Thursday, July 31, 2014

Back to Saratoga

View from the Backstretch, oil on canvas, 4 x 12 in. work in progress

Ever since my first trip to Saratoga, sometime back in the 90's, I've returned several times, always seeing something new, and getting inspired to paint. When I realized my last trip there was in 2006, I knew it was time to go back. Several of my artist friends have been gathering there for the last few years, renting a house, visiting the track, and consuming a lot of ice cream and Mrs. London's pastries. I queried about joining them this year, and thankfully, they were happy to have me join their group.

My previous trips to Saratoga usually consisted of making the rounds of all the galleries and hotel conference rooms exhibiting equine art. This time around, I found that the art scene has changed quite a bit. There are still a few galleries and hotels showing equestrian themed art, but it is mixed with art of other genres, and some of the galleries and artists I remember are no longer there. This trip was less about the art and the horses, and more about the camaraderie of six like-minded individuals. We enjoyed just hanging around together at the house, relaxing and enjoying the time out from our busy lives.

Of course, it wouldn't be a trip to Saratoga without the horses, and on the first day, we all visited the track. We met up with an assistant trainer who was so kind to escort us around to the backstretch, giving us a vantage point that the public doesn't get to see. The beautiful shed row barns of the Saratoga backstretch, with mossy roofs and old-growth trees are so clean and peaceful compared to the noise and clamor of the track.

The following morning brought us to the Oklahoma training track, across Union Avenue from the main track, and now open to the viewing public. We watched horses being galloped, and then washed down, and we even stayed to watch Wise Dan work out. You could tell Wise Dan was a big name by the number of railbirds that turned out to photograph him. Quite likely, at least thirty other people got the same shot I did. The names and reputations of the horses mean very little to me. I am enthralled with the beauty of the sport, the light and the color.

In the morning, you also get to see a lot of Thoroughbreds enjoying a sudsy bath.

And here is a sample of that special light that exists here.

On Saturday, we had the privilege of watching a painting demo by Kimberly Kelly Santini, at Spa Fine Art Gallery. The rest of us meandered back and forth between her demo and Juliet Harrison's book signing for her book Track Life, showcasing her beautiful racetrack photography, with contributions from many other people writing about their impressions of the track.
On the last day, it was one last visit to the track, where I managed to win 7.70 with my only bet of the day on this number 2 horse in the second race. Disclaimer: It was actually my husband's bet. He asked me before I left to put $2.00 on the 2 horse in the 2nd race. He didn't specify which day. It my luck that there were only four horses in the race, thus increasing my odds, since many had scratched because of the muddy conditions.

And I leave you with this. Aren't you glad your job isn't this dirty?