SARATOGA SPRINGS — Three days before Tiz the Law patrolled the Saratoga Race Course grounds in the Travers, Shuttleworth Park hosted a parade of police officers.
Brian Spagnola is the general manager and president of the Amsterdam Mohawks, it was game night, but he was going to be truant because he was at … Saratoga.
Law Enforcement Night at Shuttleworth would have to wait.
As managing partner of America’s Pastime Stables, Spagnola and many of the partners watched Foxtail lead the field all the way around to the wire in the ninth race last Wednesday, got their picture taken in the winner’s circle, then hustled to the ballpark like Pete Rose crashing the plate in the 1970 MLB All-Star Game.
“We’ve got a parade of police vehicles going at 6:45, so I told them, ‘I’ll be there at 6:15 at the latest, but I’m not missing this race,” Spagnola said with a laugh that day.
The Amsterdam native has been deeply involved in Capital Region baseball his entire life, but now he is spearheading a crossover venture into racing that brings a distinctive baseball theme. And the ownership group’s red-white-and-blue silks — the front emblem is a red-stitched baseball with blue “AP” initials in it — made it to hallowed ground when Foxtail won.
“We love winning anywhere,” Spagnola said. “Aqueduct and Belmont is unbelievable, but winning here is certainly better. Whether there’s fans here or not, there’s a big bullseye here at Saratoga, with everybody watching.”
Foxtail actually was America’s Pastime’s second Saratoga win, but Bertranda was wearing the silks of co-owner Krakow Racing LLC, the nom de course for America’s Pastime’s trainer, Mertkan Kantarmaci, when she won the seventh race on the July 23 card. America’s Pastime and Krakow own all their horses in a 50-50 split.
Spagnola is managing partner of America’s Pastime, with Jason Brinkman, Jon Sargalis, Keith Griffin and Spagnola’s son, Max, as key members of the management team.
Brinkman is general manager of the Albany Dutchmen, who are rivals of the Mohawks in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. Their season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but some teams were able to cobble together a five-week Independent Collegiate Baseball League season that just concluded, with a battery of health and safety protocols and limited attendance.
America’s Pastime began a year and a half ago with about 20 partners, and it has grown to 80, at various levels of share involvement.
As of Aug. 5, the stable had 21 total horses, 13 of which are racing or in training. Seven or eight will race at the meet before it’s over, and this will be an active week for America’s Pastime. They’ve got Bertranda and Foxtail wheeling back on Thursday, and Topper T and Leaky Cup on Friday.
“We started out with 20-something, just kind of social media posts on what we were doing, and a lot of it was bucket-list people, if you will, people who wanted to get involved and always wanted to own a horse,” Spagnola said. “It’s just grown from word of mouth, and I think we do a pretty good job with communication, and we have some fractional shares.”
The stable has 12 total wins now, including the two at the Saratoga meet.
America’s Pastime also gets involved in some sales, having purchased a filly in April at the Ocala Breeders Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training for $25,000. They named her Carly Hustle.
“The 2-year-old game is a little bit tougher, because it’s much higher risk,” Spagnola said. “But for our new partners, we try to steer them to claiming because you’re going to claim and then run right back in a few weeks. If you’re a new owner, the last thing you want to do is wait six months when you buy a horse.
“The idea when we started was to get the people we knew. We tried to come up with a name that tied in, we checked it and it was available. The silks design, we kind of played around on a napkin and some paper and fooled around with a couple things. And it all came together. Me and my son Max were sitting at the table. At first, we had crossed bats and all different things like that. Someone said do black and red because it’s the Mohawks colors, but no one knows that, so it’s America, we went with red, white and blue. But the silks are cool. We always get comments for that.”
With Foxtail’s win, America’s Pastime’s win total hit 12, including a hot streak over the winter.
They’re still getting calls and emails from people interested in joining the partnership. It probably helps that they have a big advertising signboard on the side of one of the dugouts at Shuttleworth Park.
“Obviously, winter racing is a little easier than Saratoga, but a win at Saratoga is certainly the culmination of everything,” Spagnola said. “What we do is blue-collar, just for the guy who, for a couple grand, not even, you can do this and have fun.”
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