I already envisioned Saratoga as a sprawling horse heaven nestled in the Adirondacks. I knew the Thoroughbred track, the home of the Travers and the Alabama and the New York Turf Writers Cup. I knew the grandstand and back yard draped with so many red awnings, the wooden barns, the Oklahoma Training Track. I knew the Standardbreds got a piece of the fun across the street at the Saratoga harness track, though I haven't yet had the chance to visit it in my two blink-and-you'll-miss-it visits to Spa City.
What I didn't know until Wednesday was just how close Greentree, the private training center for Godolphin (the nom de course of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai), was to the Saratoga racetrack. I first heard of Greentree a couple of years ago, when This Is Horse Racing published an article about how Sentiero Italia, Frosted, and Godolphin's other stars trained clockwise there. Still, I envisioned the training track as being set aside from the racetrack. For one, I had not been to Saratoga yet when I read the article, so I had no idea the layout of the town. But, also, my experience with farms and training centers was that they were a bit removed from the racetrack -- both to get away from the hustle and bustle, and to have enough space to stable Godolphin's classiest horses in their American string -- and have a full mile oval for training.
Thus, it surprised me to learn just how close Greentree lies to the racecourse. Just a fence and a line of trees separate it from the barns just south of Saratoga's main track. And yet, despite its proximity, it still feels a world away, as I learned when I had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit Greentree last Wednesday.