Long time horse racing enthusiast and horse owner Sharon Balfe shares her thoughts on the unique role Saratoga plays in nurturing one of the often overlooked benefits of joining a horse racing partnership, lasting friendships.
By Sharon Balfe
Over the past 25 years, my husband and I have been to hundreds of Thoroughbred horse races across the United States and Canada. We’ve been fortunate to experience Churchill Downs, Belmont Park, Santa Anita, Keeneland, Monmouth, Gulfstream Park, Woodbine, and many others. Needless to say, the racing was spectacular and exciting. And then the bug bit us. Several years ago, we made the decision to invest in horse ownership with a horse racing partnership. Since that time, we’ve bought numerous horses with other partnerships as well. As one would expect, we learned how the different partnerships operate, enjoyed the benefits of visiting the barns and the backstretch, we stood in awe in the paddocks, and best of all, bathed in the glory of the winners circle. As my husband has always said “there’s nothing more intoxicating than being in the winners circle.” How true!
Along with all the obvious benefits of horse partnerships, there is another aspect that is often overlooked. It’s the friendships that are made and nurtured over the years. I can’t begin to count the friends we’ve made thanks to the involvement in partnerships. But there are a precious few of us that established a unique and special bond…a bond that grows stronger every year. We have shared the births of children and grandchildren, have taken trips together, experienced the Derby in Las Vegas and the Breeder’s Cup at Santa Anita, enjoyed cookouts, celebrated pet adoptions, birthdays, anniversaries, and retirements, and provided a shoulder to lean on during the bad times, through surgeries and recoveries, and sadly, passings…all of which have strengthened our friendships. It’s knowing that we really care for each other and want to be a part of each other’s lives.
Although we’ve enjoyed good times with one another at the other tracks, it’s always Saratoga where we all come together every year. While we’re fortunate to live in Saratoga Springs, the others journey from across town, down state New York, Florida, Georgia, Ohio and many other areas to join us on Balfe Corner to socialize, bet, and enjoy the beautiful days at the track. It’s here where we watched our ‘track grandchildren’, the Clancy boys, grow up….where they sat on the cooler, ate snacks, laughed, and shared stories with us. It’s here where cigars are shared, tips are given and received, and where conversations are held with trainers and valets. It’s on the Corner where we watch the men build their exotic tickets, witness the disappointment of losing the pick five in the second leg, and the smiles of success when the big horse comes in. It’s here where we catch up on our lives.
In Saratoga, it’s where we gather on the backstretch morning after morning to watch the horses work, drink the best worst coffee, listen to the coulda, woulda, shoulda stories, and enjoy the sheer beauty of the sunrises and the horses exercise in the fog.
It’s in Saratoga where we relax on the lake…where we eat sandwiches from the Spring Street deli while anchored at the sandbar, where we absorb the beautiful sunsets, where we enjoy the chatter among best friends. It’s here in Saratoga where we experience the wonderful restaurants, bars, shopping, and the walks on Broadway.
And finally, it's here in this enchanted place where we reluctantly say goodbye to one another when it’s time to return home. But it is always with the anticipation of the next event that will bring us all together again.
Yes, horse partnerships offer the opportunity to enjoy horse ownership, visit the barns, experience the backstretch, paddock, and the races. It’s the hope that your horse just may be the ‘one’. But it’s the friendships that make it all worthwhile. It’s the friends that become best friends. It’s the friends that we’ll always remember and cherish.
To all my friends, thank you for the fun and memories.