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Dream day at the races

Poster contest winner claimed prize of a lifetime

Alayna Gray, 7, of Johnstown, won the first poster contest during the Saratoga Race Course Open House in July.

Alayna Gray, 7, of Johnstown, won the first poster contest during the Saratoga Race Course Open House in July. Submitted photo

— For more than an hour on a hot day in July, 7-year-old Alayna Gray sat at a table at Saratoga Race Course. Surrounded by paper, pencils, art supplies and other young artists, she painstakingly made a brown and white painted horse named Molly come to life on paper.

“I put flowers around her ears, like a ring of flowers, and garland around her neck. I did that so it looked like she won a race and I put a banner on top that said ‘Be a winner, come to Saratoga Race Course,’” said Gray, of Johnstown.

She made the poster because she loves drawing and she picked Molly because she loves Molly. Never did it cross her mind that combining her two simple loves would win her the experience of her lifetime.

Gray won the inaugural poster contest held at Saratoga Race Course’s Open House in July. She got to name a race in her honor and stood in the winner’s circle to present a trophy to winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, Jockey Eddie Castro and owner Harvey Clarke after the Alayna Gray Race on Sunday, Aug. 21.

“I couldn’t really even talk, I was so surprised,” said Gray. “I was really happy and it was a good experience.”

She’s soft spoken when recounting the experience, but Gray’s mother, Dorianne, said it’s something she’s sure to remember forever.

“She was totally overwhelmed … she was just on cloud nine being the horse lover like she is,” said Dorianne Gray. “I think she’ll always remember this as one of her special days for her whole life. She said ‘this is the place I want to be’ … she felt very special all day long.”

Dorianne Gray said she didn’t even realize what her daughter’s poster creation was for until a surprising phone call from NYRA.

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