Rainy days at Belmont

A commenter on Steven Crist’s blog today noted the change in format since the end of Saratoga, to which Crist replied, “I began the Belmont meet noting the similarities to Saratoga — 30+ days, a dozen or so Grade 1’s etc. — but pretty quickly saw it just doesn’t have the same feeling. Part of it is that it’s hard not to experience a letdown of intensity after Saratoga, but part of it is that the weekday cards just aren’t as compelling as they are upstate. The absence of the Kentucky horses and the other shippers bring the interest factor down a notch. There’s just not the same feeling that, on any given Thursday, you’re going to see the debut of the Next Big Two-Year-Old.

The biggest difference, though, is simply locale and its effect. At Saratoga, you live in a racing bubble for five or six weeks, forgetting about the so-called ‘real world’ and focussing entirely on the game. It’s a shared adventure, like we’re all going off to summer camp together.”

I was musing on this this afternoon as I trudged through Brooklyn puddles in a downpour (holding aloft my free Saratoga umbrella, natch), thinking of jockeys riding in the downpour (I did not know at the time that the races had been cancelled because of the weather); thinking of the cold winter riding, thinking that I spent 25+ days at Saratoga this summer, and not one of them was in the rain; thinking that it was easy to love racing and to find compelling stories about which to write.

Like Crist, I have found that since the major preps are over, finding that horse or storyline or incident is that much harder…and then I checked the entries, and I found horses who made me pay attention for one reason or another. Meadow Breeze is in Friday’s feature; she paid $70+ when she won the Matron last year (beating Octave, among others), and has been off the track since last December. Her record would indicate that that win is a fluke, but I’ll still be interested to see how she does.

In the third at Belmont this Saturday (a race that will likely get attention because it’s The Green Monkey’s second start), Feastorfamine is racing; I “met” him this summer while touring Kiaran McLaughlin’s barn, and he was patiently, patiently being gate schooled, resistant at first, and then obedient. He came back at Saratoga after a long layoff and finished fifth, but I can’t help paying attention to a horse whose acquaintance I made.

In Saturday’s feature, Fantastic Shirl and Dream Away Capote meet up again; the last time, in the Noble Damsel, Dance Away Capote at 9 – 1 beat Fantastic Shirl by four (a nice exacta that I hit); in July, the Duda featured the same order of finish, with Dance Away Capote winning by one and a half at 18 – 1. I doubt she’ll offer the same value on Saturday. Fantastic Shirl got the ride of her life under John Velazquez to win the Delarose at Saratoga. Desormeaux rode her in the Noble Damsel, and she’s got Eddie Castro this time; Johnny V is on Criminologist.

So even on this dreary fall day, with the end of the Belmont meet looming, there are still interesting horses to follow, local stories to tell. I can’t make any promises about what I’ll be writing about in February…but for now, life at Belmont is good.

Big weekend at the Garden, with Rangers’ home games both night. At times, I think The Green Monkey has a better shot at winning than the Blueshirts.

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