Sunday, August 1, 2010

New life for an old lady

It would be facile and sentimental to say "Saratoga never changes." It would also be a lie.

I'm as guilty as anyone of settling for the easy lie sometimes, but, no, not at Saratoga. The town, the track, the sales grounds, the horses retain their charm, but the world around them has changed too much for any place, no matter how determinedly charming, to remain unchanged.

I first came to Saratoga in 1974 and have returned most years since. Most things about the track itself are better now than they were then, but the impossibly cramped boxes are still just as uncomfortable, but otherwise, the facility has improved. Even in these recessionary times, crowds are bigger than they were then.

Tonight, Fasig-Tipton removed the veil, almost literally from the Grande Dame of Thoroughbred sales facilities, the Humphrey S. Finney pavilion at the corner of East and Madison in Saratoga Springs. Built in 1968, the Finney was then state of the art, but for the last 20 years or so has felt cramped and outdated. Not any more.

As with their redesign of the common areas behind the pavilion last year, Fasig-Tipton has done the old girl justice. Anyone who has been inside a modern corporate board room will be familiar with the decor--classy, elegant and simple. Lots of wood and stone, appropriate for a horse auction facility.

The redesign of the Finney resulted in 35% fewer seats, but expansion in critical spaces resulted in lots more room for buyers to mingle, and, without doubt, trade. The old building no longer feels cramped.

Fasig threw a very nice party for the occasion, complete with a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony, the Doc Scantlin orchestra, and catered hors d'oeuvres and buffet. Now let's see if the sale can match the party.

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