SARATOGA SPRINGS — On most Mondays and Tuesdays during racing season, things get relatively quiet around here.
Unless there’s a free item being given away, Mondays are calm and sparsely populated at Saratoga Race Course, and downtown settles down, with many patrons from the weekend crowds having gone back to work.
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Tuesdays, of course, are even quieter, with no racing.
This week promises to be different.
A trio of partners are hosting the first Equestricon, a convention that is supposed to bring in people interested in all aspects of racing from all over the country for a series of panel discussions, presentations, seminars, vendors and social gatherings.
On the Equestricon website, Katie Sharp and Justin Nicholson, owners/breeders who co-founded Ninety North Racing Stable, and Dan Tordjman, a former ambassador for America’s Best Racing, describe their event and mission as “a first and only of its kind premiere horse racing lifestyle event designed to celebrate the sport of racing with its fans. Equestricon is an international horse racing convention, fan festival, and trade show that will bring together fans, stakeholders, industry insiders and horseplayers to participate in a lively atmosphere of engagement, discussion, and entertainment.”
Most of Equestricon will take place at the City Center on Monday and Tuesday, with some introductory and VIP events scheduled for Sunday.
Tickets are on sale at the Equestricon website.
A two-day general admission is $25 for exhibitors and activities at the Main Exhibit Hall and the opening keynote speech by Soledad O’Brien; a two-day panel ticket for $125 is good for all eight panels; and a VIP passes, which entitle ticketholders to a VIP party today and other perks, is $450.
O’Brien, a broadcast journalist and TV news executive producer who owns retired thoroughbreds, is scheduled to speak from 9:30-10 on the main convention floor.
Closing ceremonies on Tuesday will include a town hall discussion in which the floor will be open for convention attendees to ask industry leaders questions about racing.
The panel members will be Fasig-Tipton president/CEO Boyd Browning; Sagamore Racing predsident Hunter Rankin; Ed Martin, president/CEO of the Association of Racing Commissioners International; Kip Levin of TicketMaster; Peter Rotondo, VP of Content for the Breeders’ Cup; and TVG host/analyst Matt Carothers.
Trainer Mark Casse isn’t shy about pumping up the case for his 2-year-old Uncle Mo colt Mo Diddley.
He’s only raced once, but did everything wrong at the start and still won as the 2-5 betting favorite at Churchill Downs on May 18.
Mo Diddley is 8-1 on the morning line for Sunday’s Grade II Saratoga Special in what apppears to be an evenly matched field.
Casse went so far as to compare him to last year’s 2-year-old male champion, Classic Empire.
“Right now, we think he could possibly be our next Classic Empire,” Casse told the New York Racing Association. “We’re really excited and think he could be a superstar.”
There is, of course, not much evidence on the racetrack to support this.
In his one start, Mo Diddley veered sharply to the right when the gate opened, but he was able to overcome that and still win the 4 1/2-furlong race against six rivals.
“Watching the head-on, they broke and he took a right-hand turn, which 2-year-olds often do when they break on the outside the first time,” Casse said. “He went out of the picture and then all of a sudden, he reappeared and he still won.”
The 5-2 favorite is Copper Bullet off his secondf by a length and a half in the Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs.
The Saratoga Special drew one colt from the Sanford on opening weekend, the Todd Pletcher-trained Bal Harbor, who was fifth to Firenze Fire in his third start.
Preakness winner Cloud Computing breezed four furlongs in 49.09 on the main track, and trainer Chad Brown said it was an encouraging sign as they prepare for the Aug. 26 Travers. Cloud Computing was last of five in the Jim Dandy.
“I just wanted to see how the horse was moving over this track because clearly he didn’t run his race in the Jim Dandy, but it’s a much different track today than it was that day, a lot tighter, in better condition,” Brown said. “I thought the horse was moving extremely well, galloped out strong, it was just what I was looking for.”
Brown’s other Travers prospect, Timeline, worked at Belmont Park, and he said he’s not sure if he’ll be ready for the race. ...
Haskell winner Girvin had what trainer Joe Sharp called a maintenance breeze on the Oklahoma training track, and he’ll breeze next weekend, perhaps on the main. Sharp said it’s “all systems go” for the Travers. So is Jim Dandy winner Good Samaritan, who breezed four furlongs on the Oklahoma, trainer Bill Mott said.