Saratoga Springs, NY--July 30, 2007

Dear Diary,

Not reporting on the races today. But will be betting on the races today; I have not yet taken leave of my senses. Much to reflect on in memorable opening week of Saratoga 139.

Before the meet began, we talked about the weird vibe in the air opening day eve. Consider all this and you decide:

Tom Durkin did an unusually good job at warming up the opening-day crowd. This years fan rendition of Theyre Off At Saratoga was a loud, heartfelt chorus. But soon after the favorite entered the stretch on a clear lead in that first race, Moussoud took a bad step and subsequently was euthanized.

Air in, air out, of the red-and-white striped balloon.

The next morning, Moussouds trainer Graham Motion called David Jacobson to apologize and offer his condolences. Jacobson had claimed the seven-year-old from Motion for $35,000 and, according to rule, owned him once the horse left the starting gate.

Although the backstretch is a tight-knit community, its doubtful Motion and Jacobson knew each other personally. Jacobson thought the turf specialist would be his best claim this year and believes the horse simply took a bad step.

Such courtesy and empathy between racetrack rivals is a little weird, right?

Not sure the first race set the tone but toward the end of Week 1, favorites were winning at a paltry 21 percent and Todd Pletcher had won only two races. Somehow these events dont seem to be mutually exclusive. Both will do much better in the weeks ahead. Pletcher already is up to four winners.

Business, meanwhile, has been absolutely booming. Handle figures for both on-track live handle and total handle from all sources were up markedly every day. Whats unusual is that churn is most often effected by the rate of winning favorites.

But despite an endless parade of longshots, the crowd kept right on sending it in. And somebody kept on hitting the Pick Six. There was only one carryover, into the Monday program. It was hit, paying $146,000-plus. Weird.

Attendance is up, too. The Win And Youre In Breeders Cup promotion not only entertained a national television audience for two hours last Saturday but put fannies in the seats, too. The gate was higher than last year even though the Whitney was moved up a week. Traditionally, Saratoga is still an August, not a July place to be. Twilight Friday, too, was an unqualified success.

Through the first week, attendance is up 14 percent, on-track handle 20 percent and all sources betting revenue increased 13 over last years totals with only one extra race carded, 58 to 57.

The weathers been good, weve had no races come off the turf [there were four last year] and field size has been large, explained NYRA President Charles Hayward. Indeed, there have been 42 more betting interests than there were last year.

Meanwhile, the pre-race Whitney storyline was which horse was capable of stepping up to lead the handicap division in the wake of Invasors retirement. His name is Lawyer Ron, who, as a four-year-old and now in the care of Pletcher, has moved way up on performance figures. He did so again Saturday in a track record performance.

Whether Lawyer Ron did or did he not set a track record was the most beaten dog in Saratoga during Week 1. The time was just too fast, it didnt make sense, said the racing paper of record.

Minutes following the Whitney official, Daily Racing Form staffers charged into Haywards office insisting the time of 1:46.64 was wrong. NYRA had placing judge and official course timer Stephen Foster time in three times off the television monitor before the next race was run. The clocking fell into line every time.

The next morning, Pletcher timed it off a replay monitor and verified it as correct. And its not like he had a vested interest. His Left Bank already owned the nine furlong mark set in 2004.

Another DRF writer weighed in, too, timing the race off a computer replay. Must have used a super-duper fast modem to insure there would be no glitches. Sure enough, the time had to be wrong. After all, a Grade 1 filly on the same card raced the distance in 1:49.19. That individual then reversed his position after re-timing the race from a TV replay.

Foster was back at it again on Monday, only this time before representatives of Equibase, Daily Racing Form and the New York Turf Writers Assn. The posted time checked out within a couple of hundredths on two sets of watches and it was agreed that the new standard of 1:46.64 was accurate and would be recognized.

All this could have been avoided, of course. Grade 1 filly Ginger Punch was a half length behind a six furlong pace of 1:12.83 in the Diana. Lawyer Ron was 1- lengths behind at the three-quarters that went in 1:10.28. Consequently, while running a slower final time, Ginger Punch actually raced her final three-eighths 3/5s of a second faster than Lawyer Ron! That should have been sufficient subjective evidence.

Maybe next time the frame of reference will be Moss Pace instead of Beyer Finals. Until then, arrogance must be its own reward.

Sundays Jim Dandy was big fun. Street Sense is a very popular colt and who doesnt love Calvin Borel? Except, momentarily perhaps, his brother Cecil, who phoned Calvin in the jocks room after the race and called him out. Why didnt you switch sticks to your left hand when he was getting in? You rode him like a bug boy.

Cecil had better be careful. He could lose his best groom with remarks like that.

Now all must await the results of Sundays Haskell to know whether there will be a Preakness redux with Curlin in the Travers, presented by the New York Lottery, whose takeout really needs lowering!

As for Curlin showing up in the Midsummers Derby, I wouldnt hold my breath.

Rags To Riches is back in training! She galloped at Belmont Monday and will ship to Saratoga Tuesday. Pletcher will decide in about a week whether shell be ready for the Alabama, August 18th. Its great having her back, and no small surprise given recent HRI reports.

Saratoga is, of course, synonymous with juvenile racing and weve seen a few promising maiden breakers; Sargent Seattle, War Pass and J Z Warrior, to name three.

If there was one disappointing element it was the retirement of jockey Jose Santos who, at 46, will be inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame one week after making his retirement official. Santos fractured his spine in five places in a Feb. 1 spill. The doctor said there would be an 80 percent chance I could wind up in a wheel chair if I continued to ride. Im extremely grateful for the career Ive had.

According to Equibase figures, Santos rode 4.083 winners, 331 of them graded stakes including 91 Grade 1s, total purses of over $187 million and, of course, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness aboard the highly celebrated stable pony, Funny Cide, in 2003.

He might not be the best horse Ive ever ridden, said Santos in the Saratoga press box Monday, but hes on top of the list. When a jockey wins the Kentucky Derby that becomes his favorite horse. Now were both retired.