( As Bijou's birthday fell on a dark day this year, there were a few who expected his yearly homage to be published today, rather than Sunday, so we've decided to give it a "double call" this year. Enjoy. ) 


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, ifthis 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): None

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Saratoga - 8/14 - Happy Birthday Bijou ( part deaux )


Race  1

1.Roller Rolls On

2.Zanzi Win ( Fr )

3.Go Get the Basil

#2 ROLLER ROLLS ON split the field in his first local foray and may improve today being a bit more familiar with the layout. Mild choice. #1 ZANZI WIN (FR) has done fine work overseas, and makes his American debut today receiving ( for this type ) the usual first time addition of Lasix. Blinkers are now part of the mix as well, and a solid pilot takes the helm. #5 GO GET THE BASIL has sown zilch this year, but H.O.F. conditioner removes the eye cups this afternoon, and gelding is 3:1-1-0 when jumping in 2nd off the L/O tries.


Race  2

1.Montana Man

2.Beyond Gone

3.Dan the Man Can

#1 MONTANA MAN has a couple of decent morning moves for today's career starter, and was sired by Constitution, who had a Sackatoga firster positively crush the competition here last week ( 90 Beyer ). Tricky post, but has Saez knows he has one suspension on deck to serve ( and likely two ), you know he'll be all out for every placing. #5 BEYOND GONE had a troubled but game sojourn first time out, when outrunning his odds in finishing second right here on the 18th. Major jockey change in store today, and this one draws a better post as well. #3 DAN THE MAN CAN goes turf to dirt and adds blinkers for the first time today. 


Race  3


2.Mad Munnys

3.Lord Simba

#4 ARISTOCRATIC has oodles of speed, and although pretty much losing ground late in all his outings, is looking good here. Gelding got the job done the only time he was entered at this level, and 12% conditioner is 3-11 with mid level dirt sprinters who were OTB 42-50 days back @ 18-1 or less ( $22, $5 & $15 ). Four returnees from the most recent have posted a cumulative 4:2-0-1 ledger in their subsequent starts ( three different races ), with an average Beyer improvement of two points. #5 MAD MUNNYS finds himself at an all time low and has done his best work at this distance. #1 LORD SIMBA was kept in jail after the July 12th claim, by Sciacca, and is now hiked up in price by a few grand. Trainer/jockey combo had a wire job on Saturday and can land a share here with a tidier trip. 


Race  4 


2.Honorable Hero


#7 GOSILENTLY has some zip & is 2:1-1-0 @ the trip; mild selection in a blase' affair. #5 HONORABLE HERO hasn't shown much since being purchased for 40 large three back, but is claim protected for the second straight start & is dropped in class a bit. #6 STEELERSFANFORLIFE may plod along for a share.  OFF TURF: 4(MTO)-3-1-10-2(MTO)


Race  5

1.Ocean Fire

2.Katama Moonlight

3.My Happy Place

#3 OCEAN FIRE goes turf to dirt and two turns to one today, and while this one may be a touch better bred for the green than the brown, it would behoove you to recognize that this one has posted some crisp morning moves over the local strip. Another slight edge in yet another affair where we were unable to toss many at first glance. #2 KATAMA MOONLIGHT hasn't been in action since early December, but the adjusted figure from that day says that she fits well with these, and bullet gate breeze a week & a half ago signals readiness. #1 MY HAPPY PLACE has hit the board in both starts to date, and figures to be right there once again, should Joel be able to navigate a smooth trip.


Race  6 

1.More Than Silver 

2.Big Bounty

3.English Breeze

#4 MORE THAN SILVER barely lifted a hoof in the bow, but maternal grandsire -- Mineshaft -- although a dirt wonder, did not disgrace himself on the sod, going 7:1-1-1 on the stuff, and this is yet another heat with no first draft eliminations. Price play. #1 BIG BOUNTY ( the second half of the uncoupled Gyarmati entry ) is a January foal facing mostly younger competitors, and brings two decent workoutss along for the debut. Utilizing the "Diamond in the Rough" methodology with the #5 ENGLISH BREEZE today, as there was a crisp morning gate move on the seventh of July, amidst a bevy of other ordinary breezes.  OFF TURF: 1-3-6-8-2


Race  7




#5 KIMARI bested 23 of 24 across the pond at Ascot, and did such without the use of Lasix, which is back in the mix today. Johnny V. slumping at the stand, but we are assuaged by the fact that WW is a poyfect 3 for 3 when taking the eye cups off for the first time in ungraded turf sprints ( 45-67 days ). Race goes through her. #2 DONTYOUREMEMBER is quite light from a speed figure perspective, but sometimes these babies can improve by leaps & bounds, and we like the way this gal took to the gramma last time out. #1 VAST showed some grittiness when winning at first asking right here on opening day, and while the turf pedigree is still a bit unproven, we'll chunk in because of the recent bullet.  OFF TURF: 6-4-5-7-3  NOTE: AS OF 11:46, DUE TO A LATE SCRATCH THE #4 WILL BE OUR 3RD SELECTION.


Race  8 




#8 PASSCODE was claimed for a quarter 31 days Ago ( one day out of jail ), but yet underrated Jimmy Ferraro confidently hikes this one up in class, despite being eligible to run back for a quarter. Chestnut runner missed by just a honker right here, and you know how important the race over the track is. Should sit a perfect trip from today's outside slot. #7 ALLURED hasn't been seen since Hector was a pup, but has closed out the tri off a break, and you'd be Silly McGilly to exclude, given the back figs. #6 RAPHAEL enters today off a lifetime best fast track fig, and should be left in the hopper.   


Race  9 

1.Harv Won't Tap 

2.Sycamore Lane


#7 HARV WON'T TAP is halved in price for the 2nd start off a Bruce Brown claim, and aforementioned conditioner ( from an itty bitty sampling ) is 2 for 2 w/second off the snag mid level turf stayers who missed the baccala last ouy ( 18-1 or lower ). #10 SYCAMORE LANE has a decent "declining" record, ( 26:6-3-2 ) as it shows that this one has a nose for the line. Steady if not spectacular sort has the ability to send or rate, and has fared well at the trip. #5 ARMAMENT is a popular item at the claim box, having changed addresses after three of his last five outings, and as two of those were wins, we'll toss into the mix.  OFF TURF: 1-2-4-5-9  NOTE: AS OF 10:11 P.M. MONDAY, DUE TO AN EARLY SCRATCH THE #11 WILL BE OUR 3RD SELECTION.


Race  10


2.Linda's Ballet


#5 OVERHEATED hasn't been seen since the April 20th purchase, but is 1 for 2 off the shelf, and Irad is enticed to ride. #10 LINDA'S BALLET went coast to coast like jam & toast over this course to get the diploma 32 days back, and has steadily been increasing in the speed figure department on the verde. #2 MORISSETTE bested slightly cheaper down at the shore on the 5th of July when nicely spotted by Sharp, and is protected against the claim for today's local debut.  OFF TURF: 4(MTO)-7-1-9-2


Saratoga           ( Current ):    31-234       ( $225.40 )  Beatable Favorites  6-17   ( 35.3% )     Favorites Win %:    83-234   ( 35.5% )


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