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Saratogian Of The Month: The Barber Who Loves Horses

Joe “Woody” Wood is a Saratoga institution—to humans and horses.

Joe "Woody" Wood
Joe "Woody" Wood, master barber at Woody's Barbershop in Saratoga Springs, doubles as a skilled and passionate horseplayer. (Katie Dobies)

I did some research and ended up at Woody’s Barbershop on a bitterly cold December morning my first day as a Saratoga Springs resident a year-and-a-half ago. In many ways, that encounter with its proprietor, Joe “Woody” Wood, was as happy a meeting as any I’d had. Woody (as everyone calls him) is a lot. I know that to be true because I’m a lot, too. But, still, we were happily drawn to each other in spite of our many outward contradictions, possessing similar passion and optimism. In short, when Woody and I get together, a good time is had by all.

An Ithaca, NY native, Woody is the youngest of five, who after his parents’ divorce, went to live with his dad and grandfather, which was, apparently, a heck of a time. “We spent our days as a threesome going to sporting events throughout the region and hitting all the horse racetracks throughout the Northeast,” he says. That’s when Woody fell hard for horse racing.

After a decade living in Las Vegas, Woody made his way to Saratoga to care for his ailing father. It was during one of his many trips to Saratoga Race Course where he met and fell in love with Saratoga native and Creative Image Hair Salon Co-owner, Linda Duerr. Now, nearly ten years later, Woody is nothing short of a Saratoga institution, for barbering and his uncanny handicapping abilities.

Sure, Woody’s fun and all, but when he’s talking horse racing, he’s as serious as a priest on Sunday. To Woody, the ponies are religion. And for many, a weekly trip to Woody’s Barbershop, is all the gospel we need.

What is it about horse racing that makes you such a passionate fan?
I get the chance to be around the horses and see the real greatness of the horse racing world! I’m extremely fortunate I get to see what most fans don’t: that the horses’ ability to race is merely a fraction of the great things they can do. They’re truly magnificent animals—it’s a shame most people never get to see that.

Is there any relationship between good barbering and good handicapping?
Good barbering and good handicapping have lots of commonalities, none being more important that taking the time to do it right, and paying attention to every single little detail.

Saratoga Springs truly is special because…
Saratoga always felt like home when I used to visit here and felt even more so when I moved here. Saratoga is really a small town with a big city attitude. Saratoga is unquestionably one of the top places to live in the US. Simply put, you just can’t beat the quality of life in this beautiful city.

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Richard Pérez-Feria

Richard Pérez-Feria is the President, CEO and Editor in Chief of saratoga living. He was the former Editor in Chief of ELLIMAN, Now It Counts, VEGAS INC, HudsonMOD, People en Español, 7x7 and many others.

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