The only question there is outside Barn 59 on the Oklahoma Training Track side of Saratoga Race Course is whether you’ll see or smell the cookout first.
Four to five times a week, trainer Danny Gargan rolls out a grill and sets up a card table. Then the magic happens.
Gargan and his staff cook hamburgers and hot dogs (chicken once a week), with all the fixings over on the table. It’s a “thank you” to his staff, but he’s quick to invite others to have a bite. On this day, the burgers and hots were being gobbled up at 9:30 a.m. — hey, when you’re up as early as these folks, it feels like lunchtime then.
Gargan said it costs nearly $10 for a meal in the backstretch kitchen, and most of his employees have family in Mexico or elsewhere far away that they need to send money to, so he doesn’t want to see them spend that much on food.
“For $100, I can feed a whole bunch of them,” said Gargan, who noted that jockeys Irad Ortiz and Kendrick Carmouche have contributed money toward the cookouts. Rather than buying doughnuts — which jockeys traditionally do for the staffs of horses they won on the previous day — the pair have helped Gargan with supply money. He said Ortiz has been especially generous.
Gargan said it’s also “good karma,” and it must be. He’s tied for 10th in the standings with five wins, two seconds and one third from 18 starts for $196,110 in earnings.
Fayeq switches leads
With Fayeq still on track for the Grade I, $1.25 million Travers Stakes on Aug. 26, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin was glad to see his colt switch leads during his 4-furlong work Thursday. Fayeq’s time was 48.89 seconds on the Oklahoma Training Track.
Fayeq won an allowance race here earlier in the meet by 3 ½ lengths without switching leads.
“He switches leads perfect in the morning,” McLaughlin said. “I think he wants (to run) all day,” McLaughlin told the New York Racing Association. “If he’ll switch leads it will certainly help. He didn’t ever switch leads in the last race; he broke on his left and stayed the whole mile and an eighth on his left.”
First stakes win
Picco Uno, a 4-year-old filly, earned her first stakes win by capturing the $100,000 Union Avenue for New York-breds by 2 1/2 lengths Thursday.
Irad Ortiz rode the filly to victory in 1:16.57 for 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast main track. It also continued the red-hot meet for trainer Jason Servis, who has eight wins from just 19 starts.
Picco Uno had won four races in a row before finishing sixth over a sloppy track in the Critical Eye on May 29.
“In that race it looked like she took a step back, so we gave her some time and she was able to regroup and run great today,” Servis said.
Held Accountable, a 2-year-old filly owned by Chester and Mary Broman and bred at their Chestertown farm, broke her maiden at first asking by winning the $73,000 ninth race. A daughter of Exchange Rate, she won the 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint in 1:02.10.
Various Saratoga trainers will participate in an autograph session from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday near the paddock mutuel bay. There is a suggested $10 donation to benefit The Lustgarten Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance scientific and medical research related to pancreatic cancer.
Follow Will Springstead’s Saratoga news on Twitter @ps_togatrack.