1A  NOTE: AS OF 11:08, DUE TO A LATE SCRATCH THE #8 WILL BE OUR 3RD SELECTION.


Race  3

1.Gran Chemin

2.Morning Gold


Employing the "Diamond in the Rough" theory with the #5 GRAN CHEMIN here, as there's a sharp 48 & 2 bullet breeze on display at the end of June, and this one is by improving sire Constitution. Said pappy had a first out winner for the folks at Sackatoga the other day, who Beyered a snazzy 90. #7 MORNING GOLD was a lively & well clear runner up first time out, and gets a switch to the meet's leading rider this afternoon. Logical. #8 APURATE had a bit of trouble when starting from the wood first out, but we've always liked fading dashers stretching out on the sod for the 1st time.  OFF TURF: 11(AE)-10-2-4-5  BEATABLE FAVORITE: #11 SHARING (AE) fills the bill, as Motion is a woeful oh-fer-14 with second timers going 1X to 2X @ this level/surface, who hit the board in the debut.


Race  4 

1.Big Bennys Tribute

2.Takecharge Mirella


#9 BIG BENNYS TRIBUTE was re-claimed by Rudy in the most recent, and with good cause, as this one has now pataken in the exacta in three of four. Always respect those coming back after a win over the track. #1 TAKECHARGE MIRELLA also has a win over the strip and has never been entered this cheaply. Gal has won fom the rail before, but Double D is a bit chilly this meet, so we'll slide underneath. #10 SHARPIN is entered 20% below the price claimed from two back, and has the ability to send or rate.


Race  5

1.Sadie Lady

2.First Appeal

3.High Jingo

#6 SADIE LADY went coast to coast a month and a half ago , and while this one takes the obligatory hike in class today, she also gives the impression of one who's figuring out how things work. Slight edge. #3 FIRST APPEAL is two for 5 on this course & 3-9 @ the trip. Will likely need some pact to cut into to do her best work. #1 HIGH JINGO lost by just a half length in her lone "3rd off the L/O" foray, and got her photo taken the only time she took a spin over this oval. Seems like we're landing on some decently priced Irad runners today.  OFF TURF: 4-8-3-1-2


Race  6 

1.Lotta Ott

2.Secondary Market

3.Mundaye Call

#3 LOTTA OTT immolated a bit of baccala first time "Otta" the box, but the number came back solid enough, and the As Man owns a sublime 15:9-1-2 boxscore w/ locally based maiden special weight 2nd timers on the dirt @ 6-1 or undah ( 10-50 days ). The ROI for that sampling is above three clams, and this one deserves another shot. #5 SECONDARY MARKET is a $150,000 bred animal who went for nearly twice that amount nearly two years ago, & brings a 400 Tomlinson figure along for today's overture. #10 MUNDAYE CALL has been setting stopwatches ablaze in the mornings for the bow, draws ideally, and went for just under a mil here last year. 


Race  7

1.Year of the Kitten

2.Cross Border


We won't be going any deeper than this troika for all our rolling action...  #2 YEAR OF THE KITTEN got the job done in his lone try on the inner & is 1 fer 2 at the trip. Slightest of edges amongst this threesome. #3 CROSS BORDER is but a neck shy of looking at one for the thumb here ( albeit over a 15+ month span ) and is hard to fault those taking a favorable view. #4 GOSILENTLY is a nibbler by nature ( 20:2-7-7 ) & owns a couple'a showings off of this type of L/O.  OFF TURF: 2-3-10-1-8  NOTE: AS OF 11:11, DUE TO A LATE SCRATCH THE #14(AE) WILL BE OUR 3RD SELECTION.


Race  8 

1.South of France

2.Talk Veuve to Me

3.Cookie Dough

We seem to be seeing the ball clearly for this card, as this is the 3rd race where we only dig three. #4 SOUTH OF FRANCE hasn't been seen since turkey time, but procured the hat trick back then, and pre-layoff Johnny returns. T.P really cleans up with optional dirt sprinters who won > 51 days ago, as he's a groovy 8 for 16 in that area. We'll bite at a decent price. #3 TALK VEUVE TO ME has the hood added here by an hombre who's 3 for 6 when doing that to his dirt sprinters coming back off breaks of less than 50 days ( $7, $40 & $8 ). #2 COOKIE DOUGH has oodles of speed & class, but Maragh has looked atrocious fo a while now, so we'll spot here.


Race  9 



3.Chelsea Cloisters

#7 ELSA finished second in her only try off a layoff, and finished 3rd right here ( without Lasix ) just about a year ago to the day, and we're assuaged by the fact that this shedrow is a near poyfect 6:5-1-0 with ungraded turfers going short off breaks of 68-238 days ( 15-1 or less ). The winners paid $29, $3, $5, $6 & $10, and take a gander at the last two works. #10 EYEINTHESKY overcame some trouble to get 22% of the pot two fortnights back, and while a bounce off a lifetime mark is always possible, this one is deserving of inclusion. #6 CHELSEA CLOISTERS has been a fringe participant in six straight, so we'll leave beneath once again.  OFF TURF:6-5-3-4-8


Race  10

1.Hurricane Jake

2.Highway Flyer

3.Strategic Outlet

#2 HURRICANE JAKE takes the biggest drop in the game & slides inside while running on Lasix for just the second time. Meeeeeeeek selection. #9 HIGHWAY FLYER can be forgiven the ugly running line on 6/15, and despite ending up on his duff, interesting to see Saez return. #8 STRATEGIC OUTLOOK rounds out the top three.  OFF TURF: 1-2-3-8-7   


Saratoga           ( Current ):    30-224     ( $216.20 )     Beatable Favorites  6-16   ( 38.8% )     Favorites Win %:  80-224   (35.7%)(As of Sunday  morning) 


Belmont Spring     ( Final ):    90-447      ( $697.60 )  Beatable Favorites  6-33 ( 18.2% )      Favorites Win %:   172-447 ( 38.5% ) 

Aqueduct Spring   ( Final ):    32-110      ( $322.60 )  Beatable Favorites   1-4  ( 25.0% )      Favorites Win %:    39-110  ( 35.5% )

Aqueduct  Winter ( Final ):     73-374     ( $490.60 )   Beatable Favorites: 7-23 ( 30.4 % )     Favorites Win %:   150-374 ( 40.1% )

Graded Stakes     ( Final ):     5-32         ( $54.20 )     Beatable Favorites: 0-3    ( 0.0% )       Favorite's Win %:    9-32     ( 28.1% )

All Triple Crown, Breeders' Cup, Selected Grade 1's and Travers full days  ( These are also counted in the "Dirt Tracks" category ):

( 2013-2019 Final ) 62-377   ( $555.70 ) Beatable Favorites: 18-56 ( 32.1% ) Favorite's Win %: 128-377  ( 34.0% )  +/-: -26.2% against a 16.8% takeout  

Poly Tracks2013-6 (All Final): 85-568        ( $819.20 )    Beatable Favorites : 15-68     ( 22.1% )Favorite's Win %: 163-587       ( 27.7% ) +/-: -27.6%  against a 15.6% takeout

Dirt Tracks  2013-9 (All Final):2258-11020 ($18,829.30) Beatable Favorites : 318-1148( 27.7% )Favorite's Win %: 4062-11127 ( 36.5% ) +/-: -14.6%  against a 16.7% takeout ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Cumulative Stats   (All Final): 2343-11588 ($19648,50)  Beatable Favorites : 333-1216( 27.4% )Favorite's Win %: 4186-11599  ( 36.1% ) +/-: -15.2%  against a 16.4% takeout