The Saratoga experience remains scintillating with the only downer NYRA, which gets tens of millions of dollars from the Aqueduct casino, not sharing any of the windfall with fans. To the contrary, it continues to nickel and dime (or $5 and $10) customers with unjustified price hikes. Meanwhile, Gun Runner is the latest champion to prove that Saratoga's reputation as the Graveyard of Favorites is more myth than reality.

NYRA displayed an internet poll on who would win the Whitney on the infield tote board during last Saturday’s card. Keen Ice was the overwhelming favorite with something like 53%. Gun Runner had, as I recall, 29 percent. The rest was spread among the others.

My immediate reaction was "Oh please, let it be so." Any price above even-money on Gun Runner would be stealing money. Alas, these internet opinions, like most such exercises, were worth what they cost to express: nothing.

When the only opinions that matter were registered at the mutual windows, Gun Runner was 3-5, as he deserved to be, and Keen Ice was approximately six times as long at about 3-1.

Gun Runner justified the public confidence with a business-like romp. Keen Ice did what he usually does, closing just well enough to encourage his fans that next time will be the one when he wins for the fourth time in four years.

A jubilant Steve Asmussen seemed ready to take on Arrogate, the only horse ranked higher than Gun Runner in the NTRA poll. Arrogate crushed Gun Runner by about 15 in last season's Travers. The margin decreased to only two lengths when they next met in Dubai.

"We're getting closer," Asmussen crowed. He had a point if you overlook one small detail. The margin in the Middle East was as close as it was because Arrogate broke behind the field and spotted Gun Runner, who had clear sailing, double digit lengths. Arrogate still ran past Gun Runner so easily that Florent Geroux couldn’t believe it.

A trainer should brag on his horse, especially one as exceptional as Gun Runner. But the only way Gun Runner ever beats Arrogate is if the Arrogate of the San Diego Handicap, not the one of the Travers, Breeders' Cup, Pegasus and World Cup shows up.We'll get an indication of which way Arrogate is headed in the Pacific Classic next weekend.

Gun Runner's triumph put another puncture wound in the myth of Saratoga being the Graveyard of Favorites, which is more urban legend than reality. Sure, Triple Crown winners American Pharoah, Secretariat and Gallant Fox were toppled at the Spa. Going way back, Man O War went down to a horse who gave coinage to the term Upset.

However, year in and year out the percentage of winning favorites at the Spa is among the highest in the nation and also stands up on the grandest stages. In addition to Gun Runner's tour de force, the week I spent there saw favorites win four of the five features. Carina Mia took the Shine Again; Green Mask won the Troy and Hard Study get home first in the Birdstone. The lone non-favorite feature winner was Bricks and Mortar in the Hall of Fame. He was the 4-1 third choice.

Earlier in the season, Abel Tasman was a prompt favorite in the Coaching Club American Oaks and Lady Eli came through in the Diana.

Cigar had his 16-race winning streak snapped at Del Mar and Arrogate imploded there this season but no one calls Del Mar the Graveyard of Favorites. Some perspective, please.

It was a great week at the Spa, as it always is. Some highlights and lowlights:

Wednesday—There are few feelings as exhilarating as making the turn off Exit 14 of the Northway onto Union Avenue. Unfortunately, the reality of Christopher Kay’s stewardship provided an instant slap in the face.

The first parking lot encountered, the one by the backstretch rec hall, used to be part of the free general parking. Now it is $10 weekdays, $12 Saturdays except Whitney and Travers Day, when it is $15. This was the first of several such developments.

Carina Mia did take care of business but it wasn’t easy as one racing publication headline indicated. She was all out to beat Chad Brown barn-mate Going for Broke by a neck. The Shine Again was a prep for bigger races in the fall but Carina Mia will have to be a lot better to compete with the caliber of fillies and mares she is destined to face.

Todd Pletcher hasn’t been dominating the juvenile races this season and last as he had in years past but he unveiled a potential goodie, March X Press, in the day’s finale, a turf sprint. March X Press was left so badly, if she hadn’t uncorked a breath-taking surge from last to first, there might have been a stewards’ inquiry of the start. Put this New York-bred on your horses to watch list.

Thursday—Not a happy nor otherwise noteworthy day. Fall Colors broke down in the jump race and had to be euthanized and Munjaz suffered a similar fate in the featured Birdstone. They were the third and fourth fatal mishaps of the early season. Amazingly PETA pickets have yet to appear.

Friday—If there is a bigger money-burner in racing than Switzerland, it escapes me. In her first three starts, she went off at 2-5 at Gulfstream, 4-5 at Keeneland and 2-5 at Belmont. He came out of them still a maiden. He did it again at Saratoga, going off at 4-5 and failing to hit the board.

It’s my custom to buy a copy of the next day’s Post Parade past performance magazine for $5 every day as I leave the track. “That’s $6,” the woman at the stand said, looking at my $5 bill as if it had EPV.

“Why? It’s $5 every other day.”

“It’s $6 on Saturdays,” she said with disdain. There’s a simple reason why NYRA bumped up the price. It’s because it can.

Saturday—NYRA’s security staff became the TSA. In addition to the usual screening of coolers for bottles, fans had to pass through metal screening devices after emptying their pockets of anything that might set them off.

It’s hard to quarrel with enhanced security these days but this made little sense since these measures were in force only on Saturday. What is NYRA’s thinking? We’ll allow terrorists to take out 15,000-20,000 people on other days but not 30,000 on Whitney Day?

Chairman Kay is missing an opportunity. NYRA might as well sell every picnic table on big days rather than the limited number now up for sale. The security guards have their own little racket going. I got to the Top of the Stretch at 11 a.m. during a drenching rain storm. There wasn’t a soul in sight but every table was already taken. I went to the back yard and it was the same deal.

Coincidentally (or not) almost every table was covered by the same bright red table cloth. A woman, who heard me bitching out loud and seemed to know what she was talking about, contributed, “I was here at 6:30 and they were all taken. The guards do it before the gates open for fans who give them big tips.”

Sunday—Hopefully, we have seen the last of Mohaymen. How a horse with such unlimited potential went so bad so fast remains a mystery and probably will remain that way. Kieran McLaughlin admitted he entered him as an MTO in a Saturday turf race, hoping to fall into an easy spot if the race came off the grass, which the weather forecast indicated was a strong possibility.

The predicted rain tailed off by post time and Mohaymen’s race stayed on the grass. McLaughlin’s fallback was the restricted Alydar Stakes with a five-horse field on Sunday but it was to no avail. Mohaymen wound up getting distanced, which had to be an embarrassment to his connections. Afterward, McLaughlin indicated Mohaymen was being sent off the track to a farm. Let’s hope he stays there until someone who wants to breed the multiple stakes winner steps up.

Rick Violette unveiled a 2-year-old filly to be watched, Honey Graeme, in a salty maiden dash. The tipoff the first-timer had ability came in the daily double possibilities, where she was in a virtual deadheat with a touted Pletcher filly, History Supreme, who had gone off 4-5 in her debut.

The same pattern held in the race betting. History Supreme went off a slight favorite with Honey Graeme the close second choice. The race wasn’t this close. Honey Graeme went right to the front, fought off a succession of challengers and drew off at the end.

One of the peripheral fun aspects of Saratoga is trying to identify 2-year-olds with a future. Honey Graeme looks to be one of those.

Monday—NYRA tried to extend Whitney weekend by staging a T-shirt giveaway on a weekday. There might have been more people than on a normal Monday but judging from the mountains of huge cardboard boxes still unopened at the Top of the Stretch distribution area, the turnout didn’t approach what was hoped for.

The latest fleecing of customers came when NYRA announced that advance grandstand admission for Travers Day could be obtained for a “bargain” $10, instead of the $15 tariff on the day of the race. So in a short span under Kay, Travers admission has increased from $5 to $10 to $15.

This is outrageous when NYRA is being endowed with tens of millions of dollars from the casino at Aqueduct. It has been an unwarranted windfall for NYRA and horsemen but fans, who make the wheel turn, have not gotten a single benefit.

Nevertheless, I can't wait to get back next year.

Saratoga, Aug. 10, 2017