07/23/2008 2:50AM




SARATOGA SPRINGS -- It's about two hours until sunrise and less than 10 until first post, so it's time to start worrying about the weather, and whether carding five grass races for Opening Day was such a good idea. According to the Weather Channel (which must be right since it was sold for $3.5 billion-with-a-b to NBC last month), there's an 80 percent chance of precipitation Wednesday, with "isolated thunderstorms in the morning, then mainly cloudy during the afternoon with thunderstorms likely. A few storms may be severe."

A few were quite severe Tuesday afternoon when I drove the 199 miles from Belmont to Saratoga. Summer squalls of nearly apocalyptic ferocity chased me all the way up the Thruway but hit town only briefly, cooling things off nicely. I can report that Saratoga Springs is still here and looks pretty much the same, which in this case is a compliment and not a criticism.

What's different for me, for openers, is the solitude. Mrs. Blog and the greyhounds are not coming up until Week Two, due to the continuing adventures of Teddy the Retired Racehorse, who did business as Three Steps Ahead on the racetrack.

I'll let Mrs. Blog summarize the story so far:

"I saw Teddy at a training center in Lexington in October of 2004, when he was a 3-year-old. A little more than two years later, after following his career through ups and downs and several changes of ownership, we claimed him in December 2006.

Download ThreeStepsAhead.pdf

"He got a nice long layoff to wind down from track life, then we put him into training as a riding horse and I first got on him last October, almost three years to the day since our first meeting.

"Within a few months he was stumbling when ridden and showing some unusual gait and posture issues that the local vet thought were neurologic and were indicative of EPM (equine protozoal myeloencephalitis), but he tested negative. We then sent him to New Bolton for a full-body scan, but all they could come up with was 'mild bilateral hind-end lameness.'

"He was given eight weeks off, enjoying plenty of turnout with his pasturemate, Clancy, a 6-year-old Quarter Horse who was a Premarin baby and was rescued from slaughter as a weanling. Teddy started back under saddle this spring, progressing to the point where we could walk, trot, canter, and trot ground poles."

I interrupt for what used to be called a home movie:

"But he still wasn't 100 percent right. After various tests and treatments failed to solve his problems, we called in a second vet who supported the initial diagnosis of EPM, saying it could have been a false negative, so we treated him for that and he is just beginning to resume training."

So it's just me and the laptop and the Cheese Waffies for Week One.


Another difference for Spa '08 is that I'm going to try working out of the press box, which I haven't called "office" in more than a decade. The Internet access can't possibly be worse there than it is here at the rental house, and y'all seem to enjoy hearing about the racing sooner rather than later. Now I'm not promising to lash myself to the laptop for every weekday maiden claimer, but I'll be trying to follow along more promptly and regularly than in years past.

To that end, my plan is to organize the next six weeks' worth of entries here with a single posting for each day of the meet, which I'll update during the day and later with any afterthoughts. Also, I'll top each day's posting with a handy-dandy little chart of the day's winners and times, which I hope will prove a useful resource you can click back to as the meet goes on.

I've made it through the Day One card and I'll be discussing it with Dave Litfin and host Harvey Pack at the opening-day Siro's seminar, which starts at 10:45 a.m. and which you can supposedly listen to here. With half the card in jeopardy of being surface-switched, it's difficult to get too specific until scratch time, but here are a couple of early notions.

Race 2: The first baby race of the meeting has seven firsters in a field of nine, expensive youngsters from the usual suspects including colts by some hot first-crop sires, but don't leave out second-stime-starter Cognito. The $700k 2-year-old-in-training purchase, a Langfuhr colt and a half-brother to Cool Coal Man, ran well despite trouble in his debut at Churchill, finishing second to Proud Jefe, who won a $50k stakes at Canterbury in his next start.

Race 3: Multiple stakes-placed Accredit looks like a virtual cinch at a short price against moderate N1x competition, but the exacta could prove more interesting. I'm not a fan of second choice Golden Age, a 4-year-old whose debut Beyer of 95 has looked shakier and shakier as the first three finishers in that race returned to fall off 13, 17, and 10 points respectively in their next starts. Instead, I'll try to get 12-1 ML Bordeaux Bandit into the number. The Vindication 3-year-old scored a big maiden win at Gulfstream, then had the misfortune to hook Hey Byrn (twice) and Harlem Rocker and was simply overmatched. Something clearly went wrong in his last start but he's been freshened for his return and just might like the dropback to a sprint.

Finally, as some of you were kind enough to recall, it was a year ago today that I posted the first Cristblog entry. I had no idea what to expect for what was supposed to be a six-week experiment. One year, about 200 posts and precisely 6,468 published comments later, I only hope you're still enjoying it as much as I am.

Now let's get out there and cash some tickets.