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Special Section: Inside Saratoga


The $25 Question

Trying to beat the Saratoga system with limited resoures

By David King

'Who's in charge of this joint? What kind of sick trap is this?" I'm shouting out my window at anyone who will listen. And, at this point, the only one who might is a horse that's giving me the "I'm-a-better-listener-when-I'm-chewing-a-carrot" stare.

I'm out here on this godforsaken sand circle, unsure where to park, unsure when to stop, all jacked-up on Mountain Dew and espresso. The bored parking attendant handed me a ticket that said something about parking on the Oklahoma practice track, but clearly this was an attempt to pen me in, get me in an inescapable circle, let my gas run down, and let my wits seep away before the vultures swoop in to peck at my dignity and cash, the sun's rays beating down on me just like the fuzz, certainly, soon will.

Worried I'm drawing too much attention to myself, I assure the horse, "I'm with the mainstream press, none of that shifty alternative stuff they are peddling these days! I don't even know what a blog is! I swear!"
This was supposed to be a simple assignment: Head to Saratoga with only $25 and try my best to make money while having a comfortable trip. I remember the guy who pitched it saying, "Any Metrolander could do it. It'll be fun!"

"Curse that deceptive, careless brute who shackled me with this deadly assignment!" I think as I finally bring my vehicle to rest in front of the fence. I hop out, acting as normal as possible. I check the trunk; normal-person shirt? Check. Wallet? Check. Average Joe cap? Check. Water bottle? Check.
I spill the contents of my water bottle all over the front of my black-striped shirt as I'm herded onto a bright yellow school bus with an all-too-happy and courteous, mustached driver. "Damnit!" I think. "I'm going to have to try the lemonade."

Finally, I and the rest of the chattel are delivered to the gates of my first mark, the Saratoga Race Course.
"Just one?" a smiling woman asks as I hand her my precious $20. An officer observing the crowd turns and locks my darting eyes in a deep stare. He seems to be looking past me into my nervous heart. I look around behind me, under me, above me, unsure what she might be implying, and then when I'm satisfied it's just an innocent mistake, I nervously reply, "Yes, just us." She laughs, and I try to make my getaway. But the officer holds out his hand.
"This is it! It's over already," I think to myself as I hang my head down and turn my arms to the officer, ready to be shackled and dragged away. But instead the woman hands me a slip for a free Saratoga shirt.
"Up on these shifty bastards already!" I think to myself as I scurry off to claim the first of my bounty. The proud new owner of a handsome, blue Saratoga T-shirt, I feel triumphant, but something still isn't right. "This place is getting to me. I think Igetting . . . thirsty."

I celebrate my gains by sampling some sweet trackside lemonade for $4.50. Then I head to the general-admission trackside area, where I am struck by the charms of an ice-cream vendor and wooed into spending another $4.50 on a waffle cone full of chocolate soft-serve.
With my lemonade and ice cream in hand, I settle in to watch the race. "Look, Dad, a cow-horse!" some demon child shouts from the stands. "My god! What are they teaching these monsters?" I wonder as I quickly wipe the cream off my face and discreetly discard my lemonade. Then I see the brown-and-white-patched horse the kid must have been referring to.

I maneuver to get a glimpse of the angry beasts, to see if perhaps the one I was conversing with earlier might be in the race. But the members of the trackside herd hop up, standing on their seats, their posteriors in my way, and then they are off. Grandma-hips is in the lead, shaking her rump, followed by drunken biker with stinky cigar, barely keeping his balance, and up comes top-heavy blonde, spilling her beer onto her ample cleavage. I walk away not knowing whether a race has even taken place, except for the announcer's incoherent jibber-jabber.
Three dollars plus $4.50 plus $4.50 equals $12. I'm down to $13. It's time to play the odds.
With a crisp, new $10 bill in hand, I make my way to the betting window with great purpose. Only one step before getting to the teller, it hits me: I don't know how to play the odds! I don't know how to bet on horses!
"Oh, God, what do I do? You can't let these animals know they've outwitted you! Hmmm. What horse should I bet on?" I muse out loud on the chance that some pure-hearted schmo will point me in the right direction. "Oh, you haven't bet before?" asks the woman behind me. "You should get a tip sheet!" she says, smiling. She and her companions offer theirs and ask, "What size bet are you starting with?"

I'm cornered on all sides. The teller is glaring at me, waiting for me to drop my $10 into her dark, black abyss. The bettors chatter around me like prowling cats.

"Get your paws off me, you silly track panthers!" I mutter as I slip away from them. I duck into a line of departing jockeys, accompanied by police officers who are too busy helping little children get the jockeys' autographs to bother with me. And then Ifree and headed toward a true gamblers' refuge-the Racino.

Taking money from machines is not the science some would have you believe. No, my friends, it is an art. It takes the right finesse and flair to convince a machine to cough up the dough. Under the mood lights and flashing gaming signs, I feed my crisp Hamilton into a receptive video-poker machine. I press "Deal," and there are two Queens staring at me; I hold them and an Ace, discard the rest. The machine makes a purring sound, and then tells me I have doubled my money. I slap the "Print Ticket" button, and briskly make my way to the teller.
"Let's keep this on the up-and-up. I'm not a sucker," I assure the woman behind the counter as she slides me my brand-new Jackson. The woman next to me seems to be changing in tickets for some exorbitant sum of money, but rather than stick around feeling inadequate, I run from the building like a madman, laughing all the way. Then, it's off to Broadway to celebrate with my newfound riches.

As quickly as it came, it is gone again, as I hand my Jackson over to a Last Vestige employee in exchange for a used, deluxe copy of Futuristic Dragon and a bad metal CD.

I walk over to Borders and slump down in front, utterly defeated, wondering if I should do a little panhandling or simply wait 'til the fuzz drag me off for a free, city-sponsored stay in lockdown. But then I realize that I have not come unprepared for this moment. A like-minded free-thinker had handed me tickets to Willie Nelson at SPAC earlier in the week. With the tickets as leverage, I place a call to my attorney, and soon we are dining at one of the city's better restaurants. Then, later, with my stomach full and arms sunburned, I fall asleep under a tree as Willie Nelson reminds Saratoga: "Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys."

Saratoga Calendar


BEEKMAN STREET ART DISTRICT (Beekman Street, Saratoga Springs). Sat: Willie the Moak (3 PM).

CONGRESS PARK (Saratoga Springs, 587-3241). Tue: George Fletcher’s Bourbon Renewal (7 PM).

THE GAZEBO AT SARATOGA RACE TRACK (Saratoga Race Track, Saratoga Springs, 238-1331). Wed: Sonny and Perley, Tom Charlap, Brian Melick.

REEL MEALS (86 Congress St., Saratoga Springs, 583-8883). Sun-Thu: Sinatra—An American Icon with Val Peters.

SARATOGA GAMING AND RACEWAY (342 Jefferson St., Saratoga Springs, 584-2110). Thu: TS Ensemble.

SARATOGA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (Saratoga State Park, Saratoga Springs, tickets: 476-1000). Sun: the Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Allman Brothers Band.

UPBEAT ON THE ROOF (815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 580-8080). Fri: SKP and the Shaggy Rollers.


9 MAPLE AVENUE (9 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-CLUB). Fri: John Blood Band. Sat: Jazz Factor.

THE ALLEY BAR (Long Alley Road, Saratoga, 587-9766). Tue: karaoke with Mark the Shark.

BACKSTREET BILLIARDS (63 Putnam St., Saratoga Springs, 583-2503). Sat: the Empire State Troopers, Buzzard and the Let Downs.

BAILEY’S (Phila and Putnam streets, Saratoga Springs, 583-6060). Thu: Jeff and Becky Walton. Fri: Pangaea. Sat: Rich Ortiz. Sun: Nate.

BRINDISI’S RESTAURANT (390 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 587-6262). Thu, Sun: Al Bruno. Fri: the Heaters. Tue: Richie Ortiz. Jimmy Kelly. Fri: Mooncat.

CAFFE LENA (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 583-0022). Thu: open mic (7 PM). Fri: Adriondack Night with Peggy Lynn, Dan Duggan, Dan Berggren. Sat: Danny Kalb, Jeremy Wallace Trio. Sun: Sonny & Perley. Wed: Tobias, Joe Nacco and the Crappuccinos.

CHAMELEON ON THE LAKE (251 County Route 67, Saratoga Springs, 581-3928). Thu: Sensemaya (6:30 PM).

CHEZ SOPHIE (Saratoga Hotel, 534 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 583-3538). Fri, Sun, Tue: Cole Broderick.

CIRCUS CAFÉ (392 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 583-1106). Sat: karaoke with A-Man Productions.

CLANCY’S TAVERN (43 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 584-1338). Mon: Chance.

THE CLUB HOUSE (30 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0686). Fri-Sat: DJ Daniel Van D, hiphop, club mixes

THE GROTTO NIGHTCLUB (388 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 584-CAVE). Thu: Deadboy and the Elephant Men

MARE RISTORANTE AND OTTO LOUNGE (17 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-6955). Thu: Bobby Dick and the Sundownders. Fri: Robonic Raggae Band. Sat: IMI. Sun: Pangea.

ONE CAROLINE STREET (1 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-2026). Thu: Masters of Nostalgia. Fri: Sarah Pedinotti. Sat: Brian Patneaude Duo. Tue-Wed: Chuck D’Aloia.

THE PARTING GLASS (40-42 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-1916). Fri: Bluz House Rockers. Mon: the Back40 Band.

PEABODY’S SPORTS BAR (Phila Street, Saratoga Springs, 583-4214). Thu: open mic with Mike Grutka.

SIRO’S (168 Lincoln Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-4030). All shows at 6 PM. Thu: Groove Syndicate. Fri: the Big Smoothies. Sat: the Burners UK. Sun: the Heaters. Mon: Vivid.

VENUE NIGHT CLUB (30 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0686). Fri-Sat: DJ Daniel Van D, hiphop, club mixes.


Nunsensations . . . The Nunsense Vegas Revue, Saratoga Springs City Center, 522 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 8/10-12, 8 PM; 8/12 also at 2 PM. $15. 581-9401.

The Vagina Monologues, Saratoga Arts Center, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 8/10-12, 7:30 PM. $16, $14 seniors and students. 636-4674.


Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs. 8/10, 7:30 PM: Charles Dutoit conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra in works by Mozart, Debussy and Ravel. Violinist Sarah Chang will be featured on Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. 8/11, 7:30 PM: Christoph Eschenbach conducts the PO in works by Beethoven and Pintscher. 8/12, 7:30 PM: Charles Dutoit conducts the PO, with guest pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, in works by Rossini, Liszt, Debussy and Musorgsky. $63-$30, $18 lawn. 587-3330.

Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs. 8/13, 2:15 PM: Pianist Dr. Richard Kogan presents recital-lecture on Robert Schumann, titled Schumann: Music, Mood Swings and Madness. $40, $35. 587-3330.

Museums & Galleries

62 Beekman Street Bistro Gallery, 62 Beekman St., Saratoga Springs. 683-1631. Works by Zachary Lobdell. Through 8/31.

70 Beekman Street Fine Art Gallery, 62 Beekman St., Saratoga Springs. 542-6688. The Summer Show 2006—Salem Art Works. Through 9/6.

Gallery 100, 468 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-0818. Get Your Beverages Here, a juried exhibition. Through 9/10.

Gallery at Wesley, 131 Lawrence St., Saratoga Springs. 587-3600. Works by Barbara Riehle. Through 8/31.

National Museum of Dance, 99 S. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-2225. Eleanor Rigby’s Resurrection: Images Inspired by Music’s Icons. Through 9/6. Reception 8/11, 5:30 PM. Also, Dancers on the Edge. Through 8/15. Also, Dance of the Iroquois, an exhibit exploring the social traditions of the Native Iroquois; also, Young Dancer, photographs by Mark Sadan; also Memoirs of a Lake George Showboat Performer. Through 12/31.

National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, 191 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs. 584-0400. California Images: the Racing Photography of Bill Mochon; also, Golden Memories; also, paintings from the Charles H. Thieriot collection. Through 12/31. Springs. 587-1935 ext. 20. John Fitch: An American Racing Hero. Through 11/14. Also, East of Detroit, and New York Racing exhibit. Ongoing.

Saratoga Cardiology, 6 Care Lane, Saratoga Springs. 587-4101. Works by Preston Babcock. Through 8/31.

Saratoga County Arts Council, Members Exhibition Hall, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-4132. Works by Judy Drake. Through 8/31.

Saratoga County Arts Council, Arts Center Gallery, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-4132. Saratoga: Inside Out, a juried exhibition. Through 9/3.

Saratoga Hospital Medical Library, 211 Church St., Saratoga Springs. 583-8301. Works by Viviana Puello. Through 8/31.

Saratoga Springs Amtrak Train Station, Station Lane, Saratoga Springs. Works by Marianne Szuberla. Through 8/31.

Saratoga Springs Public Library, 49 Henry St., Saratoga Springs. 584-7860. Works by Christina Sokolow. Through 8/31.

Saratoga Traveler, 400 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 583-2929. Works by Cynthia Whitman. Through 9/4.

Saratoga Visitors Center, 297 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 587-3241. Works by Judy Rosell. Through 8/31.

Skidmore College, Schick Art Gallery, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-5049. Misleading Trails. Through 9/22.

Tang Teaching Museum and Gallery, Skidmore College, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-8080. Opener 11: Nina Katchadourian: All Forms of Attraction. Through 12/30. Also, And Therefore I Am, an exhibit that questions the nature of human consciousness. Through 9/10.

Wellness Center of Saratoga, 6 Care Lane, Saratoga Springs. 583-6821. Works by Pam Malsan. Through 8/31.

Farmers Markets

Malta/Saratoga Farmers Market, Dave Meager Community Center, Route 9, Malta. Tuesdays, 11 AM-2 PM.

Saratoga Farmers Market, High Rock Park, High Rock Avenue, Saratoga Springs. Saturdays, 9 AM-1 PM; Wednesdays, 3-6 PM.

South Glens Falls/Saratoga Farmers Market, Village Park, Spring Street, S. Glens Falls. Mondays, 11 AM-2 PM. Saratoga Race Course

Open daily through Sept. 4, except Tuesdays

Location 267 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-6200.

Admission $3 grandstand, $5 clubhouse; children under 12 free; seats are $6 and $7, respectively

Parking $10 per car at the trackside and $5 across the street at the Oklahoma Training Track. General parking is free.

Racing Nine or 10 races a day; pari-mutuel wagering on every race.

First Race Post Time is at 1 PM (except Travers Day, Aug. 26, when it’s at 12:30 PM).

Major Stakes Races The Sword Dancer Invitational (Aug. 12); the Alabama Stakes (Aug. 19); the Travers Stakes (Aug. 26); the Woodward (Sept. 2).

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