Saratoga Racecourse, Saratoga Springs, NY, Fri-Sat, August 24-25, 2001

-- Saratoga, Fri-Sat, Aug. 24-25:

Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! as Gomer Pyle might say.

The McChump Tour and the McChump Party are suddenly nearly clear across the country from Seattle. These things just happen, I guess.

I will say this: The view from the air leaving Seattle is spectacular. You can see all the big mountains, Rainier, St. Helens, Hood, Jefferson, etc., clear to the southern Cascades horizon. Sweet. As was spending part of a week at home and in my own bed for a change.

Task #1 on Friday was to stop by Siro's and attend Harvey Pack's morning handicapping session. He had as guests two gentlemen whose names I don't recall, but they turned out to be very good handicappers, as they named several longshots during the day. They also had a good time making fun of Kentucky drug rules. And they dissed the Godolphin operation and trainer Eoin Harty, which proved to be their major failing as the weekend unfolded.

After the session I stopped by to say hi to Harvey. He had 4 words of wisdom, regarding the racing discussions on the Internet, which I shall forever keep in mind: "It's only horse racing".

Lee Tomlinson had provided the McChump Party with reserved clubhouse seats on both Friday and Saturday, Travers Day, for which the Party is eternally grateful. What's nice about these is that you're insulated from the crushing crowd out front and in back on Travers Day. Plus the 2nd day seats were the very first row behind the one row of boxes. Sweet.

Well, it's Saratoga. You didn't expect anything stupid was going to happen, did you? It didn't. Except that I tried the Big Red Spring water again. Now THAT is stupid. It's just a beautiful, wonderful track.

Point Given put on a tremendous show in the Travers and justified his favoritism.

Another acquaintance renewed was that of Internet correspondent John M., who was as hospitable as ever, inviting the Party back to his place near the track after the races, both days, for drinks on the porch, and for leading a Friday night dinner expedition to an excellent small semi-local restaurant far from the madding tourist crowd then beginning to jam into Saratoga Springs.

Lee T. had also recommended a couple of restaurants in the small town just south of the Springs where the McChump Party had alighted, and one named the Tomato-something or the something-Tomato was where we ended up late on Saturday night. Excellent. The best steak I have had in a long, long time, and that includes sampling in Montana and Texas.

On the betting front for UPF, we didn't have much success, except for John M.'s choice, Veil of Avalon in the 7th on Travers Day, who paid $5.90 to win. I won money on Friday with the $300 Bush tax refund "Invest in America" bankroll, but then gave it back, and then some, on Saturday. So no money from that. Oh well, at least my tax refund helped enrich other horseplayers.

All in all, a primo two days at a beautiful primo track, and a big thumbs up. Thanks again to both John and Lee for helping make it great weekend.

Total miles traveled to get to this track: 2505