A look back in time: Tom Gallo's First Travers Stakes

The first Travers Stakes I attended is one of my all-time favorites. Saratoga was in the midst of a torrential rainstorm; the visibility was poor and the track parking lot was getting flooded. Luckily, we (my family and I – just had two little tykes at the time!) were cruising around the lots, all packed into a double-cab pick up high above the ground, looking for a place to park. We finally found a spot and pulled the nose of the truck right up to the fence of the racetrack at  the clubhouse turn. We had a perfect view straight down the track all the way to the starting gate. That didn’t stop my little boy (3 at the time) to start with his “...Dad why are we watching a horse race in the rain from the front seat of a truck”?  (Yes his sharp wit has stayed with him throughout the years!)  Back then, there were no VIP suites, no huge crowds, and overall things were pretty relaxed. With the pouring rain the majority of the fans were under cover of the grandstand.

Timing was perfect because as we pulled in and got settled, the horses were loaded into the gate for the big race of the season, the 1979 Travers Stakes! Boom, the gates exploded and the horses came out of the rain right at us. It was so cool. As they rounded the clubhouse turn you could almost reach out and touch them. General Assembly won the race into the first turn and never looked back as he won the race wire to wire in track record time! As they galloped out past the wire we could really get a great view of him and Jacinto Vasquez, his victorious rider. Along the rail past the first turn is a great place to watch a race because after the race when the horse’s gallop out past the wire, they pause before they turn to jog back to the finish line and you can get a great up close and personal look at these magnificent animals.

Fast forward 34 years and I met Jacinto on the backstretch back by the Gridley Avenue gate while both of us were waiting to go on OTB TV. He hadn’t lost any of his energy or vivacity; he is still one energetic dude. Of course, I started to tell him all about our family excursion to his winning the Travers on General Assembly and he proceeded to tell me how he almost lost the mount on the eventual winner the night before........