Thursday, April 24, 2008

Racetrack Backstretch Workers need help

Subject: Backstretech workers - items badly needed

Dear Friends,

As you may know I have been passionate about the dire needs of the backstretch workers right here in our own backyard. Many of the behind the scenes workers arrived this week - some with just the clothes on their backs. I have been working for the last year with the Race Track Chaplaincy who administer to the emotional and physical needs of the backstretch workers and any help you can offer would be GREATLY APPRECIATED.

The following items are in desperate need:

(Note: x-large is the biggest size we can accept)

If you are able to donate any items I will gladly get them to the workers for you. I am located at 38 Adams Street which is 2 blocks off of Nelson, adjacent to the side entrance to the track and 1 block off of Lincoln....over in the "President" streets. I have a screened porch and items can be left there. Please leave your name so the Chaplaincy can thank you for your donation.

Please feel free to pass this email on to friends who may also want to help.

With my thanks and deep appreciation,

Nancy Fritch

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Go to and put Victoria Pool 2008 new petition into search for petitions

Victoria Pool in Saratoga Spa State Park should open on Memorial Day 1 Signatures

Published by vicpool on Apr 19, 2008
Category: Health
Region: United States of America
Target: patrons of the Victoria Pool and Saratoga Spa State Park
Web site:
Save the Victoria Pool Society
Location: Saratoga Springs, New York, United States

Save The Victoria Pool Society is a grass-roots group formed in June 2003 to restore, maintain and preserve the Historic Victoria Pool and Saratoga Spa State Park with its architectural treasures opened July 26, 1935.

The Victoria Pool was known originally as the Recreation Center then the Spa Pool and sometimes The Pool in the Pines. In December 2003, Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro announced that $1.5 million would be spent on the restoration of the Victoria Pool over the next two years.

Senator Bruno and Assemblyman Tedisco, our local federal, state and city elected officials also helped to get the money to rehabilitate the Victoria Pool. Warren Holliday, Regional Director, was in charge of the restoration. With the election of Governor Spitzer the Parks Commissioner is now Carol Ash. In March 2008,Alane Ball Chinian, became the new Regional Director under Governor Patterson.

Current Board members are: Louise, Andrew, Stanton, Carole, Maureen, Barbara, Roger, Doug, Paul, Peter, Virginia&Ed,Anita, Bob, Holly, Rick,Tom.
We, the undersigned, call on the New York State Parks Department to open the newly restored Victoria Pool in Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs, NY from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Save the Victoria Pool Society and the Undersigned:
Sign the petitionThe Victoria Pool in Saratoga Spa State Park should open on Memorial Day petition to patrons of the Victoria Pool and Saratoga Spa State Park was written by vicpool and is hosted free of charge at GoPetition.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

They're OFF at Oklahoma! April 15,2008

Posted on Tue, Apr 15, 2008 Zoom + | Zoom -
Let the training begin
Horses arrive for spring training at the Oklahoma Training Track
By PAUL POST, The Saratogian

Spring training gets underway today at the Oklahoma Training Track. Monday was move-in day at the track. Numerous totes are stacked outside Barn 54. (MATTHEW TURRI/The Saratogian)SARATOGA SPRINGS — Hugh McDonald has transported horses all over the world, from Dubai to Japan.

Monday morning was no different for the Syosset, Long Island, resident who got up long before dawn to get ready for a job moving horses from Belmont Park to Saratoga Race Course in anticipation of today’s Oklahoma Training Track opening.

Gary Contessa, a leading New York trainer, shipped 80 horses upstate, where they are slated to work out from 5 to 11 a.m. today.

“I’ve been around them all my life,” said McDonald, owner of Fox Lair Horse Transport. “My father was in the business. My grandfather was a dealer.”

One time, he accompanied 11 thoroughbreds on a flight from Florida to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. One of them was Secretariat, another Riva Ridge.

“I treat cheap horses the same as expensive ones,” he said. “You’ve got to be very careful driving. You can’t be hitting the brakes. If they’ve got hair on ’em, I’ll take care of them and love them.”

Monday’s new arrivals included a group of 2-year-olds, each trying to become another champion. A brisk wind whipped dust through Horse Haven, where Contessa has seven barns full of horses, another sure sign of spring and a reminder that track season isn’t that far off — 99 days to be exact.

“Over the next two weeks, there will be about 975 horses in Saratoga,” said John Lee, New York Racing Association spokesman.

The big horse vans rolled in not just with animals, but all kinds of equipment — bridles, saddles, hay nets, rakes, wheel barrows and dozens of green feed buckets.

Fifteen grooms and an equal number of hot walkers also made the trip north, moving into training track dorms where they’ll be spending the next several months. The scene looked like a college campus on Labor Day weekend, with personal belongings ready to be moved in — bicycles, refrigerators, TVs, mattresses and bed springs.

“All the staff that was at Belmont is moving up here today,” said Melvin Winney, one of Contessa’s assistant trainers.

Today, they’ll be up at 4 a.m. to clean stalls, water and feed horses. Each groom is assigned a handful of horses and they hit the track in sets at different predetermined times.

Contessa still has 40 horses at Aqueduct, about half of which will eventually make their way to Saratoga.

“I only train in New York,” he said. “I ship to race at other tracks, but I don’t train anywhere else.”

He was the first trainer to move horses north, because his Belmont Park barn is used for a race-day drug testing program and the Belmont spring and summer meet is scheduled to start April 30, Winney said.

The process of getting horses ready for transport began Sunday. Meanwhile, workers in Saratoga Springs got stables ready with fresh supplies of hay and straw.

A year ago, no one knew who would be running the tracks as NYRA faced challenges from three other firms seeking the next racing contract. In February, NYRA threatened to close its tracks, possibly throwing people out of work, because the franchise situation still hadn’t been resolved. Now, it’s got a new 25-year contract to work with, which becomes effective as soon as its bankruptcy situation is resolved.

Today’s Oklahoma Training Track opener is one sure sign that there will be a 2008 Saratoga Race Course season after all. There’s an unmistakable air of excitement when the horses arrive back in town, while for those who handle them, it’s all just part of the business.

“For us, it’s a career, it’s a job,” Winney said.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Sheik speaks

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Posted on Sat, Apr 12, 2008 Zoom + | Zoom -
Fasig-Tipton auction house purchased by Dubai sheik
By PAUL POST, The Saratogian

A sales announcer calls out auction-goers’ bids during the Fasig-Tipton yearling sales in Saratoga Springs in August 2007. (MATTHEW TURRI file photo/The Saratogian)SARATOGA SPRINGS — One of the Spa City’s most important industries could be in store for major improvements from one of the world’s richest investors.

Dubai-based Synergy Investments Ltd., closely allied with Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed, has purchased Kentucky-based Fasig-Tipton Co., whose Saratoga sales each August are among the world’s most prestigious thoroughbred horse auctions.

But the firm’s goal isn’t just to improve sales, but to enhance the entire North American racing experience, in which the sheikh has already has invested more than $1 billion, a spokesman said.

“There are lots of things we can do,” said Terence Collier, Fasig-Tipton’s director of marketing. “Saratoga is one of the most important horse markets in the world. We want to bring a higher level of service to the industry and yes, we intend to grow the business.

“That’s our objective.”

New York State Racing Commissioner Harry Snyder, of Saratoga Springs, said Synergy’s investment should mean good things for the Spa City.

“It means there’s going to be an unlimited supply of capital to put into the business,” he said. “Whatever they take on, they do a first-class job. It should be good for the town and for the entire thoroughbred industry. It’s (Fasig-Tipton) a well-run company. I’m sure it will be even more so with the Moktoums involved.”

The sheik, believed to be among the world’s five richest people, spent a reported

$17.5 million for an exclusive thoroughbred training center on Nelson Avenue last year. His net worth is estimated at nearly $30 billion and he owns Godolphin Racing, among the world’s most successful stables, and Darley breeding operation.

At the 2007 Fasig-Tipton November mixed sale, he paid $5.75 million for bought multiple Grade I winner Round Pond and $4 million for Eclipse Award finalist Octave.

The Fasig-Tipton sale becomes official in May, Collier said. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. He said that no immediate personnel or operations changes are anticipated. The Fasig Tipton name will stay the same, too.

Fasig-Tipton’s principal owner John Hettinger, who’s had serious health problems in recent years, is a part-time Saratoga Springs resident with a house on Circular Street. Snyder credited him with rescuing and restoring integrity to Fasig-Tipton.

“Our agreement includes an understanding that Fasig-Tipton will be operated in a manner consistent with the principles of integrity, customer service, and industry service which have been so critical to our success since controlling interest was obtained by the Hettinger family in 1991,” board Chairman D.G. Van Clief Jr. said in a prepared statement. “Those assurances were critical to John and his son Bill Hettinger, and our entire board of directors, in agreeing to this transaction.”

Founded in 1898, Fasig Tipton is North America’s oldest thoroughbred auction company. In addition to Saratoga Springs, it conducts auctions in Lexington, Ky., Timonium, Md., Miami, Fla. and Grand Prairie, Texas.

Its main two-day Saratoga sale is surpassed only by the September Keeneland sale, Collier said.

“Most people around here, if you ask what the highlight of the Saratoga meet is, they’ll say Travers Week,” said Mike Kane, communications director at the National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame. “For the industry its sales week. It’s a really important part of the fabric of the Saratoga season. We’re not just racing here in Saratoga.

“Many of the greatest horses that have gone through the auction ring have been sold here in Saratoga. It’s a fun, interesting thing just to see that part of the business.”

Sales are held at the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion on East Avenue, where Hall of Fame inductions also take place. Kane said he’s been assured by Fasig Tipton officials that Hall of Fame ceremonies can stay there.

“I talked to Boyd Browning (executive vice president/COO) and he told me that everything would continue as it has in the past,” Kane said Friday. “It’s a great venue for us.”

This year’s inductions are slated for Monday, Aug. 4. Fasig-Tipton’s main two-day sale kicks off that night. Last year’s sales totaled more than $41 million, an average of $289,000 per horse. Gross sales have ranged from $40 million to $60 million each of the past 10 years, Collier said.

“That’s a lot of business for the small town of Saratoga to enjoy in two nights,” he said.

However, demand for hotel space is so great that buyers, sellers and bloodstock agents sometimes have difficulty finding a room.

Holiday Inn General Manager Cindy Hollowood said that demand for rooms is normally highest from Wednesday through Saturday during the racing meet. During Fasig-Tipton sales, Monday and Tuesday are equally busy, she said.

“That does place a great amount of demand,” she said.

Collier said that Synergy will take immediate steps, beginning this year, to help people with everything from lodging to restaurant reservations and getting a box at the track. The company’s goal is to bring new buyers, sellers and more horses into the business, he said.

“We’ll be working very closely with NYRA (New York Racing Association) and their hospitality people to help people get through the Saratoga experience in the best possible way,” Collier said.

NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward said, “Fasig-Tipton is an integral part of the Saratoga Race Course meet. We’re sure that tradition will continue under new ownership.”

Chairwoman Mabee, Saratoga-Capital District region of Parks sends letter to Saratogian

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Posted on Sat, Apr 12, 2008 Zoom + | Zoom -
Letter: Help keep New York state park system alive
By Heather Mabee, chairwoman, Saratoga-Capital District region, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commission
New York state’s heralded state park system — widely regarded as one of the finest in the nation — is at a crossroads. Over the past 15 years the system expanded 27 percent, with 29 new parks, which is great news for millions of people who visit our state parks.

However, as owners of these irreplaceable assets, we New Yorkers have not kept up with our obligation to keep our parks in good condition. Adjusted for inflation, the system’s capital budget in the last 15 years has shrunk in half.

As a result, state parks and historic sites now face a backlog of over $600 million in capital projects and overdue repairs that threaten the high quality, safety and public access to these wonderful facilities.

The Executive Budget proposes a $100-million capital initiative to revitalize our state parks system. This proposal is the first step in a long-term, comprehensive effort necessary to keep the system contributing to the state’s economy and New Yorkers’ quality of life.


The initiative will address the system’s most urgent needs — particularly the public health and safety risks such as out-of-compliance drinking water and sewage treatment systems and potentially hazardous dams and bridges. It also includes projects to make long-deferred repairs, open newly acquired parkland to the public, and protect sensitive environments.

New York state has a long history of protecting our abundance of scenic beauty, recreational opportunity and historic significance through our world-class parks system.

Now it is up to the members of the state Senate and Assembly to carry on that tradition. I urge them to support this proposal to help keep our state parks safe, beautiful and exciting.

It's Tax Time! Get tips, forms

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Post Star Blog on Park improvements, 4/9/08

SPA: Park improvements coming
The state budget contained some good news for state park advocates, who argue leaders have neglected to fund the bastions of outdoor recreation for years (even the state admits a $650 million backlog of projects statewide).

Locally, Saratoga Spa State Park is looking at getting about $3.6 million and Moreau Lake State Park around $1.83 million to fund capital projects this year. The money will be generally going towards infrastructure — like roads, trails, electric lines and bathrooms (officially called “comfort stations”) — instead of more services or longer seasons (much to the chagrin of at least one group).

At Spa Park, the most visible projects include new siding on the exterior of SPAC, which is original to the performance venue, and new playground equipment (see Post-Star photographer Erin Reid Coker’s photo below).

– Drew Kerr

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 at 3:22 pm and is filed under Saratoga Snippets. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Trying for an earlier opening for Victoria Pool once again!

Parks funding to get boost from state
Published: Tuesday, April 08, 2008

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To order copies of staff-produced photos from The Post-Star, please visit SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Louise Goldstein is hoping New York's state budget translates into a June dip at Saratoga Spa State Park's Victoria Pool.

Her enthusiasm is based on a $95 million commitment to state parks included in New York's tentative 2008-09 budget -- an investment the governor's office is calling the largest monetary dedication to capital projects in state history.

"They're always crying about money, so this certainly gives us a push when we call for an early opening," said Goldstein, the co-founder of the Save the Victoria Pool Society, a group formed in 2003 to fight for the park and lengthen the season at Saratoga Springs' only public pool.

But Alane Ball Chinian, the director for the Saratoga-Capital parks region, said the money is more likely to go toward maintenance and repair projects that have been put off during years of lesser financial support.

"The park system has been very underfunded for years, and it's been a real Band-Aid approach to keeping them open," Chinian said Monday. "The infrastructure was really suffering, and this is just playing catch-up."

The state estimates there is a $650 million backlog of necessary work statewide, and Chinian said this year's budget is only a starting point.

"This covers a tiny fraction of the needs the park has," she said. "There's still a lot of work to do."

Improvements at Saratoga Spa State Park, which are already under way and will continue this summer, total $3.6 million this fiscal year. Moreau Lake State Park is getting $1.83 million. The money will be used to update and replace restrooms, install new playground equipment, repair water and electric lines and improve roadways and trails.

Money to replace rotting siding on the exterior of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center is also expected to be delivered, allowing the project to begin this fall.

Though they may not seem like terribly exciting projects, Chinian said, combined, they will ultimately lead to a safer, more comfortable park experience.

"When bathrooms are in disrepair and lights don't work -- those are the kinds of things that discourage people from coming," she said.

The funding comes as officials at Saratoga Spa State Park begin to devise a new master plan, among the first in the state.

But Chinian said that process is directed toward the park's future -- whether or not it will invite camping, for example -- and shouldn't be affected by the work afforded in the budget.

In statements, both Carol Ash, commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation, and Gov. David Paterson lauded the state's increasing commitment to park funding.

With fuel prices peaking, Ash said, she is expecting an increasing number of people to frequent close-to-home parks.

"In light of climbing gas prices, this coming summer season may be the perfect time to explore a new destination or visit a familiar spot," she said.

Paterson, who sought to rein in spending given a projected $4 billion budget gap, said the investment could also help rejuvenate the state and local economies in the long run.

"Making long-overdue investments in our state parks will not only preserve New York's natural resources and protect our environment, but it will also serve as a critical engine of economic growth," he said. "A first-class parks system will draw residents, tourists and private investment to communities around our state."

Friday, April 04, 2008

"Depression-Era Saratoga", Library, 4/13/08, 1:30 PM, FREE Tickets required

Saratoga Reads event explores local lore of Depression era

"Tales from the Watering Hole: Remembering Depression-Era Saratoga" is
the title of a Saratoga Reads panel discussion to be held
from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 13 in the H. Dutcher Community Room at
the Saratoga Springs Public Library. The event is sponsored
by the Saratoga Springs Public Library, Friends of the Library, and the
Saratoga Springs History Museum.

The panel is part of a series of events exploring the themes of the
best-selling novel Water for Elephants, selected by a public vote as
this year's Saratoga Reads book of choice. The novel tells the tale of a
ragtag traveling circus during the Great Depression.

Through presentations and discussion, panelists will cover a range of
topics related to Depression-era Saratoga, from the colorful
entertainment and occasionally notorious figures of the times to the
impact of the Depression on the local community.

Panelists will include Mary Ann Fitzgerald, city historian and
co-founder of the West Side Oral Narrative Project; Ellen de Lalla,
historian for the public library; and writer Maria McBride Bucciferro.
The moderator will be David Patterson, past president of the
Historical Society (now the History Museum) and a teacher at Saratoga
Springs High School.

Admission is free, but tickets are required and are available at the
Information Desk at the library. Refreshments will be served.