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Please see Saratoga Today Newspaper May 30th cover story (read the online version, or view the actual print edition) for a full discussion of the developing Sister City relationship between Chester, England and Saratoga Springs, NY

Morning at the Whitney Stand

“Morning At The Whitney Stand”
an original oil painting by Rumara Jewett      Giclée Prints Available

A Gift to The City of Chester England
On the Occasion of its 475th anniversary of Thoroughbred Racing
From the City of Saratoga Springs New York
May 2014

The painting depicts morning activity on the historic one mile Oklahoma training track in Saratoga Springs New York. The eye is first drawn to the imposing newly erected Whitney Stand situated at the eighth pole where horses typically stand out prior to beginning their work.

The Whitney Stand, erected in 2013 to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of thoroughbred racing in Saratoga Springs, is a decorative timber structure with many design features carried forward from the original Judges Stand designed by Boston architect Herbert Langford Warren. The original Stand was built in 1892 (since destroyed) and situated at the finish line of the Saratoga Racecourse.

Centered in the painting on the standing grey is the former jockey and long-time Saratoga exercise rider Chester UK native Danny Wright. For many years Danny has spent April to November riding thoroughbreds at The Spa after retiring as a Jockey. His racing career included many wins in the US and the UK. His first win was at Chester at the age of 17 on Princess Roxanne for Alan Bailey. He has been on Breeders Cup and Dubai World Champion Invasor and is currently working Belmont winner Palace Malice.

On the grey beginning the work is another UK native, Lorna Vincent. Lorna began her riding career as one of the first woman jockeys to compete in the UK's National Hunt races, in which horses jump hurdles and other obstacles. In her best year, 1979-80, she won 22 races, including the Buchanan Whiskey Hurdle at Ascot on a 33-1 long shot named Walnut Wonder. Her success helped open the door for other female jump jockeys. In 1995, she crossed the Atlantic for a chance to ride jumpers for Jonathan Sheppard, but found a career as an exercise rider more to her liking. During morning training she has ridden good horses including Albert the Great and A P Valentine for Nick Zito. Easily spotted from afar in her trademark pink vest, she now rides at Gulfstream Park Racetrack in Florida in the winter, and at Saratoga in the warmer months.

In the painting she is shown riding a horse for local Saratoga trainer Glen DiSanto. As a reminder of her first job in the US, a Jonathan Sheppard saddle towel is depicted on the horse second from the right on the inside of longtime New York Racing Association Outrider Natalie Rutigliano. Mr. Jonathan Sheppard, UK born and US National Racing Museum Hall of Fame trainer – is an inductee into the Hall in both the steeplechase and flat racing categories. Exercise rider "Echo" Galarza (#11) doubles as a NYRA jockey valet during racing afternoons, symbolic of the many backstretch workers who fulfill multiple roles around the track.

The horse shown to the far left wears the Saddle Towel “007”. This is the training logo of another US trainer who calls Saratoga home, Mr. H. James Bond. Mr. Bond is a four-time New York Trainer of the Year. In 1996 he won Saratoga’s signature race, “The Travers” with Will’s Way. He came back the next year to capture Saratoga’s prestigious Whitney Handicap. He has conditioned many top runners, most recently Tizway, a surprising 6-year-old that resurrected Bond's training career in 2011 by winning both the Met Mile and second Whitney Handicap.

On the rail to the far left is Saratoga photographer and racehorse owner Connie Bush, a chronicler of backstretch mornings and racing afternoons for the popular on-track newspaper “The Saratoga Special”.

The tall figure in white standing on the second level of the Whitney Stand is Mr. Charles Wait, the Chair of the Saratoga 150 celebration. Mr. Wait is wearing the trademark red and gold Saratoga 150 commemorative necktie. His position is symbolic of his role in overseeing the success of this milestone.

To the left of Mr. Wait are shown Bob Giordano and his wife Michele Erceg. Bob is a part of the New York Racing Association Hospitality Team and is also the Saratoga Springs Sister City liaison to Chester England. He is a regular presence at Oklahoma mornings where he enjoys describing the training activities and personalities - both human and equine - to Whitney Stand visitors.

To the right of Mr. Wait is a family gathered to watch the goings-on: grandmother Janet Noe (white hat), with daughter Amy and son-in-law Max Peter, and three grandsons Leo, Isaac and baby Dominic. The Whitney Stand provides the ability for seasoned and first time fans of the sport to experience the morning training that is so essential to success in the afternoons. Here they can hear the rapid thunder, hear the shouts of the riders, and spot the current and future stars of American racing.

The woman in the Saratoga-style white hat and dress on the right corner of the structure is Kathleen Monaco, another Saratogian and handicapping enthusiast who can be seen regularly enjoying many Oklahoma mornings looking for that tell-tale work.

In the background behind the structure can be seen the inner and outer rails of Horse Haven, the original race course constructed in 1847 and used for harness racing for its first 15 years. In 1863, Irish immigrant and boxing champion John Morrissey staged the first thoroughbred races at Saratoga on this track. Banking on the success of this venture, several partners invested in the construction of an official Saratoga thoroughbred racecourse across Union Avenue where racing began in 1864 and continues today. In 1902 the land was purchased in front of the Whitney Stand, and in 1904 the Oklahoma Training Track was opened and is still in use, as depicted in this painting.

The barns in the background are in an area named Campfire Court, one of the original barn clusters constructed for the harness track horses in the mid 1800’s. The leftmost building behind the photographer Connie Bush’s head was originally an icehouse used to preserve ice blocks cut from Saratoga Lake. The ice house may have existed prior to 1847 as part of the farm property on which the Harness track was built.

Walking back to the barns on the Horse Haven track after completing their works is a set of two trained by another Hall of Fame trainer, Mr. Nick Zito, one of the 11 or more Hall inductees who regularly compete at The Spa.

Others on the rail are other backstretch workers typically seen every morning at the Oklahoma- all key elements in this part of the racing game. Charles "Bo" Cephas, Jr., and Charles "Chuckie" Dwyer (#9) are NYRA maintenance workers. Their inclusion represents NYRA's efforts to keep the Saratoga training facility functioning optimally.

And lastly, but very importantly, standing in their trademark pink below Mr. Wait, are the Honorary Chairs and major supporters of the Saratoga 150th Anniversary celebration - Saratoga's own Marylou Whitney, for whose family the Whitney Stand is named, and her husband John Hendrickson. Their positioning reflects the many behind the scenes programs that they support that enhance the lives of the all-important backstretch community.

Text by Bob Giordano with help from Rumara Jewett

Charles Wait, Chair of the Saratoga150 Committee, and Councillor Jill Houlbrook, Lord Mayor of Chester, displaying the painting in the Lord Mayor's Parlour, Town Hall, Chester

Charles Wait, Chair of the Saratoga150 Committee, and Councillor Jill Houlbrook, Lord Mayor of Chester, displaying the painting in the Lord Mayor's Parlour, Town Hall, Chester

Chester City Council and Saratoga Delegation

Chester City Council and Saratoga Delegation

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© Rumara Jewett


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