Saratoga County

Opening day at Saratoga brings tales of past adventures

Everyone who comes here leaves with a Saratoga story.

Everyone who comes here leaves with a Saratoga story.

Some are good, others poignant, many funny. A handful are indictable. A public service message: Don’t be that guy.

Saratoga Race Course opened on a pitch-perfect, sunny Friday for another season. The main gates opened at 11 a.m., two hours before the first race, and the traditional charge of crowd heralded a new year, a new chance to create new stories.

As fans mingled and digested racing sheets and downed late morning beers, a few shared their Saratoga stories:

Must be the water

Sitting in the backyard, Chuck Kania of Ballston Lake thought of his father.

“Years ago, when Dad was here, we would go to the Red Springs,” Kania said of the mineral waters. “He loved it.”

“He claimed that’s why he lived to 93,” Kania’s wife, Dottie, added.

“He claimed that’s why he would live forever. And my mother is 93.”

Chuck Kania is a remarkably young-looking 71. Does he partake in this mineral liquid whose taste can best be described as acquired?

“I’ll have a little glass,” he said, “and that’s it.”

Love at first win

Albert and Margaret Merck of Galway first came to the track two years ago, on a day as sunny and pleasant as Friday.

“Our first time, I win the trifecta. We won $130,” Albert Merck said, nursing a Michelob Light. “It paid for our day and then some, thanks to some no-name horse.”

They haven’t had a win like that since. No matter.

“We got hooked,” he said.

Should have listened

In the 1980s, former Albany County Executive James Coyne was part-owner of a race horse named Shadowmar.

“He won five times and always paid huge prices,” Coyne said.

One day at Saratoga, a pair of turf writers asked him about the chances of his horse winning. “I think he’s going to win,” he replied.

“I could almost hear them snickering,” Coyne said.

Of course, Shadowmar won and paid big. Coyne enjoyed the dejected reaction of the writers — who apparently did not act on Coyne’s tip — as much as his horse reaching the winner’s circle.

“They were like they lost their best friend,” he said.

Confusion, then awe

At the conclusion of the 2012 Travers Stakes, “Photo” flashed on the board. One minute turned into two, then three.

“There were 50,000 people here,” Ken Ille II of Schenectady said. “There was a lot of confusion going on — even after “Dead Heat” was put on the board. Then there was just amazement.”

The dead heat between Alpha and Golden Ticket was the first in the history of the race.

New best memory

Sitting with his son under the grandstand, Ken Ille of Schenectady recalled his best day at the track.

“I remember the opening day, a beautiful opening day, 30,000 to 40,000 people,” he said. “And I went to Saratoga National [golf course]. And nobody will be there. They’ll be here.”

Wait. When did this happen?

“In about an hour and a half,” he said.

And another Saratoga memory awaited.

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