At the races

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(Host) This summer commentator Will Curtis spent a day in Saratoga, at the race track of Seabiscuit fame, where his wife Jane backed a winner.

(Curtis) My daughter and my wife Jane share a love of horses. As a child Jane owned a shetland pony, a retired circus pony. Jane said Molly, the pony, was twice as smart as she was and just as stubborn. There was many a battle, Jane told me, on back roads as to whether the pair would go forward or back to the barn. But her love of the equine breed survived and passed on to daughter Kate. She is too busy now, to have a horse, but every May, we celebrate the ritual of the Kentucky Derby at her house, complete with Mint Juleps. And every year we tell each other that we must go over to Saratoga for the races but then summer is suddenly gone along with the horses. So there was some astonishment in early August this year when Kate said firmly, “We’re going to the races!”

Saratoga isn’t far away, just across the Hudson River, but it might be in a foreign country so different it is from my Connecticut Valley. Kate is something of an expert at racing and as soon as we could find a place to park the car, she got us all racing sheets with the experts’ tips for the day. While the two studied the sheets I thought how beautiful and interesting Saratoga’s race grounds were with tree shaded stables and all the activities surrounding race horses.

Jane and Kate went right to the railing and hung there like old timers, watching the sweaty runners of the just-finished race walking back, watching the huge machines grooming the track. Then Jane said she had made up her mind. She had picked her horse and went with three dollars clutched in her hand to make her bet on the fourth race. The horse was named “Connie’s Magic,” and the tip sheet said she liked wet going. Since it had just rained the track looked very wet to me. I wished her well.

After a long wait Connie’s Magic paraded by the stands looking like any other horse, the only difference being that her jockey had an ugly black and yellow shirt. Finally they were off, with a horse ridden by a jockey in bright pink far in the lead. Then to my astonishment and Jane’s delight Connie’s Magic pulled ahead and came tearing by in the lead right by Jane and the finishing line.

After Jane stopped screaming she announced that she would treat us all when she had collected her winnings. I sat down and waited. She came back with her original three dollars plus 90 cents! Unfortunately everything seemed to cost at least four dollars so she bought one coke to share.

I’m glad I went to the races but next year I think I’ll let the two go by themselves!

Will Curtis of Woodstock, Vermont.

Will Curtis is an author and naturalist. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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