The pace on the track was slow. The pace throughout the rest of Saratoga Race Course was slower.
So it goes with almost any Wednesday. Add overcast skies and the remnants of rain and you have all the makings of a sleepy summer day.
A huge crowd of people stayed away. Backyard benches by the dozens went unclaimed. Want a spot on the rail on the apron? Pick one. (It got only a little more crowded as the day went on.) Want a spot anywhere at the track? Pick one.
No, this was not the best of August places to be, not this day. But for the few, the diehards, they’ll take Saratoga in the rain, thank you.
“I’ve lost on every rainy day here,” said Jack Martin of Woburn, Massachusetts. That said: “I don’t care if it was raining razor blades. I’d be here.”
An entire clan of Woburnites were gathered around one of the tall metal umbrella structures that protect the high-definition monitors out back; they had a perfect view of the thoroughbreds being led to the paddock. Despite the gray skies and spitting sprinkles, there was nowhere else they would rather be.
“We were coming no matter what,” Joan Carpenter said. Peggy Martin nodded.
“There are a lot of pluses” to rainy days, she said. “There are no crowds. You don’t have to wait for anything. You still have fun. And we don’t have to scream to hear each other.”
Individual shouts during a race can be heard over a duller–than-normal roar. Underneath the grandstand was crowded, but almost anywhere else allowed bettors to be alone with their thoughts of hitting an exacta.
Tom Durkin’s voice echoed among the pines in a near-empty backyard around the time Wednesday’s first race was slated to go off: “Enjoy your afternoon . . . here . . . at the ... Spaaaaaaaaaah.” The first-race steeplechase, run on turf, was canceled, lest it turned into a demolition derby. There was more scratching than a Boy Scout troop camping in a patch of poison ivy.
Along the Union Avenue fence, Lenny Bochicchio of North Haven, Connecticut, and his brood were dry at a table under a tent. There was no consideration of not making the drive up in the rain.
“We scheduled this months ago,” he said. “We were coming up unless they closed.”
In a backyard area that can hold a couple thousand people, there were maybe a dozen early in the afternoon.
“This is good,” Bochicchio said. “Normally you’ve got to rush from the parking lot to get a table.”
Not this day, a Wednesday, a wet Wednesday. Everyone from the horses on down could take their time.