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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

— “She just wanted to do the poster, we didn’t even discuss the prizes or what there was because she just wanted to do a craft,” said Dorianne Gray. “There were so many things to do at the track that day and I was telling her ‘We’ll miss all the fun things’ but she said she wanted to do this poster … then the NYRA people called and she was literally jumping up and down.”

Once her unexpected prize was revealed, Gray went into planning mode.

“Whenever we go [to Saratoga] we always dress up and she spent a lot of time figuring out what she wanted to wear. We went through four dresses deciding which one,” said Dorianne Gray. “We went and looked for hats but didn’t find one so we designed that hat … she loves blue so she wanted to wear blue.”

Gray got more than her name attached to a race. She spent time with the jockeys and took away special souvenirs.

“She ran after the jockeys and it was very important for her to get the autographs from the jockeys … she went in the jockey hut and one of them gave her an autographed pair of goggles so that was really awesome, I thought that was very generous of him,” said Dorianne Gray. “He also gave her a spare pair she can use when she rides.”

Her love of riding is why the horse extravaganza was her perfect experience. Gray has been riding Molly since she was 5 (and begging her mother for many years before that).

“I like Molly and she’s a nice horse but sometimes she can be a little stubborn because she’s a younger horse and she can’t help it,” said Gray. “I’ve just loved horses since I was a baby.”

Maybe it’s because she has natural talent, or maybe it’s her extreme passion and devotion to riding, but Gray said it’s not hard at all.

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