Summer plans

July, 20, 2010
07/20/10
3:33
PM ET
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY -- Tomorrow is opening day at Del Mar, but I have a few extra days until the season kicks off here at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York. I've spent my summers on the East Coast instead of back home for several years now. People ask me to talk about the similarities and distinctions between the two, and that's not an easy task. All I can say is, they're a whole lot alike, but a whole lot different.

First of all, I have a pretty good history at Del Mar. I won the Pacific Classic there four times -- once with Go Between, once with Borrego, and twice with Skimming -- and last year I won the Del Mar Futurity with Lookin At Lucky on the way to his 2-year-old Eclipse Award. But I've also been fortunate enough to ride some nice horses at Saratoga in recent years, like Colonel John in the Travers, Majestic Warrior and Circular Quay in editions of the Hopeful, and Wait a While and My Typhoon in the Ballston Spa.

Del Mar is beautiful. When you sit in the grandstand and look to your left, you're looking at the ocean. It's probably a quarter-mile away, maybe a little bit more, there's no humidity and that ocean breeze tends to kick up while you're looking out over the infield. It's awesome. Opening day is a big extravaganza and last year they had record crowds. They really make it an event. People dress up and they have a hat contest and all kinds of stuff. But for the regular race days it's a very relaxed atmosphere. It's more like babes in their bikinis and guys wearing Hawaiian shirts. The trainers come in wearing shorts and deck shoes and everybody's very laid back.

Saratoga is beautiful too, but it's more of a county fair atmosphere. The attitude of the horsemen is a little more intense and they've been there longer before the meet starts, because it's a great training facility and the tracks open earlier in the season. Del Mar, up to like the week before the meet opens, you can hardly get on the grounds.

Riding at Del Mar is a lot of fun because even though I'm working, it's fun for my family, too. They go to the beach, stay at home in the pool, go to tennis camp, go to golf camp -- everything's right there. After the races you can go to old-town Del Mar, which is just a little beach town, or you can drive to La Jolla for dinner. And San Diego is minutes away. A lot of times we eat breakfast together in the mornings and we're always going everywhere together. It makes you enjoy a place even more when you can be around your family and your family enjoys being where you are.

That's the main thing that's hard about traveling to the East Coast and riding at Saratoga right now. It's been three weeks since I've seen my family and it sucks being away from them all the time. My kids have their lives in California -- my daughter rides jumpers and is training and showing every day there -- and it's hard to drag them away from that just to come out to where I'm riding.

But right now I'm trying to ride where the best opportunities are and the purse structure at Monmouth and here at Saratoga are appealing this summer. Of course, Blame is going to run up here during the meet and also Franny Freud, my New York-bred filly who is really something special. She got her Grade 1 win in the Prioress at Belmont on the 4th of July and she'll run in the Test. I'm excited about that. She tries more than anything and she deserved that Grade 1 win the other day, she's just a hard-trying little thing that gives you 180 percent.

The meet here kicks off on July 23 and everybody's excited -- there are new young horses and good older horses and you've got a lot of pressure situations for runners that will determine how we view them in the months leading to the Breeders' Cup. We're gonna be here unless we have to ship somewhere to rid, but a little part of my heart will still be with the folks at Del Mar, too.

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