It’s a little weird to be going to a racetrack and not to the races, but for the second weekend in a row, that’s what I’m doing. Today is the Anna House holiday party, at which the children of the backstretch workers can pick out donated presents to give to their families. The parents wait in the lobby while the Anna House teachers and volunteers take the children into the playroom, which is stocked with unwrapped gifts; the children pick out what they’d like to give to their parents, grandparents, uncles/aunts, siblings, and then are escorted into a classroom, where the gifts are wrapped to be put under the Christmas tree in their homes.
I’ll be heading out later this morning to help out and take photos, which I’ll post here. Anna House is on the backstretch at Belmont, not far from the training track, but I’ll be there too late to see morning workouts. Still, it will be nice to be at the track, next door to a barn.
I like to think that I could run over to Aqueduct after the party to catch today’s Grade III Queen’s Country, something of a re-match of last month’s Stuyvesant Handicap, won by Shug McGaughey’s Hunting. Hunting returns in this race today, as do Stuyvesant starters Barcola and the nine-year-old Evening Attire, who finished third in the Stuyvesant after doing his usual hang-in-the-gate routine. The NYRA website has a nice story on the big grey guy, including his trainer Pat Kelly talking about how Evening Attire “falls asleep” in the gate when he has to load early. It’s nice to know you’ve got a horse who’s a pro in the gate, but maybe Evening Attire is taking it a little too far? He’s got post 3 in a six horse field today, so maybe he’ll manage to stay alert until the doors opena, and he gets Edgar Prado.
Evening Attire won this race in 2001, at age three (it’s hard to believe he was ever three, isn’it? For so long he’s been the elder statesman of New York racing), and Magna Graduate won it last year. The Queen’s County is named for the county to which Aqueduct and part of Belmont are located, and the race was first run in 1902.