07/28/2009 8:41PM

Spa Minus 1

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AndsoitbeginsSARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- And so it begins.

Got here a couple of hours ago after an educational drive north: Who even knew that there's a drawbridge on the Hutchinson Parkway just before the Orchard Beach/City Island exit that stays up for nearly half an hour if you travel at the wrong time of day? It finally occurred to me to put the car into park and fish the as-yet-uncracked opening-day pp's out of my satchel, but I just wasn't feeling it. So I'm just diving in now, but I guess that's why they invented "Starbucks Doubleshot Energy + Coffee" (with "That extra surge to keep you energized and alert," according to the can.)

At least I have an extra hour and 15 minutes to do the work. I don't have to be ready for a 10:30 Siro's seminar because, as most of you have heard by now, there aren't any Siro's seminars this summer. Harvey Pack decided to retire and his apprentice seminar host, Andy Serling, got a full-time gig co-hosting NYRA's daily "Talking Horses" show. So we all decided to merge the old seminars with the NYRA show during Saratoga, and a DRF guest will join Andy and either Jason Blewitt or Eric Donovan each day in the Saratoga Carousel for a live handicapping show from 11:45 to 12:30. "Talking Horses sponsored by DRF" will be part of the NYRA simulcast signal and will also be streamed live over the Internet, I'll be the opening-day guest, followed by Dave Litfin on Thursday and David Grening on Friday.

GeneraltsoThe post-drawbridge portion of the ride was uneventful, and I got off the Northway an exit early to drive through town. I always enjoy a nostalgic moment looking at the tiny motels on the fringes of town like the Thorobred, an odd array of shacks that looks exactly the way it did when I came up here for the first time 30 years ago.

 I'll do some more extensive town reconnaissance tomorrow night, but the one thing I noticed was a new Chinese restaurant on Broadway. I have always thought it would be a brilliant business idea for someone to open such a place in a town that is swarmed with Szechuan-addicted downstaters for six weeks a year but where you heretofore could not find a decent plate of General Tso's Chicken for love or money. Full report by week's end on whether the dream has been realized.

OxygenlampAnother new establishment I have yet to sample is some sort of equine hyperbaric- chamber facility that has drawn the attention of state regulators, who yesterday hurriedly issued a new medication directive banning such treatments within a week of raceday. I guess that means we won't have to add a circled "PO" for First Time Pure Oxygen to the past performances just yet.

In the meantime, it's barely 16 hours till first post (and about 15.5 until the First Hattie's Fried Chicken Sandwich of 2009), so I better get to work on that 134-horse opening-day card.