HOT SPRINGS—Like a #16 seed in the NCAA’s or an 8-8 NFL Wildcard playing in the Super Bowl, we’re just happy to be here.

Like those teams that have gotten lucky at least once in the past, perhaps the racing gods will smile upon us Saturday. Alas, we shall see.

My frame of reference, Arkansas Derby replays notwithstanding, is that I lived in Saratoga Springs for 16 years, Hot Springs as famed for its history as is the town in New York’s Capital District.

We made our first visit to Oaklawn Park, “Home of the Racing Festival of the South,” on Wednesday for the post draw. First visits to racetracks never gets old.

The next day a guided tour was conducted by my new BFF, Chris Robbins, who has day jobs as the CEO of Diversified Holdings of Hot Springs LLC, CEO of ThoroCap and, most significantly, an Administrator of Arkansas State University's College of the Ouachitas: Think High Priest of Geeks.

On the National Register of Historic Places, we drove through Central Avenue's Historic District to the top of the mountain in Hot Springs National Park, in the center of town hard by the Arlington Hotel where Capone stayed back in the day.

Alphonse wasn’t the sole Mafia chieftain to embrace this artistic, slightly naughty, all-seasons retreat although mostly during the racing season, of course, when he could expect run into Babe Ruth at the end of the Bambino's spring training session in Whittington Park, America’s first spring-training camp. Who knew?

Like Capone, Ruth would often frequent the town’s casinos, speakeasies and the racetrack, where tomorrow’s crowd--predicted stormy conditions notwithstanding-- could nearly double the town’s population of 35,000.

On St. Patrick’s Day in 1918, Ruth launched a mammoth home run that cleared the fence at Whittington Park and landed across the way, inside the Arkansas Alligator Farm. It was measured at 573 feet, baseball’s first 500-foot-plus homer.

Returning to a period when Native Americans enjoyed their indigenous land, to the time crime lords came to visit, Hot Springs was regarded neutral territory because of its healing waters which literally and figuratively gave life to this sector of Garland County.

Ran into Andy Serling and Steve Byk at DeLuca’s Pizzeria, voted best restaurant in Arkansas, never mind Hot Springs, in 2017. That might be a bit of a stretch, but an excellent pizza; thin crust featuring great, fresh toppings, including Arkansas grown arugula.

Some great food here; such as the prosciutto and arugula crepe topped with a light Hollandaise Sauce at Alexa’s Creperie in Rockwell, just outside city proper, and a Jalapeno Kolache Donut, thanks to Chris’ wife Donna: Picture a glossy croissant filled with a tender jalapeno hot dog. Yummy.

Wish we had a better weather outlook for fans and first-time visitors alike. Today is sunny but very cool. Arkansas Derby day will be cooler yet with an inch of rain predicted. Inconvenient? Probably. A Derby form cloud? Most definitely.

But we’re very happen to be here to find out. With any luck, a personal reprise of last year’s first round UMBC NCAA upset would be nice.