Tag Archives: Joseph Cutshall-King

American Pharoah faces the “Saratoga Jinx” on Triple Crown winners

American Pharoah

American Pharoah

Saratoga Springs—It’s all about American Pharoah. Whether we don’t know a horse from the carrot it’s chomping, we all seem to know about American Pharoah. Tomorrow (8/29) we’ll all see if that Triple Crown winner breaks the “Saratoga Jinx” at the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

With this world-wide American Pharoah mania, all eyes are on Saratoga Springs—and on its infamous gambling history. Last Sunday journalist Heather Kovar had me on WTEN TV’s News10 @ 9am to talk about those gambling heydays, as one of her top stories was on whether Triple Crown winner American Pharoah would be visiting Saratoga Springs while the ravers was run. (Thanks, Heather!)

Heather Kovar

Heather Kovar

Well, we know now that American Pharaoh is more than visiting–he’s running in the Travers. The only speculation now is whether American Pharoah can beat the “Saratoga Jinx” on Triple Crown winners competing in the Travers Stakes.

For those unfamiliar with horse racing, here’s a short explanation of the Travers and the Triple Crown. The Travers Stakes has been held at Saratoga Race Course since 1869 and was named for William R. Travers, the first president of the then Saratoga Racing Association.

The Triple Crown is officially “The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.” Three-year-old Thoroughbred horses that win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes in a single season are Triple Crown winners. The first Triple Crown was won in 1919.

And what is this “Saratoga Jinx”? It’s simple. While twelve horses have won the Triple Crown, only one of them has ever won the Travers Stakes—Whirlaway in 1941!

NYRA’s webpage on Whirlaway  reports that, “in 1941 the crowd-pleasing ‘Mr. Longtail’ often landed above” baseball great Joe DiMaggio and boxing legend Joe Louis “on the front pages of the nation’s sports sections.” It also states that the famed jockey “Eddie Arcaro called him ‘not the best, but the runningest’ horse. His trainer called him dumb, stupid and crazy.” Out of the Whirlaway could unpredictably run all over the track, but then always pulled out at the right moment to leave the others in his dust. Arcaro rode Whirlaway to his Belmont victory for his 1941 Triple Crown victory.

Whirlaway was now slated to run in the Travers on August 16, 1941, when tragedy struck! Ten days before the race, on August 6th, the Jockey Board of Stewards suspended Arcaro from riding because of charges of “rough handling” of the horses he rode. Instead, Alfred Robertson took Arcaro’s place. The racing world was in a state of frenzy.

Piping Rock Casino

Piping Rock Casino

In the Spa City, the casinos and other businesses were finally enjoying a financial revival after the Great Depression and this race was symbolic of that revival. What would happen now? Never mind that most of the world was already at war, with the US was aiding the beleaguered British in their fight against the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan. (And Pearl Harbor was 103 days away.) No, what was vital was the Travers!

On Saturday, August 16, 1941, the stands at Saratoga Race Course were packed for the Travers Stakes. As the horses broke from gate, Whirlaway sprung to action—well, almost. William DuPont’s Fairymant took the lead by 15 lengths and Samuel D. Riddle’s two horses, War Relic and Lord Kitchener, were coming up strong. Whirlaway wasn’t doing well.

Cy Peterman of the Philadelphia Inquirer summed it up best: “When Whirlaway turned on the pressure, all chances of a shock were erased. Up to the mile post, before he made his move, he looked as if bound to make history repeat. . . . But once Whirlaway came into full stride there wasn’t much to it. As far out as the 16th pole the race was over; he was almost four lengths ahead at the finish, and Fairymant had two and a half on Lord Kitchener.”

Peterman also reported that, “By his victory, Whirlaway took down another $16,900 for [Whirlaway owner] Warren Wright. Chicago sportsman who found there are more ways of raising dough than with the baking powder he manufactures.”



Wright was presented with the gold cup by Samuel D. Riddle, owner of War Relic and Lord Kitchener, and George H. Bull, president of the Saratoga Association.

And since that day 74 years ago no Triple Crown winner has ever won the Travers Stakes. In fact, Whirlaway is the only Triple Crown winner ever to have won the Travers!

Damon Runyon

Damon Runyon

“The play,” as author Damon Runyon described gambling in Saratoga’s gaming heydays, is understandably high. In just a few days, the Travers purse has risen from $1.2 to $1.6 million. As of this writing (Friday, 8/28) the odds are, well, odd. Saratoga Race Course is showing 3/5 odds, while across the pond in the UK, Ladbrokes is offering 28/9 odds. (We attempted to find Runyon’s Bookie Bob, but Bob’s kidnappers have yet to release him.)

Adding to the frenzy is that Saratoga Race Course has sold out seating for tomorrow’s Travers!

So, all that remains now is to see if Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh breaks the “Saratoga Jinx” and wins the 2015 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

In this instance, all bets are definitely on!


A review of “Deadman’s Float,” a Henrietta Brown Mystery novel by Robert Sugarman

Deadman's Float

Deadman’s Float

Picture this, please: It is summer in the picturesque college town of Kent, Vermont. Henrietta Brown, a retired academic, goes for her regular swim at Kent’s town beach on a lovely little lake. She dives from the raft only to discover the college president, in his seersucker suit, staring at her, his body jammed between the barrels supporting the raft, his hair floating around his face, and his hands bound.

Hardly the romance of “Moonlight in Vermont” or the sweetness of maple sugar you were expecting? Welcome to page one of Deadman’s Float, a new mystery novel by Robert Sugarman.

Deadman’s Float is a myth-breaker. Sugarman’s Vermont hills of maples and collegiate architecture frame a hidden picture of anti-Semitism and Klan activity, academic viciousness, and “town-gown” animosities that fly in the face of the Vermont tourist industry’s standard information.

The mystery is set in 1989 and the reader will be struck by the year’s “quaintness.” In a wonderful moment at the start, Henrietta Brown rushes for the payphone to report the murder, only to remember that “Ma Bell” had removed it because of vandalism. For a split second “Where’s her cellphone?” came to my mind, immediately replaced by “Oh, sure, it’s 1989.”

Of course, mainframe computers and PCs are common in Deadman’s Float, but cellphones and the Internet wouldn’t be commonly used until the late 1990s –and Google, iPads, Androids, Facebook, voice and face recognition software and all the other new millennium marvels are just a glimmer away. And nicely so. There’s no techno-wizardry substituted for “the little gray cells” solving the crime. No CSI here.

Kent is small but complicated by its “town” and “gown” sides, which allow for many suspects with different motives. And there are strong characters on both sides. The protagonist Henrietta Brown is the retired Director of the Early Learning Center at Kent College, an elite private school. Sugarman alludes to Agatha Christie’s Jane Marple, although Henrietta is no Miss Marple. Unlike Jane Marple, Henrietta has a sex life and she is a highly educated, highly trained professional with jungle instincts. After all, she has survived academia’s infighting.

But she is similar to Jane Marple. Henrietta is unmarried, a village native, and no longer “middle-aged.” (Yet can we call her “old,” even in 1989?) Like Marple, Henrietta is the “inadvertent detective.” Henrietta is a “townie” who crossed the town/gown line into academia by going off to college and returning to work at Kent College. To some she’s a traitor. Active in her community, she knows everyone on both sides of that fence, she knows “things,” and she is not afraid to ask questions—“to snoop” as some would say.

Kent’s Chief of Police Laval wants her to leave police work to the police. Yet, reluctantly, he quickly comes to rely upon her. There’s a nagging sense he has come to this decision too easily, but once you’ve passed that qualm, the rest falls in place. I hope if Laval appears again he’ll be more appropriately upset when he fails to fend off Henrietta’s detective impulses—her snooping.

But there’s so much to snoop about! The murdered president, Albert “Al” Kaplan, was so universally loathed! He was the college’s first Jewish president and a man, it seems, only his widowed wife and his children could have loved. Al tried to build the college to build his career and the hell with everybody else.

The college thrived because of Al’s ambitions. Some on campus liked that, even if they didn’t like Al. Most of the faculty seemed to have disliked Al, some simply because he was “administration.” (Sugarman explores Kent’s academic infighting and it is hoped he will do more of it in future Henrietta Brown mysteries.) But there were other issues. Charles Piersell, a gay faculty member, had borne the brunt of Al’s rage over Piersall’s promoting openly gay academic activities. But, of course, there was more to it than that.

And, then, who knew of President Kaplan’s secret past in New York City during the nineteen sixties, when he was young and people sang songs of “revolution”—and the young took revolution to their hearts? The 1960s’ “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll!” is operative in the 1989 of Deadman’s Float. That perennial favorite, “sex,” provides one of the major backdrops for murder. The sexual appetites of every segment of Kent society—townies, college administrators, faculty, and students—thread their ways through the mystery.

Major characters include a number of students and at least one townie who preys on them. We get a glimpse of the unsavory world of small-market television and national network news. The survival strategies of local business owners are laid out with surprising honesty.

Readers may cringe when one key character, the student Julie, plays detective. Julie is horribly naïve. With her fellow student Peter, who is puppy-like in his adoration of her, Julie decides she also wants to play detective, as Sugarman writes, like Nancy Drew. But where at least Henrietta is mature and somewhat worldly as an amateur sleuth, Julie is not. Henrietta is curious, dangerously so for the killer, as well as for herself. But she is aware of the danger and cautious. Julie simply rushes in, maddeningly deciding to question the president’s assistant, who even more maddeningly answers her questions! Although this does provide information, it makes a reader want to scream.

Importantly, Henrietta is wise. She recognizes that while Al’s actions have justifiably generated dislike even hatred of him, some in the community loath him simply because he is Jewish. Henrietta has grown up knowing the locals who don’t like what has happened to “their America,” and in particular the large Jewish population at the Kent College. Henrietta knows they see Kent College as a symbol of it all, what with its arrogant, liberal faculty, its gays, its nonwhite students and, now, its Jewish president.

With Al’s murder, the teacher Henrietta learns about her community. From Al’s personal assistant she learns of the unsigned hate letters Al had received; from Chief Laval of the unsigned anti-Semitic tirades the local newspaper receives but won’t publish. With time, they both learn of Kent’s white power movement, Klan activity and the depth of anti-Semitism in Kent. It is bone chilling.

That anti-Semitism is something about which Mort Levine and his family know. Mort, locally born and raised, is a devout Jew, who runs a local supermarket, is active in the chamber and civic organizations, and, like Solomon, has a wise and discerning heart. Mort has suffered in silence for years while fully aware of the anti-Semitism and the Klan activity in Kent. His son is of a new generation that will not be silenced by the bigotry. In a poignant scene, Mort contends with the fear and anger of his son, who has bought a pistol for self-defense. There is a richness in Mort and we want to know more about him.

But Henrietta is our hero and after Al’s death, she and Laval are confounded by more murder, set against the backdrop of Kent. In Henrietta, Bob Sugarman has created the bridge between the town and the college, using her to explore the tension of interdependency existing between the two, as well as the academic infighting, the drug use and sexual predation on the campus, the racial hatred in the town, and those other well-guarded secrets that make for a good whodunit.

Sugarman, with a long history as a playwright, gives us very good dialog—his characters sound natural and different from one another—and that dialog propels the reader forward. His characters are complex, although sometimes you want a cast of characters listed at the beginning! I have only alluded to some of the major actors in this interplay of small-town murder and madness. Moonlight in Vermont—falling bodies everywhere!

So, let me recommend that you quickly get a copy of Deadman’s Float, find a good nook in your home, grab a cup of tea or a snifter of brandy, and enjoy a delightful mystery!

Joe Cutshall-King


Deadman’s Float, a Henrietta Brown Mystery novel by Robert Sugarman; published by Puck Press, is available in paperback at bookstores and on Amazon.com.

I’m giving a reading tomorrow at The Shirt Factory in Glens Falls—Join me!

Please join me tomorrow (Saturday, September 6) as I give a reading from my mystery novel The Burning of The Piping Rock at 3:45 p.m. at The Shirt Factory in Glens Falls, as part of its 3rd annual LocalFest!

I’ll be joining with many local authors who will be reading from their recent works all day long. This event has been organized and will be emceed by writer and Post-Star columnist Maury Thompson. Thank you, Maury, for volunteering to organize this!

The Shirt Factory, Glens Falls-corner of Lawrence & Cooper

The Shirt Factory: Glens Falls-corner of Lawrence & Cooper

Here’s the pertinent information:
The Shirt Factory on the SW corner of Lawrence and Cooper Streets, across from The Post-Star.  It’s in the Adirondack Quilts Too classroom (Suite 114, first floor).
The Writers What time they begin reading
Persis Granger: 10:15 a.m.
Dave Blow: 10:45 p.m.
Carol Gregson: 11:15 p.m.
TBA: 11:45 p.m.
Jenny Latzko: 12:15 p.m.
David Cederstrom: 12:45 p.m.
Vincent Palazzo: 1:15 p.m.
Stacey Morris: 1:45 p.m.
Pat Leonard: 2:15 p.m.
Bernice Mennis: 2:45 p.m.
Maury Thompson: 3:15 p.m.
Joe Cutshall-King: 3:45 p.m.
TBA: 4:15 p.m.

Join me Tuesday July 15 at Saratoga Arts Center!

Piping Rock ablaze

Piping Rock ablaze

This coming Tuesday (July 15) at 7 p.m. I’ll be giving a presentation in the Saratoga Arts Center (320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs) on The Burning of The Piping Rock for the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation! The title of my presentation is “Arson in Saratoga: Piping Rock and Beyond.” I’ll be talking about the architecture of the infamous Piping Rock Casino, other casinos and the “mysterious fires” that consumed Piping Rock and so many other Saratoga Springs buildings.

There’s going to be a hot time in the old town that night, so come join us! For more information click on: Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation. Or contact Sarah Kaplan, Membership and Program Coordinator at 518-587-5030 (email:  skaplan@saratogapreservation.org).

Visit the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation events page on Facebook.

Congratulations, Matthew Rozell!

Matthew Rozell

Matthew Rozell

Historian, teacher and humanitarian Matthew Rozell is known to many as the Hudson Falls teacher who has brilliantly educated his students . . . and many adults . . . about World War II in general and about the Holocaust in particular. Through his “Hudson Falls High School World II Living History Course” he has courageously fought to bring forth the truth about the concentration camp killings of 6 million Jews, as well as 4 million other human beings the Nazis labeled as “inferiors” and “enemies of the Third Reich.”

I’m delighted that now, as we observe the 69th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945, the Post-Star has just run an article on him entitled, “NBC crew documents Holocaust teachings in Hudson Falls.” Congratulations to Post-Star reporter Michael Goot for his fine article.

Matthew Rozell has a wonderful blog/website called “Teaching History Matters,” which he describes in this way: “These are the observations of a veteran teacher- on the Power of Teaching, the importance of the study of History, and especially the lessons we must learn, and teach, on the Holocaust.” Please read it.

The events that the word “Holocaust” embraces must never be forgotten. The story of the Holocaust must be retold to, and be refreshed in the minds of, every succeeding generation.  The Holocaust was an atrocity of such proportions that people have difficulty understanding the scale of human destruction and degradation perpetrated by the Nazis. The Holocaust did happen. Tragically, it is still being denied. The arrogance of ignorance that spawned the Holocaust then is still at work today among those who would lie about its ever having happened—and among those who would believe them.

Education is the key to combating that ignorance, which leads to ethnic and racial hatred, and ultimately genocide. No nation, no culture, no race, no ethnicity is immune to it. That more genocides have occurred too many times since the end of WW II is sad proof of that fact.

Education is the key and I congratulate Matthew Rozell on his continuing work to educate our children and us all!

“A Very Special Santa”—a Christmas memory

Here is a Christmas memory I wrote for my “Over My Shoulder” Column© in the Glens Falls Post-Star of December 21, 1994. I hope you enjoy it.

A Very Special Santa

My mother had a little ornament that she placed on the Christmas tree each year, a tiny cotton Santa that she said she had placed on her tree from the time she was a little girl. The little Santa was, truthfully, in sad shape for its years of wear. But it was one of “those things,” something given a special meaning when my mother was so little. Why, no one knew. Not even Mom.

As I grew older, with each Christmas I came to look forward to that Santa being placed gently on a high bough, nestled securely to prevent shrieking children, or cats, from knocking it to the floor. Without realizing it, a part of her childhood Christmases gradually became a part of her children’s. It was a good feeling.

The tiny Santa moved a lot over the years. From my mother’s birthplace in Mechanicville, it went to Saratoga, then to Fort Edward and then Ticonderoga, at each juncture adding children and years to its life. It sagged and it drooped and it faded. Yet it survived, tying each new Christmas into the ones that had passed.

The last time my mother put the Santa on her tree was in Ticonderoga in 1982. Shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with cancer and on her next Christmas, which was to be her last, she decided she and my father would come to our homes instead. I remember her apology for not having a tree, which I later recognized as her way of saying, “I’m angry because I can’t put up a tree, like I should.”

So that year, 1983, for the first time in decades, the little Santa stayed in a box in my parents’ cellar. At Christmas, 1984, my mother was gone and, again, the little cotton Santa stayed packed away. For that Christmas and the next two, my father would not decorate the house nor have a tree. The Christmas person in the King family was Mom and the Christmas person was gone.

About two and a half years after my mother died, Dad told us he was selling our family home in Ticonderoga. It was too big and too full of memories. “Come and take what you want,” he told his children. The rest he would sell. For weeks upon weeks we helped him sort through the remains of a lifetime, as much a reward as a burden. For you must understand that Mom saved everything:  family pictures and letters, dad’s service records, the kids’ report cards, canceled checks, even occupant mail. As I had before, I looked through acres of boxes of Christmas decorations. As before, I could not, amidst them all, find the tiny Santa.

Mom always was fond of saying, “What will be will be.” I resigned myself to the fact that it was gone. “Things change,” my father was always saying. Oddly, I think that while he knew that was true, in a way he never resigned himself to his own wisdom. Almost three years to the day after my mother’s death, he died. Things had, indeed, changed.

For my wife, Sara, and I, that Christmas of 1987 in Glens Falls was, with my daughter being six, filled with expectations of Santa. It was also an oddly empty Christmas. We got out the boxes of decorations and frantically searched for our tree’s special angel, fearful it had been misplaced and then found it packed snugly away. My daughter sighed a big sigh! Under our regular boxes were the ones I’d brought from Ticonderoga. I rummaged through them, looking at the bubble lights and other things from my childhood Christmas trees.

And then, I found it. A tiny box inside of which was my mother’s faded cotton Santa wrapped up securely. Lost, but never really lost. Tenderly, I placed it on a high bough. And there it will go again this year, as we celebrate our Christmas and the memories that a special decoration carry with it.

From my family to you, a very merry Christmas.

Joe Cutshall-King

(“Over My Shoulder” – a weekly column written Joseph A. Cutshall-King for the for the Post-Star of Glens Falls, NY. All content Copyright © 1994-2013 by Joseph A. Cutshall-King. All rights reserved. No reproduction by any means or methods allowed without express written permission by the author.)

Thank you Greenwich, NY, Senior Citizens!

Sara Idleman, Nan Fitzpatrick & Susan Frisbee with author Joe Cutshall-King Greenwich Seniors Lunch

Sara Idleman, Nan Fitzpatrick & Susan Frisbee with author Joe Cutshall-King Greenwich Seniors Lunch

Patrick Gilgallon takes “The Burning of The Piping Rock” to new heights!

'Piping Rock' at LG 09-13 - photo by Patrick Gilgallon.

‘Piping Rock’ at LG 09-13 – photo by Patrick Gilgallon.

This photo was taken by Patrick Gilgallon, a fellow devotee of Barbershopper music, who sent it in an email, saying: “While at my cabin on Lake George I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED READING The Burning of the Piping Rock! I couldn’t stop thinking about the story line when I put down the book periodically. So much could I NOT put down the book, that upon departing for a hike, I packed it in my backpack. At the summit, I read for 2 hrs.  What a beautiful day that was!!!”

To prove his point, Patrick attached this photo he took at the summit.

Thank you very much, Patrick, for your totally unexpected and totally appreciated email!

145 people attend Brown Bag Lunch program on “The Burning of The Piping Rock”!

Brown Bag Lunch

Brown Bag Lunch

Saratogian article (9/8/13): “Author to unravel ‘Piping Rock Arson’ at brown bag lunch”

Check out this article from The Saratogian about my upcoming program for the Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Visitor Center’s Brown Bag Lunch Lecture  Series held at Saratoga Springs Public Library! Saratogian (9/8/13) - Author to unravel 'Piping Rock Arson' I’m looking forward to seeing you this Thursday (Sept. 12 ) at noon in the Community Room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library! (Thanks to Chuck Packevicz  for this clipping!)

Article courtesy of The Saratogian (9/8/13)