Late last week, Patrick, writer of Handride and leader of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance, invited the TBA bloggers to post our picks for Saturday’s stakes races. I am always reluctant to do such things; many of my days at the races result in my cashing not a single ticket, and my father calls me the worst handicapper ever.
So I ignored Patrick’s suggestion, but when he sent out a second notice, I decided to go ahead and play along, and before I left for the track on Saturday morning, I included my picks on that morning’s post.
I mention it here not to toot my own horn, but rather to point out that while I can be a decent handicapper, I am a lousy bettor: I went three for six, but I didn’t cash a single win ticket on any of those picks. I stuck to exotics, so I cashed on the True North, and I took a couple of long-shot flyers in the Belmont, so I cashed on Da’ Tara, but man, this is certainly a lesson learned. If you post a pick, you gotta bet it to win.
Onward to my final thoughts on Belmont Day, 2008, in no particular order:
As the horses walked onto the track for the Belmont, my brother and I simultaneously looked at each other and said, “Is that a UPS jacket on the outrider?” Ugh.
Better Talk Now’s performance in the Manhattan was certainly admirable, but I’m not sure that I can say the same for Ramon Dominguez’s ride on him. Dominguez knows this horse and this track, and Better Talk Now was full of run in the stretch; why on earth did he try to take the horse inside, where there was no room, when it looked like there was a clearer path to the outside? I’ve watched the replay a few times, and with a clear path, the race belonged to Better Talk now. Seems a surprising move on Dominguez’s part.
I was at Belmont on the day of the Kentucky Derby and saw Zaftig’s last race, and based on that alone, I thought she could beat Indian Blessing. She is just so impressive; can’t wait to see more of her.
There’s been enough written about the toilets at Belmont (and the Daily News Sunday suggested that the problem reached beyond the track to Elmont in general, so perhaps we can’t blame NYRA for this one), but can we please add a few light bulbs to the NYRA grocery list? Some of them on the infield tote board were out, and it was sometimes hard to tell whether a horse was 3-1 or 8-1. As a friend pointed out, checking the win pools could provide the answer, but that’s not much help to the racing rookie, and frankly, more than should be expected from even the most devoted fan.
I love New York and New Yorkers, but we are sometimes awfully badly behaved. Fans booed Big Brown as he approached the finish line? Indefensible. Unpardonable. Behave yourself, people. Reminds me of those sensitive folks who booed Prado in his first race back at Belmont after Barbaro’s Preakness.
The Budweiser Longshot featured on ESPN’s Saturday’s telecast was Nick Zito’s….Anak Nakal. Oh, so close!
I liked ESPN’s idea to have Baffert and Pletcher (and others? I haven’t finished watching the full replay yet) as guest commentators and analysts. Great way to increase name/face recognition, and a good marketing idea.
I arrived at Belmont Park at 8:15 Saturday morning, and I left at 7:45 Saturday night. I met a great group of folks from the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance; hooked up with some old friends; ran into a couple of former students; drank beer and bourbon; ate peanuts and gummy bears; watched great racing; and was reminded of the magnitude of winning the Triple Crown.
So many of us had walked into Belmont on Saturday pretty well convinced that Big Brown was going to do it; in an e-mail a week or ago, my brother wrote, “He’ll lose. They always do,” and he accompanied the message with a photograph of War Emblem stumbling out of the gate. Kent Desormeaux reminded us of what an incredible achievement it is to win a Triple Crown when he said after the race, “I can’t fathom what kind of freaks those 11 Triple Crown winners were” (New York Times).
As I walked out of Belmont Saturday night, it was nearly post time for the last race. Just outside the grandstand entrance, there was a gap in the fences on the turn, and only a rail separated us from the racetrack. We waited, knowing that in a few moments, seven Thoroughbreds would thunder past us. A dozen or so of us stopped and waited. I closed my eyes, wanting to hear the horses before I saw them, and I opened my eyes when I heard the hooves on the track behind me.
The thirteenth race was an allowance optional claimer; the purse was $61,000, and the horses in the race were available for $25,000. But running past us in the fading light, magnificent in their strength and speed, they were as majestic as the horses who’d run an hour earlier, for far more glory and profit. I watched them go by and head down that long, awesome Belmont stretch; the finish line was too far away for me to know who won. The sound of the hooves faded away, and with them, Belmont Day 2008 and this year’s Triple Crown season.