08/27/2007 9:42AM

Show the World You Care


by the belt you wear if you want to get out of Saratoga Springs without a final dent to your bankroll.

Finally got the house closed up and the cars loaded with dogs and five weeks of accumulated detritus about 2 p.m. Sunday and headed for the Thruway entrance at the foot of Union Avenue. Traffic in front of the track was at a crawl, as if it were half an hour before first post Travers Day instead of three races into the day-after card. Turns out it was a police checkpoint and I was one of the lucky ones told to pull over to the side of the road.

We sit there for five minutes, with the dogs and I all whining out loud and the officer finally comes up to the window and asks "What brings you to town, sir?" I'm wondering if he's being a wiseass, since we're 10 feet from the gate to the track, and then consider being a wiseass myself and telling him I heard there was a racetrack around here somewhere, but being a wiseass with the cops is a low-percentage play so I just say "The racing." Then he asks "How long are you planning to stay?" and now I'm getting all ACLU about this and wondering what exactly entitles him to demand my intentions and itinerary since I'm clearly sober as a steward, so I tell him a little testily, "I was actually trying to leave," and that gets me a harsh "License and registration" demand. He disappears for 15 minutes and comes back with a ticket. Seems I wasn't wearing my seatbelt, but he says he's generously letting me off with a warning for that and presents me instead with a more insurance-friendly ticket for an expired inspection sticker.

I'm sure the checkpoint will be back closing weekend, so buckle up. And if you're driving back to the city or Long Island, do what I finally did after years of seven-hour Sunday-afternoon crawls downstate on the Thruway: Take the Taconic instead. (Just remember: NO rest stops for almost three hours and really bad cellphone reception.) The only straw in my path was a sudden slowdown halfway down that at first looked like another checkpoint but wasn't: It was a line of cars waiting for a gorgeous but frightened little doe, inches from the road, thinking long and hard about darting across the highway before running back into the woods.

It's great to be home and other than the checkpoint it looks like I picked the right card to travel through yesterday. I missed some nice performances by War Pass(who got a Beyer 93), Daaher(106) and Maryfield(100) that I'll write about when I get caught up, but also some impossible-looking results like that Dr. Rico from Suffolk Downs.

And I see there shall be no rest for the weary traveller since you were nice enough to leave an $81k carryover for the final card of Week 5. The first leg is a beaut, with 11 first-timers in a field of 13 statebred 2-year-old fillies. [Update: 5 late scratches on a sunny day, as if they're all afraid of someone, so watch the board.] Time to buckle down.