I loved Belmont Day 2006. The weather was terrific (sunny, cool, breezy); the place was alive but not too crowded; and another horse I loved was in the Belmont.
We all know it had been a rough three weeks in racing; Barbaro’s breakdown was on everyone’s mind, and I think that many of us felt then as we do now: please, please, please don’t let anything go wrong today.
Winners that day two years ago were Cacique in the Manhattan and Songster in the Woody Stephens, but it’s two filly races on the undercard that I remember. In the Acorn, I had boxed Bushfire, Miraculous Miss, Wonder Lady Anne L—and maybe another horse? Can’t remember.
Miraculous Miss had a gate mishap; she flipped and got pinned underneath, kicking Wonder Lady Anne L and resulting in their both being scratched. And because the place wasn’t a mob scene as it will be this weekend, I could scoot down to the betting machines and place a replacement bet, throwing in Miss Liberty. Minutes later, I was $100.50 richer. Fortunately, both Wonder Lady Anne L and Miraculous Miss were fine, so all’s well that ends well.
It looked like a crappy race on paper, but the four-horse Just A Game was the best race of the day. Pommes Frites got out to a monster lead off a lazy pace, and the three other horses in the races just let her go. Not until the very top of the stretch did Gorella begin to move, and not until the 1/8 pole did she really take aim, and then she took off, passing Pommes Frites and winning going away. It was a gorgeous, brilliant stretch run—if you’ve never seen it, take a look at CalRacing: June 10th, 2006, Belmont, 7th race (free registration necessary). Just unbelievable.
I had been at the sloppy, cold, grim Wood Memorial in April, when Jazil came flying at the end of the Wood Memorial to get second behind Bob and John; a little more distance and the race was his, as anyone who’s seen the Hennegans’ The First Saturday in May knows. That race began a pretty major crush on the little colt out of Better Than Honour, and he became my Derby horse, finishing a respectable fourth.
I’d started following Bluegrass Cat for obvious reasons when he was two, but his disappointing three-year-old spring threw me off his trail; his second-place finish and the huge exacta payoff killed me in the Derby, and I then determined that I’d never let him beat me again. Yes, this is one of those reasons that I’m a bad bettor.
This stance, however, paid off in the 2006 Belmont, when Jazil paid $14.40 to win and the exacta with Bluegrass Cat paid $92. It was one of those race days that paid off both emotionally (my favorite horse won, the Just A Game was breath-taking) and financially (hitting two big exactas on the same day).
So for the second consecutive year, I had the Belmont exacta, and my favorite horse won. On Thursday, on to 2007…
Your memories of Belmont day 2006?