Travers: American Pharoah ahead soon

People are everywhere at Saratoga Race Course.
Saturday afternoon in Saratoga Springs, August 29th, 2015, at the Saratoga Race Course for the day of The Travers race day.
Saturday afternoon in Saratoga Springs, August 29th, 2015, at the Saratoga Race Course for the day of The Travers race day.

Here are the latest updates from Saratoga Race Course on Travers Day:

5:18 p.m.

It’s crowded. It’s loud. And it’s going to get louder.

Travers is less than 30 minutes away, and a very mellow day continues at Saratoga Race Course.

No major problems reported! But the big race is coming up. So is American Pharoah.

4:15 p.m.

The parachutists arrived in late morning. Now, folks were just treated to a helicopter landing in the infield.

Nothing serious. And the pilots are back in the air at 4:10 p.m.

People are primed for the Travers, not far away at 5:45 p.m. The track looks like it’s filled with 50,000 people – the number the New York Racing Association wanted when attendance was capped earlier this month.

Matthew Amsterdam of Manhattan is wearing his fedora and “Crown the Pharoah” button.

“As much as I love Texas Red, I’ll be shocked if Pharoah doesn’t come up the winner,” Amsterdam said.

That’s American Pharoah, the 1-5 favorite. Fans seem ready to give the Triple Crown winner a rousing, roaring welcome.

2:15 p.m.

People are everywhere at Saratoga Race Course.

The comfortable, uncrowded conditions of early morning have changed. It’s hard to find any unoccupied space in the race course back yard or paved apron across from the track’s final stretch.

Fans are sitting alongside the path reserved for jockeys, the section that runs through the back yard to the jockey’s room. They’re on every part of pavement and every patch of ground.

With five races complete on the 13-race card, it’s a festive atmosphere. A truck full of Saratoga employees just cruised down the track air-blasting T-shirts into the air. If people aren’t smelling cigar smoke, they’re catching whiffs of sausage, onions and peppers on the grill.

Parties within the Travers party are on the go. Marina Dementyeva of Manhattan enjoyed her bachelorette party with six friends. “I love the town and I love a big event,” said Dementyeva, from her party central the next to the Big Red Spring. “There are a lot of people, and this is a good place to be.”

Bow ties, star-spangled sports jackets and American Pharoah buttons are all on people. Brian Correll of Long Island is wearing a black and gold faux pharoah headdress.

“I saw him at the Derby, Preakness, Belmont and Haskell,” Correll said – kind of wondering if he was the Pharoah’s good luck charm.

11:40 a.m.

The Saratoga Travers Day – with just minutes before the first post – has started on a somber note.

Track announcer Larry Collmus just announced that Ed Lewi, who handled news and public ceremonies for Saratoga Race Course, has passed away.

Lewi was the chief of Ed Lewi Associates. Among his notable achievements was directing public relations for the Lake George Winter Olympics in 1980.

A moment of silence was observed for Lewi.

11:12 a.m.

Matthew Agen will never remember American Pharoah or his first Travers Stakes.

He’s only eight months old.That’s why mom and dad Katie and Chad Agen of Buffalo were taking pictures at Saratoga Race Course all day. So some day in 2045, Matthew will be able to tell his friends, “When American Pharoah ran at Saratoga, I was there!”

The Agens make Saratoga part of every summer. “We used to do picnics,” said Katie, who said Saturday was the first time the family had secured tickets. “It was nice not standing in line at 7 a.m.,” added Chad.

As fans waited for the first post, at 11:45 a.m., cool and comfortable was still in style. “It’s not the crowd I expected,” said Marilyn Zube of Scotia, modeling her Travers hat in the clubhouse with pal Jennifer Reid. “I’m sure it will be later.”

Others fans shopped for hats during the late morning. Karen Zacard and company were part of the crowd.

“This is a beautiful day and there are beautiful people around us,” said Zacard, of Montreal, Canada. She had company from the north – 30 other friends and family from Montreal were at the track for a family reunion.

10:07 a.m.

The National Anthem has just been played at Saratoga Race Course, and people are getting closer to the first post at 11:45 a.m.

Pleasant weather continues, and race fans continue their good humors.

Track announcer Larry Collmus has just announced the main track is fast — good news for both horses and bettors. A bunch of scratches on the card, but nothing drastic – yet!

9:30 a.m.

The first race on Saratoga Race Course’s Travers card goes off at 11:45 a.m., so people already here still have a few hours to kill.

So far, nobody is in a killing mood. It’s all friendship and brotherhood in a very mellow back yard.

It’s cool and comfortable and 63 degrees at 9:30 a.m., and there are still spots available in the yard. No picnic tables, of course, but it’s not wall-to-wall humanity in Saratoga’s country-style spaces.

Traffic on Union Avenue is moving as usual. There are no traffic jams, no symphony of car horns from impatient track fans. Roads leading to the track from the Northway, people report, are also relatively clear

Folks have already watched replays of past Travers matches on track television sets. Sure seems to be a lot of golf carts rolling up and down paths in back yard.

But all is not harmonious. Although there seemed to be little trouble or complaints about the morning rush at the main gate, people at “Gate A” – just a little farther down Union Avenue from the main entrance – told a different story.

“People were just pushing back security, the guys with the (security) wands,” said Marian Myron of Scotia. “They didn’t maintain any kind of control. It was very hectic.”

It didn’t help, Myron said, that one of the gate ticket scanners was having trouble with her equipment. Her line slowed down, while others moved through their lines – and began their runs for prime spaces – much more quickly.

Myron grabbed two tables – so she is a happy race camper right now.

8:30 a.m.

The morning rush has ended at Saratoga Race Course.

Hundreds of racing – and party – fans flooded Saratoga’s back yard at 7 a.m. Saturday for the traditional Travers Day quest for positions and picnic tables.

And for the most part, the quick-step session went smoothly. Right now, tents are up, tables are covered with plastic and early morning beers are going down easy.

There was the usual anticipation at 6:45 a.m. Guys in line began sports-style chants “We will walk!” And “Hold the line!” And “Release the hounds!”

Fans waiting in a 50-yard-long line on Union Avenue were allowed to walk toward ticket windows and turnstiles at the main gate at 6:50 a.m. Coolers were checked and security wands checked folks for metal.

One tense moment: Some people had gained early entry from another gate, security officers said, and began covering tables near the paddock. They were quickly and loudly rousted by a security team. So nobody cheated and got away with it.

Once the track opened at 7, most people either walked quickly or ran to their destinations – although security repeatedly cautioned, “No running!”

“A guy told me, ‘No running,’ I ran right past him,” said Ryan Brown of Danbury, Conn. “I wasn’t going to wait in line just to have somebody else pass me.”

People invested time to secure their spots. Andrew Bushey, 31, of Hoosick Falls and 11 pals from Hoosick were first in line at the main gate on Union Avenue. They began their wait at 11:30 a.m. Friday. That’s Friday morning.

“We went back and forth between here and King’s Tavern,” Bushey said of the bar across the street from the entrance. “We did a couple line shifts.”

Worth the time and trouble? “If we get 20 tables between the 12 of us, it will be worth it,” he said.

Bushey said some people were impressed with the team’s dedication for a Travers spot and chance to see Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.. Others were not.

“There were a lot of people who said, ‘That’s awesome!’ Bushey said. “But some people said, ‘Get a life!'”

Randy Staples of Cohoes was a little farther back in line. He claimed his spot at 5:15 a.m.

“It’s never happened before, we’ve never had a horse of this caliber running in the Travers,” Staples said. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience for a lot of people.”

Mary Stretch, 13, of South Auburn, Pa., traded in her upcoming birthday party and presents for a chance to see the great Pharoah. Parents Fran and Norman Stretch went along with the scheme.

“Her dad said if American Pharoah came close, he would bring her and a friend to see American Pharoah,” Fran Stretch said. And that’s why Mary and pal Kahlan Delamarter were waiting in line at 6 a.m.

“Brian White, 26, of Ilion, wore a black and red baseball shirt styled after American Pharoah. He was also looking for a table in the rush, and did not seem to concerned about the boisterous Hoosick Falls contingent. The frontrunners had been celebrating all night.

“We’ll see if they’re still moving by the time we get up there,” he said.

Categories: News, Sports

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