SARATOGA SPRINGS – David Cassidy, the popular singer, horseman and frequent fixture of the Saratoga summer scene who died last year, will be the focus of a dedication ceremony and the placement of two benches in his honor at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
The benches, which will be fixed with nameplates, will be set in the museum’s outdoor courtyard in the spring with a ceremony tentatively slated to take place in late April, said Brien Bouyea, communications coordinator at the Racing Museum, located on Union Avenue opposite Saratoga Race Course.
The singer, who died in November at the age of 67, charted more than one dozen Top 100 hits in the early 1970s, both as a solo artist and in his role as a member of The Partridge Family - whose TV series aired on ABC from 1970 to 1974. The museum neither publicized or solicited donations, Bouyea said. That two benches will be dedicated indicate Cassidy’s wide appeal. One of the memorial benches is the result of donations received from fans around the world; the other a fruit of a collaborative partnering between horse trainer Gary Contessa – who has more than 2,200 winning races under his belt - and Columbia County based horse owner, breeder and veterinarian Dr. Jerry Bilinski.
“We wanted to do something in his honor,” Contessa said, during a phone interview this week. “There were a couple of things we could have done - we thought about naming a race, but then Dr. Bilinski said, ‘you know, why don’t we dedicate a bench to him.’
“With David, we go back 20, 30 years. I play bass guitar so we had a music connection as well as a horse connection, going back at least the early ‘90s,” said Contessa, who fondly reminisced about his first public musical performance with Cassidy.
“He was at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, at a special outdoor thing he was doing under a tent there. I was in the audience when he called me up on stage: ‘I’m going to call up my trainer.’ I was like, holy… It was totally unplanned. He said to me: let’s play a blues in the key of C. I started playing. In the key of A,” Contessa recalled, with a laugh. “All of a sudden he starts looking at me… Nobody loved Saratoga like David did. He had a home in Saratoga, he came to the races every day and he loved the horses. During the meet he could be found at three o’clock in the morning reading the racing form and smoking a cigar at my barn.”