A Day at the Spa, By Jeff O’Reilly

You often hear the phrase “Expectations are greater than reality.” With Saratoga that is not the case. I have been playing the horses for almost 10 years now. Countless times I heard how great Saratoga was and it is a must visit for any horseplayer or horse racing fan in general. All I could think about was how I don’t want to get too excited because you will often be disappointed with the outcome. Last year I was lucky enough to break my maiden at Saratoga. My comment line for last year would have looked like this: Out fast staggered home.

I recently completed my second trip to Saratoga for Jim Dandy weekend. The experience one has at the Spa is second to none. From the racetrack, to the people, to the beverages, food, late night karaoke, casino, harness, to keno, you name it and the Spa has it. Saratoga has so much to offer that it can be hard to just sit back and take it all in at times. There really is never a dull moment when you’re at the Spa.

The trip began at about 9:30 in the morning on Thursday from just outside Philadelphia. We had a few road sodas on the way up to make the 4 and half hour ride a little more bearable. Obviously we could not make the first race so we used phone bet to call in a couple wagers. It was three of us in the car as two other friends were going to meet us up there. Without looking at the form we played the favorite and a couple longshots using pack theory. One of our favorite sayings at the track is Pack it up and pack it in! Sure enough the longest shot on the board wins and the favorite runs second. That’s how you know it is going to be a good trip and it set the tone for the weekend.

We ended up making it in time for the 3rd race which was an off the turf 4 horse field. We set up shop on the benches outside the jockeys room. Todd Schrup, of TVG, sat down with us and chatted and invited us to the set on Friday. More on that in a moment. Thursday went by with few winners but a good time. We went to the clubhouse upstairs to watch races, drank from the saltiest tasting water on earth the actual Saratoga Spring, and hung out at the Paddock bar. Thursday night was spent being a degenerate at the Harness track casino grinding out blackjack, roulette, and craps. Once we all got our tails handed to us there, we moved on to the bars in town. Our first stop, as it should be, was to the Saratoga Tavern. My friends decided they wanted to belt out Sweet Caroline and Living on a prayer. Thankfully there were no windows close by otherwise I think they would have been shattered. Night 1 at the Spa was a success.

Friday morning is time to hit the free hotel breakfast, get rid of the hangover and rally for another strong day. The day begins at Clancys tavern with beers and Keno. Like all degenerates you must have some action going at all times. Here’s a free piece of advice: don’t pool your money together and play the number 1 even when it hasn’t hit for 11 consecutive plays. It doesn’t end well. We stayed there and grinded keno for longer than anyone should. Finally made it into the track for race 2. Once again winners were few and far between. At Saratoga, one shouldn’t be overly concerned with winning as much as just having a great time with great people. Back to the Todd Schrup story. My friend made a T-Shirt that was TVG green with the following on it: Todd Schrup and Simon Bray’s pictures with a caption of “We came to see Brittany but TVG sent these two instead” I showed Todd the shirt on Thursday and he said to visit him on the set Friday when he was on air. Sure enough we went over and my friend, Doug Jordan, made it up there and got pictures with both Simon and Todd. TVG even aired a segment about the shirt which was great to see. After the races Friday we spent time at the paddock bar where I was lucky enough to win a few free items from trivia. When I woke up Saturday, I did not have said items. We went from the Paddock bar to the Horsehoe and it was jammed. Live music, gin and tonics, older women make for a great time. From there we managed to hit the harness track catch a few races and then that’s where things went south.

Around 11:30 I realized my phone was not in pocket or at my roulette machine. I went all over the casino went to lost and found and came up empty. My friends fired up the find my iphone app it gave me a location in the middle of the field at the harness track. We went looking all over, hopping fences, crawling under fences, possibly even a dumpster dive or two. It was a disaster and I have brusies and cuts to prove it. After about 2 hours of stumbling around the field it was a lost cause. We decided to call it a night. Next morning, I wake up and hit the breakfast downstairs and try to shake things off. We figured it would be worth a shot to look again in the daylight. Once again we’re back to crawling over fences and looking in dumpsters. This was once again to no avail. I was ready to hit the AT&T store when on a whim my buddy suggests to just check lost and found one more time since we are there. BOOM! Casino had it and it even had a red koozie I took as a souvenir from the paddock bar. Things were looking up and I could tell my luck was turning around.

Saturday was a bittersweet day. It was great because I was at the Spa and where else would a horseplayer want to be? It was a little disappointing because it was also my last day there. Once again, we set up shop outside the jocks room with a cooler full of beer that must have weighed close to 150 punds. The day came with few winners once again. As the day was winding down we all pooled money and hit a pick 3. It was a 48 dollar investment and returned a whopping $54!! Beers on us folks. The last race we were going to bet was the Bowling Green. There is a horse in there that has a strong resemblance to my last name. Hunter O’Riley! It is pronounced the same but not spelled exact. O’Reilly vs O’Riley. I was lucky enough to see him last year but he ran an okay 4th at Saratoga. This year was a bit of a different ending! The pot was $54 bucks so we played Hunter with Sadler’s Joy and Bigger Picture as we all liked those three. We ended up hitting for about $500 in the race. Now as a degenerate I wasn’t happy about just playing that ticket in the group. I was almost out of cash and decided to go all in. I popped $100 to win and played tris keying Hunter on top. Sure enough he comes barreling down the lane and gets up in the shadow of the wire. I am screaming Get up 5! Get up 5! Once he gets up I am ecstatic slapping random people in joy with my rolled up program. I end up cashing out with all the tickets at over $2,000.

Just Remember: Life is always good when you’re at the Spaaaaa!!!

Follow me on Twitter, @Jeff__Boyardee.

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