The New Orleans crew loves Saratoga

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SARATOGA SPRINGS – There is a bit of irony here.

Bill Babin will tell you that he is a bankruptcy attorney. Now here’s the punchline. He is also a horse player.

“When I decided to buy a horse, everyone told me that I would be a customer one day,” Babin says and he laughs and laughs.

Babin, 64, has a love affair with Saratoga Springs and all that goes with it. The racecourse, the horses, the betting windows. Here is the kick. He’s not from Spa City or Albany or Schenectady or Troy.

Home is New Orleans, but his summers belong in Saratoga. Since 2013, Babin has covered approximately 1,500 miles from the Big Easy to the most popular horse racing town in the country. He rents two houses near the track and spends the whole competition here with his friends and family.

“We golf Mondays and Tuesdays and focus on horses Wednesday through Sunday,” Babin said.

This year, however, things are different. He is not just a rider but an owner. He and seven of his buddies will be front and center on Saturday with a player in the $1.25 million Grade I Travers Stakes. Babin and his partners are FTGGG Racing and they own Masqueparade, which will compete in the Midsummer Derby.


Masqueparade is the first horse they’ve ever owned and they’re right in the middle of the competition’s biggest race. Go figure. Some owners go through life never seeing the Saratoga paddock as a participant on Travers Day.

“It’s amazing,” said Babin, who is fast with a smile, watching the races at Spa on Sunday. “The first time for all of us. It’s just amazing.”

As the story goes, Babin approached coach Al Stall Jr., also from New Orleans, and said he wanted to get involved. The goal was to have a horse that could one day compete in Saratoga’s biggest race of the season.

“It really is an incredible story,” Stall said outside his barn on the back stretch of Saratoga. “Here’s someone from New Orleans. He wasn’t like, ‘Let’s get something to run at Fair Grounds (in New Orleans).’ He wanted something for Saratoga and, look, he has the common thread with a chance to run well.

Masqueparade, a son of Upstart, was bought for $180,000 at Keeneland’s September yearling sale in 2019.

Masqueparade revived its owners when it won an optional allowance seeker by 11 3/4 lengths on the Kentucky Derby undercard on the first Saturday in May. He didn’t really beat much in this race, but his rookie owners were lucky enough to have a blast and a good time at Churchill Downs.

He followed that up with a win in the $500,000 Grade III Ohio Derby at Thistledown on June 26 – he beat Travers foes King Fury and Keepmeinmind that day – and Saratoga’s dream was no no longer a dream. Next stop was the Jim Dandy at the Spa on July 31 and a third-place finish earned him a ticket to Saturday.

“When we won on Derby day (of Kentucky), I said it was one in a million that our first horse would win on Derby day,” Babin said. “When we won the Ohio Derby, I said it was one in two million to do that. Now running down the Travers, we’re probably up to one in three million.”

Babin and his partners – Neal Comarda, Jubi Hillery, Steve Landry, Jimmy Lee, Bob Murphy and John O’Shea – all went to Catholic high schools in New Orleans and came up with FTGGG, an acronym for “For the Greatest glory of God”. .” Since they started racing in 2020, they have entered 11 races, eight by Masqueparade and three by Thirtyminutemass, which was claimed in March.

Now that’s just the big horse. And the big race is looming.

“It’s still a work in progress,” said Stall, 59, who has never started a horse in the Travers. “I don’t push the horses to do certain races. They take us there and that’s fine with me. There was no extra pressure on this horse, no schedule changes. He earned his chance. -Old.”

The horse to beat in the Travers is Essential Quality, which will be the favourite. Stall knows it, as does the FTGGG gang. But they are here. They have a chance. With their first horse.

“I’ve always said we weren’t worried about the (Kentucky) Derby,” Babin said. “We are Saratoga men. We are in the Travers with our first horse. I don’t know how you beat Essential Quality, that horse is so good. We are here. I said many prayers thanking the Lord for this experience .”

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