Curlin’s turf debut in Saturday’s Man o’ War at Belmont and a handful of races in Delaware, Florida and California the only thing diverting attention from the annual pilgrimage to Saratoga Springs, where adult summer camp opens in less than a fortnight.

In addition to a good deal of uncertainty surrounding the 36-day stand at the Spa, most of this having to do with the economy, which coupled with gasoline prices appears destined to result in fewer horseplaying vacationers in upstate New York, the summer meeting is a bit different this year, specifically the third week.

There appears to be a surplus of rental accommodations and unreserved hotel rooms, which suggests a widely spread downsizing of travel plans to what is a famously overpriced destination. For those still Spa-bound, the meeting’s third week is a good one to avoid if racing is the focal point of the trip.

This is most assuredly unSpa-like. During the entire week that begins on Aug. 6 and ends on the 11th there is not one graded stakes that will be run on the flat. Surrounding the A.P. Smithwick, a Grade 2 over hurdles, the entire week is given over to New York-breds and pair of ungraded open stakes – two days on which New York Stallion Stakes are billed as loosely termed “features,” the restricted Yaddo and West Point Handicaps, which anchor the Saturday and Sunday programs, and two $80,000 open races, the Waya and Troy on Friday and Monday respectively, inevitably stakes in name only.

This would be a pretty strong lineup of races in February, but this may be the competitive low point in quality of Saratoga racing history.

Until now, it was impossible to book a week’s stay at Saratoga and see not one race of consequence. But while the five other weekends of the meeting are typically well-larded with important races, the third week of Saratoga ’08 in no way merits the expenditure required of a week under the elms. The hotels are still $300-a-night and up, $50 in tips will still get a good – ok, not so good, but still in the building -- table for lunch at the track where the foot-long chili dog with cheese will set you back $15.95 on top of the seating charge, the cheapest glass of wine at Mrs. London’s is $15, a can of beer in the backyard at Siro’s is still $8 and the dinner tab comes with a defibrillator, the best race you might see is the Yaddo Handicap and then -- you get to go back to your job.

Thanks for coming.