In the summer of 2015, I drove 1,224 miles one way to watch 12 days of live racing at Saratoga, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Saratoga embodies everything that is good about horse racing. In Andrew Beyer's classic book, "Picking Winners," he wrote about a friend of his who was obsessed by playing the horses. Beyer titled the chapter "The Joy of Handicapping." Beyer tells the reader about his friend from Boston who would awaken at dawn and study the races all morning. He would then spend the afternoon at the track and devote his evening to stuyding the Racing Form. "He didn't have much money," Beyer said. "But his life was a joy. Every day was a new challenge, a new adventure."
For the horse racing fan, life should be a joy. For the horse lover, life should be a joy. And Saratoga is the greatest place in the world to enjoy every moment of the outdoors, the thoroughbreds, and the joy of handicapping. It is the summer place to be. Beyer referred to "the capacity to enjoy." Beyer's Boston friend didn't think there was anything abnormal about his passion. He told Beyer that God gave him the capacity to enjoy. On opening day of Saratoga 2021, I want to encourage all horse racing fans and all horseplayers to enjoy Saratoga. Six years ago, my wife and I took off for three weeks and drove to Saratoga. We stopped at Presque Isle Downs, we took in an evening at Saratoga Harness, and we spent 12 days- including Whitney Day- watching live racing at Saratoga. Whether you go every summer or whether you have one chance in a lifetime, I want to encourage you to go to Saratoga and enjoy every moment.
Life should be a joy, but too many times we get stuck putting off our travels, our future plans, our favorite things to do. The first century philosopher Seneca wrote, “You are living as if destined to live forever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply — though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire… How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end!”
In 2015, I wanted to go on vacation. After a busy and stressful year, my wife and I needed a vacation. And where else would a horseplayer want to go but Saratoga. Looking back, we didn't have an infinite supply of money, but we were rich in the areas of time and mobility. As employees of the school system, we both had summers off. We had no kids, no dogs, and no fish to feed. We were free to be gone for three weeks. So, we took off towards Saratoga.
I'm no Stoic, but I felt like the first-century philosopher Seneca would have approved of our trip. “Putting things off is the biggest waste of life,” he wrote. “It snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”
I learned a major life lesson that summer. The whole future lies in uncertainty. No one has an overflowing supply of time. Live immediately. Don’t squander the days. We drove to Saratoga for weeks three and four of the best horse racing in the country. Why? Because I realized how many years had already passed, and I didn't want to squander another moment.
In the Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss writes, “There’s never a good time to have a baby. For all the most important things, the timing always sucks.” Whether you are talking about quitting a job or planning a three week dream vacation, I go by Tim’s advice: “Conditions are never perfect. ‘Someday’ is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. If it’s important to you and you want to do it ‘eventually,’ just do it and correct course along the way.”
In 2015, we did just that. We simply took off for Saratoga and corrected course along the way. People overuse the word bucket list, but Saratoga is on the horseplayer bucket list for sure. Referring to his first trip to Saratoga, legendary horseplayer and writer Steve Crist said, "Saratoga seemed like the best place I had ever been- heaven, or at least summer camp, for a horseplayer, a gleaming little village where for four weeks a year everyone went to the races all day and talked about them all night. Everyone in town seemed to have a Daily Racing Form under his arm, and while I didn't know a soul, I felt as if they were all kindred spirits."
Saratoga was important to me. I wanted to visit eventually. So, in the summer of 2015, we rented a Ford Fusion and drove 1,224 miles from Minnesota to Saratoga Race Track. Then, we drove 1,224 miles back. Fast forward to the summer of 2021, and I have zero regrets for that trip. I now have a job where it would be more challenging to take three weeks off in the summer. My wife is leading several weeks of volleyball camp this summer and we now have a 7-month-old baby. There are seasons of life and this is a diaper changing season for us. So, if you can't travel to Saratoga this summer, it's ok. We all understand that there are seasons of life, but make plans today for your trip next summer.
Living through a global pandemic should make us all more grateful for every moment and every experience. Don't take for granted a single day spent at the racetrack. Start making your plans today to attend Saratoga. Enjoy the food, the paddock, and the backyard. Enjoy the best racing in the country and the intimacy of the place. Andrew Beyer said, “When the racing season began at Saratoga and I walked into the track for the first time after a year's absence, I was reminded of all the wonderful virtues of the racing game. I could not possibly want a better life.” Well said Mr. Beyer. It's heaven, or at least summer camp, for a horseplayer. Live immediately right? Just go and correct course along the way.