Saratoga Springs, NY, July 25--

Dear Diary,

Wouldnt you know it? Before you can watch the horses run, you first have to get by the dogs and ponies.

Maybe you thought the racing would take the NYRA/Albany nonsense off the front page?

Think again.

Its seems that in the interests of integrity, Governor Eliot Spitzer gave up his box at Saratoga Race Course and suggested that the members of the State Racing and Wagering Board do the same.

Spitzer doesnt want people to think that a box at the track would color his decision on which entity should become the next franchise holder.

Of course, that wont be the case. Because either its already a done deal or he still remains clueless.

The SRWB? Now thats a good decision. Why would you want the agency that rules on racing in the Empire State to watch an actual horse race? The governor probably doesnt know that these boxes go to the organizations, not to individuals that would benefit in perpetuity.

As for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, this probably was a blessing. He goes to the races once every three years whether he wants to or not.

Saratoga County will keep their box, as will the Mayor of Saratoga Springs, Valerie Keehn. Good to know some people have their priorities, and perspective, straight.

And so will Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno, who represents Saratoga County and has two boxes that he pays for. Retail, boxes go from $4,500 to $6,700 for the season.

Want to know the real upset here? Eliot Spitzers political vendetta has turned Joe Bruno into a sympathetic figure.

Bruno later had some fun at Spitzer's expense in a press conference at the track before the races began.

But, no sir, dear diary, that aint easy.

First Race: The air came out of the balloon quickly when favorite Massoud broke down in mid-stretch and longshot Lieutenant Danz fell over him, unseating Johnny Velazquez and Raul Rojas, respectively. Fortunately, neither jockey was seriously injured. Massoud was euthanized. Winning dropdown Westmoreland and Garrett Gomez were lucky to get through for the nose victory. Runnerup Forget The Judge, finished strongly from next-to-last of 12 to just miss and was probably best.

Second Race: Fittingly, the first baby race of the year produced the first horse to watch. Sort of. Still dont know whether Todd Pletcher trainee Forest Prince can run since the rider did not ask any serious questions of the colt; follow. Meanwhile, Stanley Hough had debuting Sargent Seattle set for debut and he drew off following turn-move to win by open lengths in fast time. No excuses for favorite runnerup, Bold Trust.

Third Race: The pace was hot and contested and Ramon Dominguez timed his move perfectly, driving hard to nail Brilliant Son with Lord Snowden in the shadow of the wire. Anthony Dutrow trainee was fourth in the same race as favorite Grand Champion, who appeared to bounce off the lifetime best effort. Eligible to rebound next out.

Fourth Race: Second winner for Bill Badgett since returning to the trainng ranks, this time with Egypt Lane in a short turf sprint, the late move perfectly timed by Edgar Prado seeking a defense of his Spa riding championship. There arent too many riders; Gomez, Dominguez, Bravo, Desormeaux, Bejarano, to name five off the top, that are in Prados class on the grass.

Fifth Race: Post 10 on the tight turns of the Spa inner turf? No problem for Calvin Bo-Rail in his first full Spa season. Biding his time until the far turn, Borel guided Warn through down on the fence, steadied awaiting room, angled out in mid-stretch and Ronnie Werner trainee did the rest. Three-year-old War Chant colt showed excellent late kick to break maiden. Might be good enough to handle preliminary allowance types next out; bet back All Verses, in the bridle most of the trip, lost too much ground throughout; follow. Crowd went for Bobby Frankels Borobudur returning from layoff. Loomed inside behind horses into lane but finished one-paced. Should benefit.

Sixth Race: First good old-fashioned put-over of the meet. Again And Again, claimed for $50,000 four starts back and working his way down in class to $20,000 for his Spa return, benefited from a switch to Rafael Bejarano and stormed down the center of the track to win going away at 16-1. Heres where it gets interesting, dear diary. The official track program denoted a trainer switch from Diane Balsamo to David Jacobson, son of a former New York leading trainer, Buddy Jacobson, whose career ended after he was found guilty of the murder of model Melanie Cain in a celebrated tabloid story three decades ago. Doug Jacobson, Davids brother, was listed as owner of horses trained by Balsamo at the recently concluded Belmont meet. David has held an assistant trainers license for four months according to the NYRA stewards. He was accused of abusing the horse Hugable Tom in 1981, who subsequently died of laminitis, the trainer explaining at the time the disease is what claimed the horses life. Hugable Tom was owned by Michael Ricatto. Michael Ricatto Jr. was the listed as owner of Again And Again. Curiouser and curiouser.

Seventh Race: Formful result as favorite Hangingbyathread received a super ride from Prado, who slowed the pace to a crawl, and won the preliminary allowances for state-breds. But the Ricatto Jr. owned, David Jacobson-trained Highly Spoken completed the exacta at 21-1, after stalking the winners pace throughout. So lets see, diary, that would be Again and Again and Again!

Eighth Race: Patrick Biancone, who has his own problems, got a well timed finish from stable rider Julien Leparoux to win this with Pauillac. The favored entry of Incriminate and Blue Sky Gold both appeared in need of their returns from lengthy layoffs; note.

The Schuylerville: Prado is serving notice, a riding triple on opening day with first-time Rick Dutrow trainee Subtle Aly, now undefeated in two starts. State-bred I Promise was a game come-again second for Gary Contessa and Eibar Coa, appearing a resurgent winner, instead a nose shy of the line. Blitzing loomed a brief threat but settled for third. Favorite According To Plan broke slowly, moved menacingly between horses into the stretch, angled out for clear run but lugged in slightly in a green stretch effort. While the winner showed some class in overcoming a poor start of her own, no one really impressed as a potential stretch-out filly off this event. Lady Chace never menaced for Pletcher, who had a rough opening day.

Tenth Race: After a day of blanket finishes, appropriate the finale ended in a dead heat between American Dreama and Strong Presence. Papas Kara and Turning Leaves finished two noses behind the top pair. Of these four, Turning Leaves could have the most upside. She distributed her energy nicely in her debut then rallied willingly into the stretch here before being caught from behind. She will benefit from this; bet back at any distance with "non-winners of one" state-breds.

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Amazingly, even with dead-heat winners (at 16.60-1 and 27.50-1) and a $5.90 favorite (from post 12) the Pick Six was hit, paying $57,288. The other sequence winners paid $11.20, 35.40, 16.80 and 10.20. Doesnt seem like enough, does it?

With the exception of the spill, it was a terrific lid-lifer as 30,052 paid their way in and bet a record $3,825,564 on track.

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Bias Report: Track fast, no discernable bias. Turf firm, natural closers bias (especially early at any race meet). [The wire-to-wire turf winner set very slow fractions].