It took me more than five hours on Sunday afternoon/evening to get from Delaware Park to my abode in Brooklyn, usually a two-hour trip. My whirlwind tour of three mid-Atlantic racetracks (Atlantic City Race Court, Pimlico, and Delaware Park) provided enough pleasure to make every single moment of travel time worth it, but the ROI would have been far better had the time invested not been fourteen and a half hours.
So I’m delaying the Pimlico and Del Park reports, which will surface in the next day or two, to bid a very fond farewell to Aqueduct, which closed yesterday following its nearly six-month meet. Watching the simulcast races on Sunday from Delaware, I didn’t feel quite the same wistfulness that I feel on Labor Day, when Saratoga closes, but I did feel a few twinges as I thought about the end of my A train rides out to Ozone Park. See you in October, Aqueduct, and until then, here in chronological order are my favorite moments from its meet, along with links to my original posts about them:
November 2nd: Numaany freaks out and wins anyway. I’ve never seen anything like what this colt did on an early November Friday. I’ve never seen a horse jump to the right the way he did, and I’ve never seen a horse recover to win. He jetted off to Dubai immediately and has run three times since then, each time disappointingly. I wish that he’d have stayed here, and I wonder what the plans are for him.
November 14th: Floyd picks a longshot. While I actually don’t think that I ever saw this race, this post got an unbelievable amount of attention, for an element of my blog of which I’ve always been just a little bit embarrassed.
November 17th: Saratoga Russell runs second to National Pride in a maiden race. I apparently didn’t write about this at the time, but I did re-cap it just before Saratoga Russell made his second start in mid-December. He was a promising winter colt who displaced a palate in the Gotham and has posted one workout since his myectomy. Maybe his connections can check in again and let us know how he’s doing?
November 24th: Mushka wins the Demoiselle. Looking hopelessly out of it, she circled the field and mowed down the horses in front of her. So impressive, and so disappointing that we haven’t seen her this year.
November 24th: Atoned runs second to Court Vision in the Remsen. Though most of the commentary on this race focused on Court Vision’s ability to get through traffic and run down Atoned in the stretch, I was more impressed by the way Atoned recovered after nearly going down in the backstretch. I had high hopes for him this spring, and even though he’s not making much noise, I hope to get to see him back in New York later this year.
December 8th: Nine-year-old Evening Attire wins the Grade III Queens County Handicap, to the delight of race fans, journalists, and handicappers across the country. He was the talk of the racing world for a few days, reminding all of us what a joy this game can be when horses stick around long enough to build relationships with fans. Evening Attire’s run a good second and last in his most recent three races; he didn’t react well to being retired a couple of years ago, and he did post a recent workout. A spring campaign, perhaps?
December 29th: Irish Blast breaks his maiden, winning by seven in his first attempt. I was on vacation when this happened and didn’t write about it, but he is one of the colts I met on my October sojourn to a Virginia training farm. In four starts since, he’s got two seconds and two firsts. He’s making his first start at Belmont this week.
February 7th: Be Bullish wins the feature after an uneven winter campaign. I didn’t write in detail about the race he ran, but as Alan points out, it’s worth a look. He ran all over the track, fought his jockey, and still ended up winning. If you haven’t watched this race, take a look. It’s the eighth race on the card, and registration’s free.
March 8th: The foggy Gotham. Though my equine crush Saratoga Russell displaced a palate and ran last, Visionaire ran a terrific race, and John Imbriale was able to call only parts of most of the races on the card, as the fog was so thick that no one could spot horses until they emerged nearly at the finish line. Many running lines for the day are blank until the finish.
April 5th: Thoroughbred Racing in New York day at the Big A. Members of our group gathered at the track to handicap, bet group show parlays, hang out, drink beer, and get our picture taken after our eponymous race, won, fittingly, by a horse named Herald Square. It was a singularly satisfying day, featuring both Evening Attire and Irish Blast, mentioned earlier.
November is disproportionately represented in this list, odd considering that it’s usually a fairly non-descript month on the racing calendar. As I reflected on the many hours that I spent at the track since last Thursday, a day at the races is almost never a bad thing, and even on the gloomiest of days, something amazing can happen that you’ll remember even months later, even as trees are budding, and even as racing shifts from the gritty Aqueduct to the dignified Belmont…