Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rexy Race

Posted by Avram Freedberg

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m scared.

Rexy is running in the 5th race tomorrow. It’s a Maiden Special Weight, which means, the horses are classier than in her last race. So, I am worried that she will do badly and have to be sent to a lesser race track. I know the odds are we’re going to eventually lose het, so I guess it’s advance separation anxiety.

I told her today that she is known as a feisty lady, like her namesake Sheila. However, Sheila was a winner and she has yet to live up to her name. I used to imagine that Sheila was listening from up high and would help her. Just another wishful fantasy, I suppose.


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Good news, bad news...

Posted by Avram Freedberg

My friend, Rob, has been in the horse racing business for a long time, even breeding his own thoroughbreds. As far as winners, it’s been a bit of a drought. So when his first time starting 2-yr. old, Jess Not Jesse, went to the post yesterday, we were all on pins and needles.

Jess got a good start leaving the gate second, settling back and running smoothly. Everyone was holding their breath. As they came around the stretch turn, as usual it was Linda Rice, who started cheering first. Jess was coming on the outside, maybe three or four wide. Then, everyone was cheering. Would Jess make it? Go, Jess, go!

First slowly, he kept coming. Then, faster and faster. Finally, he wore down the leader and won “going away!” His winning time was sparkling.

I don’t know about Rob, but his breeding shows some staying power for longer races… you know, like The Kentucky Derby! Remember, hope and dreams. It’s what this is all about.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Arielle’s Song has an inflammation in her suspensory ligament and is probably going to be turned out with no chance for racing this year.

On top of that, Rexy’s speed rating for her last race was poor, even with her second place finish. So, she may be limited in the kinds of races and the racetracks where she can be competitive. We’ll see and report further.

Hope you’re having a nice weekend!

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Thursday, August 28, 2008


Posted by Avram Freedberg

She’s still Rexy, not Sheila yet, but she finished 2nd today, which is her best finish yet, albeit in a lower class of competition. She was in a claiming race, which means she could have been claimed (bought) by anyone who qualified and entered a claiming ticket for her.

I was torn between the business logic of getting some money back on the investment and moving on to a horse with more potential and the emotional feelings of not wanting to give up on her or her “Sheila” name which is so special to me because of our dear departed colleague of the same name.

She got a good start and chased the leader around for 6 furlongs. However, she had nothing left in the stretch. Nonetheless, she finished a solid second, 4 ½ lengths in back of the winner but several lengths in front of the 3rd place finisher.

I was sad that we were not in the winner’s circle, especially because a special presentation was made to the winner by members of our military. More importantly, I was sad that they might put a red tag on her, indicating she had been claimed and was no longer ours. Separation anxiety, I guess, that was relieved when we found out there were no claims in the race.

Now, Linda is talking about running her again in just a few days at 5 ½ furlongs on the grass… but we’ll see what actually happens.

All the “kids” love the carrots but none of them have eaten apples or peppermint.

One of the ironic problems is we’ve become friends with several other owners and feel obliged to attend their races as a show of support. Since often they have multiple horses, this can seem an overbearing responsibility at times. The other side of the coin… it’s nice to have so many new friends who are simpatico with the vagaries of horse racing.

We almost got Linda into a balloon but by the time we got to the launch site, the winds had picked up and our flight was canceled. You’d think with all of my hot air, we could overcome this obstacle… but no.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

One week...

Posted by Avram Freedberg

It’s hard to believe that only one week of our Saratoga adventure has passed. We have been flying since Ahvee’s Destiny win last Monday. We’ve done so many things, seen so many people and hosted many friends and family. We’ve had guests almost every minute.

We take everyone to see the horses. Until this morning, there were four of our brood in residence. However, it was found that Conseated Lady had a “meat-cleaver” fracture in her rear right leg. This should not require surgery, if all goes well. She has been sent to Florida and will be hand walked for 60 days and turned out for 60 more days. Hopefully, the fracture will calcify and heal by itself. Only time will tell. She will not race in 2008.

We take carrots with us to the stable and usually get to see one or more of them work out. They all love their carrots. Only Conseated Lady did not eat them one day because of her condition. But even she started downing them with gusto before she left. We feed them by putting the carrot on top of our outstretched hand, so the horse can eat the baby carrot without grabbing a finger in the process.

Rexy worked out on the grass in an average time but she didn’t get in to her race. So Linda has put her in a Maiden claiming race ($35K is the claiming price) on Wednesday going 6 furlongs on the dirt. Hopefully, this lesser race will give her a chance to win.

Ahvee’s Destiny has been nominated for a race the last day of the Saratoga meet but will more likely point for a five furlong turf $200K Stakes race at Philadelphia Park the weekend before Rosh Hashanah (Sept 27).

Arielle’s Song, the two year old who recovered from a lengthy bout with Pneumonia, seemed to be making great progress in her training. Linda was going to breeze her (timed workout) late last week but she refused to get onto the main track. She was training there successfully when given some mild tranquilizer but when the medicine was removed for the breeze, she apparently got very anxious. Back to square one.

We’ve squeezed in trips to Congress Park, Yaddo Gardens, geysers and Springs, galleries, Racing Museum & Hall of Fame and, of course, Saratoga Race Track, including the Travers Stakes won by Colonel John by a nose hair and a race in which a friend of ours had her horse beat the track record but lose to someone even faster (both were trained by Linda and finished 1,2). I even went bowling with Bob Fox of Racing Legacy radio segments who tutored me. My first game was 105. By the fourth game, I bowled 210. Haven’t done that since I was a young whippersnapper!

Lots of fun dinners with old and new friends, including a heated discussion with another horse owner and the rest of the dinner guests. Love this guy since he makes me seem totally non-abrasive and mellow! Thanks to (in order of guest appearance), Johnna, Allen, Linda E., Joyce, Larry, Jonathan, Donny and Pam. It’s been a great week.

Root for Rexy!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

9 to 1 ...

Posted by Avram Freedberg

That’s what the punters thought of Ahvee’s Destiny’s chances against the boys )and 3 more of Linda’s fillies!). It was a tough race, and an important one. Ahvee’s Destiny needed to show us that she could race with these quality horses because she will have to face this quality and better if she’s to proceed forward in her racing career.

As usual, I was nervous all day. Happily, Ahvee’s Destiny wasn’t.

We went to see her this morning before she had to go to the pre-race holding barn. She seemed happy and content munching her hay. I was surprised, since I didn’t think they let them eat anything prior to a race. We snuggled her and gave her our love and support. So, did you, with your good luck wishes. We had our own support network at the track, including Rob & Sheri, Allen & Linda E. and Johnna, all rooting for Ahvee. But now, she had to go to work.

She was in the #8 post with speed inside her. So, when the gate opened, she was off to her usual fast start but so were the horses inside her. She couldn’t get to the rail and ran wide most of the race. We were worried that she was giving up too much ground to these good horses.

Coming around the stretch turn, she was still close up in third but seemed to lose steam. I was viewing the race mostly through binoculars, except when the view was blocked. Frankly, I thought she was not going anywhere… but I was wrong. Johnny Velasquez tapped with the stick and Linda Rice started cheering, “go Ahvee!” I couldn’t believe it. She was coming on again… gaining, gaining until with just few strides left to the finish line, she took the lead and held it to win by a head!

What a race! What a horse! What a trainer! Linda’s four entries finished 1, 2, 3, 4. Unbelievable. Tom Durkin, the voice of Saratoga, called Linda Rice’s Superfecta.

I put on my Cricket jockey silks and we made our way to the Winner’s Circle almost not believing she had actually done it. She has a lot of heart!
They gave us a trophy and led us to a champagne celebration. All this within one hour of Allen and Linda E.’s arrival. They think this is what happens all the time!

WOW! We’ll be flying for the rest of our stay in Saratoga. No balloon needed.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Racing Update...

Posted by Avram Freedberg

No one scratched in Rexy’s race, so she didn’t get in (at least one had to scratch since she was on the wait list, known as “also eligible”).

Ahvee’s Destiny will withdraw from tomorrow’s Monmouth race and run at Saratoga on Monday against the boys in an overnight stakes race called the Mechanicville with a purse of $80K. It’s the sixth race around 3:47, 5 ½ furlongs on the turf. She’s going from post 8 with John Velasquez up (first time).

At least, we’ll get to see her race at Saratoga. Wish us luck. It worked last time!

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rexy Update ...

Posted by Avram Freedberg

Blitzer correctly reminds me that Ofcr. Sheila T Rex is scheduled to race tomorrow in Saratoga. My stress level must be showing. Felt bad that Conseated Lady won’t get to the races this year. Am frustrated that it’s been so difficult to find a race at Saratoga for Ahvee’s Destiny. Nonetheless, let’s root for Rexy!

It’s a tougher field for her than in her last race. However, the last race was her first in a while and should serve as a tightener for this race (as Blitzer reasoned). I think she’s in with a tough crowd but we’ll be cheering for her.

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Horse Biz ...

Posted by Avram Freedberg

Conseated Lady had a workout Wednesday at 4 furlongs in :48+. She’d been appearing to have pain in her hind quarter. However, it seems to emanate from her rear ankle. X-Ray shows a hook in the bone structure, equivalent to a spur or chip. The other joints will be X-rayed and, if there are no other problems, she will go to the farm. Usually it takes 90 days for the condition to resolve. So, it doesn’t seem like she will ever race as a two-year old.

The race at Saratoga for Ahvee’s Destiny did not fill. So, Linda’s entered her in a stakes race at Monmouth for Sunday. There is supposed to be an overnight stakes at Saratoga on Monday that she could go for. Linda will re-evaluate the situation tomorrow.

We are scheduled to be in Saratoga Sunday but I don’t know when we will arrive. If Ahvee’s Destiny races at Monmouth on Sunday, post time is 4:52. If we go to the race, we would not make it until 11 PM, in all probability. So, we need to evaluate our logistics as well.

Have a lovely weekend!

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Ahvee's Destiny wins at Monmouth

Posted by Avram Freedberg

We were worried ...…so, when we arrived at Monmouth, we went right to the stable area. We found her in the receiving barn #5, stall #20. To our happy surprise, she seemed calm. She wasn’t wet from sweat and she was happy to receive our strokes and kisses. This was a good beginning. Cissy, Linda’s assistant trainer, credited the groom, Giovvani, who had accompanied her down from Saratoga.

We arrived at our box with 90 minutes left to the announced posttime. The Parterre Box, as it is called, is like being in your own cabana with a beautiful view of the racetrack. It can be very peaceful, unless the people in the box on either side of you are rowdy. Let’s put it this way, we were lucky we couldn’t spend much time in the box. Service was so slow, we only managed to get some tea and coffee before we had to get to the paddock.

Time further got compressed when the raetrack reduced the time between races which advanced the post times. Our race, originally scheduled for 4:15PM was now scheduled for 3:56PM. In retrospect, I think the track officals were trying to get the races in before the thundershowers arrived.

Ahvee’s Destiny arrived at the paddock still looking calm. We got to stroke her and speak softly to her while she was being saddled. Suddenly, it started to rain… heavier and heavier. Ahvee doesn’t like to run on and off track, so we were worried. After all, she was the 8-5 favorite (by post time, she was 6-5).

You’ve heard about lots of worrying. There are two words I would use to describe the racing experience: hope and worry. No matter how bad the situation may seem, you hope. No matter how good the situation may seem, you worry.

As post time nears, my body’s adrenaline flow increases substantially. Sometimes, it actually hurt. This time adrenaline yes, pain no. We went to bet and found Cissy at what she called her lucky TV post.

As we watched the screen together, the gate opened. Ahvee was in the 7 post. The horse in #3 was first out of the gate with Ahvee right behind and the #9 to her outside coming up to take the lead. Ahvee and Miss Kneehigh (the #9) raced together with Miss kneehigh maintaining a head lead and the tow of them separating from the rest by about three lengths. Coming around the stretch turn, Miss Kneehigh camein on Ahvee and they appeared to make contact, but Stewart Elliot, the jockey, cut the corner coming out of the stretch turn and Ahvee was free of Miss Kneehigh and the rest of the pack. As they ran down the stretch, no one could close the gap.

When I felt certain of the outcome, I pulled a “Red Auerbach.” When Red was sure his Boston Celtics had the game won, he took out a cigar. I don’t smoke but I quickly donned an extra-large size copy of the jockey silks with Cricket on the front and the back. Ahvee’s Destiny had won, Everything’s Cricket Racing had won and we had won! What an exhilirating experience.

We ran to the winner’s circle (I have some photos of Ahvee arriving that will be posted on Monday) where we posed for our winner’s photos and even got a trophy (that they took back. I guess it was just ceremonial). I stood next to Stewart Elliot for the photo. I can’t to see the two Cricket jopckey silks together.

Really glad we won. I can’t imagine how we would have made our 4-hr., traffic jammed road trip home after losing. The high from the win made it a lot easier. Now, on to Saratoga next Sunday for the last two weeks of the season.

Friday, August 8, 2008

If it's on the grass ...she runs tomorrow!

Posted by Avram Freedberg

We’re worried about her, so we’re going to Monmouth early enough to spend some time with her and see if we can contribute to making her more comfortable. I hope she doesn’t end up coming all that distance for nothing.

Wish us luck!

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Saratoga Weekend ...

Posted by Avram Freedberg

Bulletin! – Ahvee’s Destiny is entered in the eighth race on Friday but… NOT AT SARATOGA! Linda found a race for her at Monmouth where she should have a good chance to win. However, I am worried about the long van ride. She doesn’t react well to be being shipped away. We’ll see if it actually takes place, the results, etc. and keep everyone apprised.

Saratoga -

We got a good night’s sleep on Saturday night and took breakfast at the Hotel Adelphi where service is not their middle name. Want some toast? Just wait in line to use the one available toaster.

On the way to the stable to see our progeny, we passed several sales corrals where horses are displayed, paraded, allowed to be felt and, I guess anything else, if your checkbook is large enough. In the sales catalogs, each horse has a number. This is known as a hop number because the number is actually displayed on each horse’s hip. It was very interesting to see the going’s on. Next time, we’ll try to attend the actual sale.

On to the stable. We took the carrots but not my camera to the stalls because I thought I’d taken all the photos of the horses on Friday. But leave it to Arielle’s Song. She was sleeping on her side on top of the hay in her stall. I ran back to get the camera but too late. She was already up and eating some hay when I returned, only moments later. Until last year, I used to think that if a horse was on its side, there was a problem with the horse. Nope. Many of them like to nap that way. Almost made me want to cuddle up with her, she was so cute.

So, after Arielle’s Song devoured the carrots, we went to see the rest who offered us no unusual sights or sounds. They did offer us something irreplaceable… a sense of peace and familial tranquility. We were clearly in the right place.

Off to the races where we went to see Joan and Carmen, the two women in “Horsemen’s Relations” who got us wonderful boxes each day. My assistant, Barbara Shaw struck up a nice relationship with them and they were very helpful to us. Their photo will be on the web by the weekend, I hope.

Now, you may think I didn’t enjoy the track because I decided to try and handicap the races which met with very limited success. Even when I picked a winner, I paired it up with a loser but that’s what happens when all you pick is “the chalk (the favorites).” Anyone can do that. It’s finding winner’s at a better price that poses the difficulty. I thought I did this well years ago. However, if that is true, I’ve forgotten everything I once knew (or thought I did!). Somehow, I think that’s what they all say when they can’t find winners.

The best time was spent visiting with friends like Rob and Patsy. Rob hit a nice exacta which put his account in the black. My account was just black and blue. One of Rob’s friends, Bob Fox who broadcasts The Legends of Racing, talked about health, bowling and Bollywood. Then, Rhoda walked around to various vendors, including those one who had fancy race hats for women at fancy prices. There were some really nice ones but Rhoda resisted.

During the day, the balloon man called to say we were on for Monday morning. So, after the races, we ate in a wonderful Indian restaurant named Karavalli and turned in early. That night, Rhoda dreamt about India, which she told me about at 4AM.

So now we had spoken about Bollywood, eaten Indian, dreamt Indian and were off to the balloon flight where, as fate would have it, our companion passengers were all Indian! (On top of that, I had an important business meeting today with, of course, an Indian gentleman!)

I expected the balloon to serve curry but they stuck to mimosa’s and/or straight Champagne (or orange juice, I guess). This balloon experience was ice but not as exciting as the balloon flight we took last month in Switzerland. Just for you who say you’re scared of heights, so are we. However, there is something about being in that balloon, rising gently and not feeling the wind - since you’re moving at the same speed as the wind - that is sort of magical. I’m no David Niven but I expected to see Passpatout join our Indian friends and lead us around the world. You must try this experience. It is very special.

Unfortunately, we ran late, so we missed seeing Jess Not Jesse workout on the grass at the Oklahoma training track which is around the corner from the house we will be renting on August 17th. Instead, it was breakfast, return to the Adelphi to checkout and a visit to the house we’ll be renting and to our “landlord,” Liz. She was wonderful and so is the house. We’re looking forward to saying there.

Then another stop to say goodbye to the horses and feed them the carrots that Liz had given us and we were homeward bound. What a grand weekend! Hope you enjoyed sharing our experiences.

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Saratoga Saga II

Posted by Avram Freedberg

On Saturday morning, we had reservations to go ballooning. (I know many have reservations about going ballooning!) I got up at 3:45AM, so we could be at the meeting point by 5:45. A few minutes before we were going to leave the balloon Captain called to say he was concerned about some incoming weather and he was postponing the flight.

What to do ? – go back to sleep or… go watch the early morning workouts at the racetrack. Well, wouldn’t you go to the racetrack at 5 in the morning? OK, OK, I know the answer but we went nonetheless.

It was spectacular. Still night when we arrived, Linda told us to go into the backstretch entrance and she’d be out with Ahvee’s Destiny soon after 5:30. We went to the coffee hut which was the only place that was lit up and a few others (besides the workers in the hut) milled about drinking their coffees or munching on… who knows what at that hour.

I took some pre-dawn photos, which came out with more light in them than my naked eye could see. It was peaceful and beautiful. So was dawn, as Mr. Sun crept over the horizon to the east.

As 5:30 came and went more and more horses and riders entered the track; more and more people too. At this point mostly trainers, assistants, owners, clockers and some punters. Not much difference between the last two categories as they wanted to find winners to bet by clocking and watching their workouts. Soon, Susie was coming towards us aboard the beautiful Chestnut, Ahvee’s Destiny, now 4 years old. Susie stopped next to us, so we could take photos and do a little horse snuggling, then they went jogging onto the Saratoga main track. Basically once around the 1 1/8 mile oval. Ahvee seemed to enjoy her exercise and pranced by us on the way back to her stable stall.

Soon after, Rob Koones’s colt, Jess Not Jesse, was brought out for his turn to jog around the track. Rob and Sheri were up for the weekend but it was too early to call Rob (since I only had Sheri’s cell phone number at that point, so I took a photo of his horse. A good looking 2-yr. pld bred by Rob and looking plenty feisty. Hopefully, he will get his first race next week.

Rexy wasn’t coming to the racetrack that day, since her regimen called for walking only after her race on Thursday. It wasn’t until after 8AM that Conseated Lady was brought to the track for gate training. The starting gate is intimidating for horses. They are often scared to walk in and they don’t like being confined in such a narrow space. So, each race horse needs to “graduate” from gate school. They actually get a card from the Starter before they are authorized to race.

On this day, Conseated Lady went in without too much trouble. She took off when they released the gate. It was quite fascinating to watch her and the other horses being schooled. Some got quite anxious.

Linda told us she was leaving Arielle’s Song for last because this was her first day at the track and it is quieter at the very end of training time. So, we ran to see our realtor and got a list of alternative rentals for next year. Then we ran back to Linda’s stable to accompany Arielle’s Song to the track. WE also met two other horse owners, Patsy and George. We all went with Arielle’s Song to witness her first workout on a small training track away from any remaining hubbub at the main track. She went around this smaller track twice, had some fits and starts but did well for her first training session.

While we were waiting around, we chatted with some of the other viewers and even ran into a gossip writer who was handing out his own newsletter called Indian Charlie’s. Thanks to the balloon cancellation, we did something I doubt we would have done so early. It turned into a real highlight of our visit.

We did a little driving around, then walking around, had breakfast and felt like it was time to go to sleep. So we did. Though it was just a nap followed by a quick shower, a change of clothes and off to the track for the races. We got to meet Joan and Carmen, who thanks to my assistant, BJ, gave us a wonderfully situated box. Curtis Sliwa passed by in full Guardian Angel gear. Later we went to visit with Steve Byk to finish the ten second conversation we had on Friday. We left before the end of the races, walked a little more around downtown, poked our heads into a gallery and had a wonderful dinner in a private room at Mouzon with Rob and Sheri.

And so it went, morning to evening, it was a full day… and it was good!

More to come.

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Back from Saratoga ...

Posted by Avram Freedberg

Unfortunately, our internet service or our rented PC stunk and we couldn’t get e-mail for most of the weekend. Otherwise, I would have gotten the pleasure of sharing each day’s adventure with you… and it really was a pleasure!

We rolled into Saratoga Springs a little after 2PM on Friday. We checked in at our hotel, The Adelphi, with 131 years of history (even older than me!). What a grand, yet dark, Victorian with the first Otis elevator from 1920 still working (and needed a conductor!). Seeping in history, this became a hotel for Jews when Eugene Zuckerman bought it in the 1920’s. Some of the room doorposts, still have a Mezuzah affixed to them. It is situated right in the center of Broadway within easy reach of everything downtown and the Racetrack.

After dropping our bags off, we immediately ran to Linda Rice’s stable to see “the kids.” Each one is so different from the others. They were in four different stable buildings. First, we got our first look at Arielle’s Song. She had the four month battle with Pneumonia. She is by far the biggest of “our kids.” She is stalled next to a horse named Canadian Ballet, who is very petite. They look like Mutt and Jeff.

Arielle’s Song loved the carrots we brought, as did all the kids. She towered over us but was pretty gentle and snuggly, particularly to Rhoda (all the horses seem to love her!). Anyway, she is one big bay filly (Arielle’s Song that is).

Ofcr. Sheila T Rex looks very black compared to most of the other horses and all of ours. Of course, black is beautiful! Last year, I had black residue left on my hand after stroking her, so I thought they had painted her that color. She ate her carrots and was also pleasant to be with. I told her we loved her no matter what but she had a big name to live to, our dearly departed Sheila.

Then came our first visit with Conseated Lady, a bay filly, nicely conformed but average size. She has a reputation around the barn for being feisty but she was gentle with us. I guess she liked the carrots.

Finally, the grande dame… Ahvee’s Destiny, looking regal, as usual, she’s our first born and the “leader of the pack!” She didn’t like carrots when she was a 2-yr. old but she devoured all we gave her. She was supposed to run on opening day but got rained out. So far another race has not been put up for her kind of racing (short grass).

Then, we walked around the racetrack. It’s like a Country Fair, with as much going on outside the grandstand as inside. Vendors of all foods and merchandise, picnic tables, TV sets everywhere and throngs of people. How quaint and interesting. Just taking all this in is worth a day in Saratoga.

We went looking for Steve Byk who hosts a racing radio show on Sirius 126 at 4PM, since I listen to his show a lot and bought a tiny piece of a couple of the horses he owns with trainer Chuck Simon in their Dee Tee Stables (Aldebutante and Rampillion). Only got to him seconds before air but we came back to visit with him on Saturday.

Finally, we went back to check into our hotel, freshened up for dinner and The Lodge with Linda Rice and her parents, Clyde and Jean. The two Yearlings are in Florida at her parents’ ranch. It was wonderful speaking to these knowledgeable horse people. The next day was Clyde’s birthday but I’ll not reveal his age (though he is actually older than me!).

Seeing as how this has really gone on and on, I will break it up into separate e-mails. Hopefully I’ll get photos posted of all the kids and some other interesting things (you be the judge) in the next day or two.

Saratoga reservations for 8/17 – 9/1 are filling up, so call now, if interested.

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