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Positively Upstate: Local artist creates sash of flowers for horses at Saratoga

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (WRGB) History could be made this Saturday when Justify tries to become the next horse to win the Triple Crown. But did you know a little bit of Saratoga history has already been made at this upcoming Belmont Stakes?

It’s a longstanding tradition of horse racing, the sash of flowers to adorn the champion after the race. And at this year’s 150th running of the Belmont Stakes the blanket of carnations will be made by none other than Saratoga’s own Susan Garrett.

“I’m very honored.” Garrett tells CBS6 from inside Dehn’s Florist of Saratoga Springs. “I can’t believe that artwork of mine could actually adorn a Triple Crown winner.”

If you’re a fan of the Saratoga Race Course you’ve most likely seen Garrett’s work. Any blanket draped over a horse in the winner’s circle, she created. In fact, the winner of the Travers, the country’s oldest stakes race, never even had a blanket until Garrett suggested it in the mid-1990’s.

“Who would have thought in ’94 when I suggested to the New York Racing Association, let’s put a blanket of flowers on the winner of the Travers, that I would be doing this now.”

Garrett says to make a blanket for any Triple Crown race is a dream come true. Now, she not only has one but *seven* blankets going to Belmont park this weekend; one possible to a Triple Crown winner.

To keep them fresh, blankets aren’t created until the day before or of the race. So, Friday will be crunch-time for Garrett and her team at their workspace at Dehn’s Florist. Each individual flower is cut and hand sown into the quilt. Altogether, Garrett says there’s usually 750 to 800 flowers on a single blanket.

“So, I have a team of volunteers and friends and my husband. We bring in pizza and we do it. Each blanket, just hand sowing them, it’s around 5 hours.”

Friday at midnight a refrigerated truck collects the blankets and brings them down to Belmont park. The following day, Susan does a quick look-over before the races and then waits for her moment to relax.

“Once those blankets go on the horse … it’s a big sigh of relief.” She laughs. “I’m in awe, I really am.”

Garrett’s artistic talents go far beyond flowers – to check out more of her creations, visit her website: www.susansprouts.com

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