What Summertime Venue Do You Like More? Saratoga? Del Mar? I’ll Take KY Lake

(Sunset at KY Lake beats Saratoga & Del Mar for me…God is still the best artist I’ve ever seen)

We are just a day or so away from the opening of the world’s best, most fun, most glamorous, most exciting, and most thrilling mid-summer race meets at both Saratoga and Del Mar.

“The Spa,” and “Where The Turf Meets the Surf,” are highlights of any race year. The closest thing to exotic get-aways in the racing world that you can find anywhere, any time, any way.

One, Saratoga, is nestled in Saratoga Springs, near the East Coast in upper New York, and close to Lake George. Summer rains. Great racing. Drinks at Ciro’s. Dinner at the Wishing Well. Fresh garden veggies. Piano in the front foyer. Home to some of the greatest karaoke performances in history, and before karaoke was a thing.

Does it get any better than this?

Well, there are those that will argue.

The other masterpiece is ole’ Del Mar. The place Bing Crosby and some of the old, movie greats used to vacation at, and call summer time home. The track sits on — if not in, sometimes — the Pacific Ocean in breezy, sunny, beautiful suburbs of San Diego. La Hoya. La Paradise.

There’s the Brigantine Restaurant that sits on the hill, overlooking the racetrack below. You can sit on the patio outside, and, with binoculars in hand, watch the races from your perch hideaway. What a place.

Which one is best? Which one would I choose?

Well, I have to tell you, I have a strong opinion…

And, it is neither, for me, to be honest.

As Luke Bryan — the talented country music singer — would allow:

“So I’m gonna sit right here…

“On the edge of this pier

“Watch the sunset disappear

“And drink a beer.”

(My Lake buddy, Crosley, never leaves my side / Photo by Gene McLean)

For me, you just can’t beat Kentucky Lake. And, if you are looking for me? You can find me right here. On the end of this pier. And, yeah, probably drinking a beer. After all, I still represent my great friends in the Kentucky Beer Wholesalers Association.

Oh, I’ll tune in the races on my computer at TwinSpires.com. WiFi is such a great thing. I’ll make a few wagers, and watch some of the races. I’ll flip between Saratoga and Del Mar. I will remember some of my best times I’ve spent at each.

I’ll laugh at the memory of my old college roommate, Dave Welch, who asked each customer to go ahead and slam that screen door at the Steak House in Saratoga. After all,  we were sitting right by the door. And, the slamming of that door with each in-coming customer was repeated so many times that it reminded me of a drummer in a rock and roll band. Mr. Welch and I became so accustomed to the rhythm that we just started to encourage it. Why fight it, right? Embrace it. You’re at Saratoga.

I’ll chuckle at the thought of sitting with a group of about 15 of my most favorite people ever at the Wishing Well, and watching them revel in their first, ever trip to Saratoga. My what a trip that was. Fifteen lobbyists loaded in a 12-passenger van and made the short trip up from Boston for a day of racing, celebrating, and debauchery. We won at all three of them.

I’ll smile inwardly and warmly of the walk along the beach at last year’s Breeders’ Cup with my lovely, caring, precious wife — who was making her first trip to Del Mar. She really couldn’t see — exactly — where the turf actually met the surf, but she did have fun running in the water with a few newly adopted friends of the canine variety. Precious.

(My box seat for this summer’s racing / Photo by Gene McLean)

But, most of all, though, I will sit right here — at 136 Red Water Drive in little New Concord, KY. — on the edge of my pier. And, I’ll watch the sunrise appear (since the sunset is over the other side of the hill). And, I will drink a beer.

The water splashes up on my bank, sometimes dragging in a stray catfish that has seen better days, mind you. What a smell.

My boat is approximately 200 yards from my back door. Ready to go on a whim.

My boys — Randall and Johnny Mac — play music and sing songs like they used to (with heart, soul, commitment, honesty) down at The Breakers’ Marina, the best music venue in the entire world. But, then again, I’m a bit biased.

“Rookie” meets me at the bar, and we drink cold, cold, cold beer. After all, as Rookie likes to say:

“Life is too short to drink hot beer.”

And, every weekend, we motor our pontoon over to Blood River to pick up “Uncle Bill and Aunt Kels” for one of the greatest days of our lives. Until the next day. And, then, suddenly, it becomes one of the greatest days of our lives.

(Uncle Bill and Aunt Kels say hello / Selfie)

Funny how summer time goes so fast. You wake up one morning and it is Derby week. And, then, all of a sudden, you wake up the next and it is Labor Day.

What the heck…What’s that all about?

I guess the old saying that “Time flies when you’re having fun,” truly does apply. But when you are at KY Lake; when you are at 136 Red Water Drive in little New Concord, KY.; when you are at heaven’s front door, it goes at warp speed.

So, I won’t waste a minute. You guys have fun at Saratoga. Take in Ciro’s. Eat at the Wishing Well. You guys have fun at ole’ Del Mar. Listen to Bing warble that song. Eat and drink at the Brigantine. Enjoy that ocean breeze that tosses your hair like a sail boat on the sea.

I will have fun right here. Sitting on this pier. And, drinking my beer. And, watching a few races along the way. And, giggling at my babies who love to swim with the geese.

(Crosley and Haggard…so close…yet, so far away / Photo by Gene McLean)




The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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