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Friday, August 24, 2007

We Like It Here

- We really like it here, and we had a grand day and evening in Saratoga on Friday. And no, it's not because of a winning day at the track. (Though the Head Chef picked out Auto City from the paddock in the 8th, and cashed a $2 win bet even though she thought it was the 7th and that the '8' horse was Premium Wine....who coincidentally also won. It's that kind of stuff that makes me really question all the hours of work I put into what has here been a mostly futile attempt to identify winners.)

We've tried to reproduce the highlights of our six week stay of last year in the lone week we've been here this summer. As usual, the time has rocketed by; it's like we just got here, and now it's almost Travers Day and our final night in town, damn. Our activities have been limited a bit by the cool weather, but that changed drastically today. The heat and humidity is back, and The Weather Channel is calling for a muggy high of 96 for Travers day, as if it won't be close enough there under any conditions, oh man! The crowds haven't really picked up here this week though, and I don't think we're looking at anything near a record breaker on Saturday.

So, we headed up to Lake Moreau in the morning, waited out a fierce rainstorm, took a picturesque hike (employing our Saratoga umbrellas against the lingering drizzle), and took a swim once the sun came peering through. We hung for a while, and I made it to the track just as the 4th went off. I made (and lost) only two wagers all day, and one of those was at Monmouth. After Miss Shop took a rather dreadful edition of the Grade 1 Personal Ensign, we split for Saratoga Springs State Park, where we set up in one of my favorite babbling brook-side spots in the world, broke out some wine, and barbecued on one of the grills there.

No, it doesn't get much better than this (though I probably should have removed the bug repellent before taking the shot). As I said, we really, really like it here.

From there, we drove into town, which was hopping as one might expect on the eve of the biggest day of the year. There's an exhibition of artwork by John Lennon going on this weekend, above Mrs. London's at 462 Broadway ($2 suggested donation). Yoko Ono told the Saratogian: "I'm excited because Saratoga Springs is a really incredible city that everybody knows about through Hollywood films."

Actually, I thought it was because of the horse races. But nevermind. There are over 100 works, all for sale, and the extremely helpful staff will do everything they can to help facilitate a transaction! There's a soundtrack of Beatles songs (strangely, not all Lennon's), and I heard some great tunes - Hey Bulldog and I'm Only Sleeping amongst them - that I hadn't in quite a while. I saw works ranging from $400, for handwritten lyrics, up to $22,000. There was a series of color drawings that he made for his son Sean called, appropriately enough, Drawings for Sean. These were cute, and a few were wryly humorous, especially Big Dog Frightens But Not Always, depicting a canine displaying cool nonchalance in the face of the scary Big Dog.

But my favorites were the simple black ink drawings, mostly of himself, with and without Ms. Ono. Particularly in his self-portraits, he displayed a real talent to create, using just a few linestrokes, portraits that had ample depth. Drawings such as the Head Chef's favorite, Eiffel Tower, showing the couple standing in front of an abstract version of the title landmark, were elegant in their simplicity.

And that brings us back to the Hollywood films horse racing. A masterstroke of a score can come with a simple revelation in the black ink of the Racing Form. For many years, that's all one needed to feel fully prepared. As I've said many times, Formulator is a great tool, and over the long run, being fully informed has to pay off. (Doesn't it?) But when the results continue to defy the hours of handicapping as emphatically as it has for me this week, then it's time to get back to the basics. On any given day, anything more than the ample data provided in the Racing Bible may be better left undiscovered. I'm hoping that Saturday will be one of those days, and that I'll be able to go back and buy that drawing for the Head Chef (just $3900, framed).

- Friday was a day to cash in on some of those hot trainers I've been mentioning here; hope at least some of you have caught one of these guys. One might reasonably expect that I would be showing a profit here, but I've been betting on them (and against them) at the wrong times. Another winner for George Weaver (Philharmonic hitting "all the right notes," thanks Tom, $16.40); another first-out winner for Kimmel (Cato Major $39.60...would have figured he was dead on the board even if I was there for the race); Richard Schosberg ($10.80); Linda Rice (Absoulute Heaven $8.70); and Allen Jerkens, who I mentioned the other day as a possibility for a strong close to the meet, with Miss Shop.