Working for The Saratoga Special

A typical day working for the coolest paper ever

I’m not used to the ground being so flat anymore. I hardly had time to settle into the groove of being home after returning from Chile before I packed my car full of jeans and dresses and drove east to a place that holds a piece of my heart: Saratoga.

As I drove into town for my second summer as a staff writer with The Saratoga Special, a wave of nostalgia washed over me. Time goes so fast – too fast.

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My artsy-fartsy picture of The Special at the Saratoga Springs farmers market

While most of my friends, family and followers were aware I was in New York all summer, not everyone knows what shenanigans I was getting myself into. So here’s a bit of a ‘day in the life.’

The Saratoga Special is a newspaper dedicated to covering the races at Saratoga Race Course. Now in its 16th year, the paper was founded by brothers Sean and Joe Clancy, who grew up in the horse racing industry. Both are award-winning writers and Sean used to be a successful steeplechase jockey (steeplechase is a sport where horses race over fences). Sean, Joe and managing editor (and my boss) Tom Law are all highly respected and have a long history of mentoring interns who’ve come to work for the paper. These young’uns (myself included) wanted to get involved in the racing industry, so The Saratoga Special took them under its mighty wings.

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With The Special’s Linzay Marks (center) and Shayna Tiller in the Saratoga paddock

The Special is published five days per week, plus a few additional issues during the yearling sales, minus a few to keep the tiny staff of seven (somewhat) sane. We write about horses and the people who work with them, and make it personal. The paper has a “Worth Repeating” section dedicated to quotes we’ve overheard, license plates and names of the days and whatever else jumps out at us. We write about everything from race previews and recaps, feature stories, stable tours with trainers and daily columns.

My days began early, I arrived at the racetrack between 5:30 and 7, depending on what I needed to knock off my list. When there was an upcoming race to cover, I studied the PPs (past performances) of each horse, interviewed trainers and/or owners or jockeys about their training, personalities, recent races. I might watch them train or go see them in their stalls. Anything to paint a picture through writing and give readers an experience they wouldn’t have if I wasn’t delivering the information first hand.

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The chalk board next to my desk

When I left the track in the mornings around 10, I had a couple hours to write and change clothes before heading to the races, which run six days per week from 1 until 6:30ish. I tried to arrive by 12:15 to watch the horses in the saddling paddock before the first race. I spent my evenings and nights in the office with the crew, writing and proof reading, sometimes (actually a lot of times) humoring ourselves and laughing at one another’s jokes and comments as we shared tidbits about our days.

Forty-two days later the car was packed again for the 1,500-some mile trip home, where I am now. Back to school, my senior year at NDSU. How did it go so fast? Wasn’t I just a freshman? Did those 42 days in Saratoga really happen?

Forty-two precious, valuable days with The Special. And now I’m here, going to class, coloring my textbooks with an orange highlighter as I drink tea and listen to the trees blow outside my window.

(Top photo: Early morning sky over the Saratoga grandstands)
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