Final thoughts

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.

7 thoughts on “Final thoughts

  1. Great post. Belmont Park is a great racetrack (after Saratoga of course) and I hope fans who were there for the 1st time come back on a quieter day when you can really enjoy the park. On the booing issue, I think the booing was minimal. From my vantage point I heard more silence than anything after Big Brown did not fire on the final stretch. Also, remember this is NY, we are the best sports fans in the world-we support our teams (Mets and Yanks will combine for 7 million in attendance this year) and we are damm knowledgeable. I have been to both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and the behavious of the fans in the infield is deplorable. Yes a few booed but not as much as made out, there are always a few bad apples in the bunch. But I would rather have that, than an empty Belmont Park on Stakes Day.

  2. >>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.Oh please. If a few people (and it was only that) booing a dumb horse is the only example you can come up with of “unpardonable” behavior, then I think the crowd was pretty well behaved, I mean, really now.

  3. Those 11 were indeed incredible freaks. I wonder if we’ll ever see their likes again.Beautiful imagery (sp?) at the end of your post. I can almost hear their hooves…..

  4. Also, remember this is NY, we are the best sports fans in the world…Sorry, Saratoga, but I beg to differ…you’ve obviously never been to Pittsburgh! 🙂

  5. Watched a Youtube video and the booing comes from a much larger contingent than just a handful. But that’s what you get when you have a crowd (anywhere) of spectators where probably 2/3rds won’t go again until the next Triple Crown is on the line.I was driven mad by shouts all day of “whip him harder. whip him more” etc And my biggest bugbear. Please shout for a horse by his or her name. There is something about racing here, unlike back home, that Ray Kerrison eluded to in a piece in todays Post. In Britain if any odds-on shot performs well below expectations-jockey and trainer are automatically brought before the stewards and questioned-normally only for 2-3 minutes and a short 2-3 line statement is broadcast over the track tannoy system. If the Stewards are still concerned-then they ajourn deliberations and hold a full hearing at the Jockey Club in London at a later date.Quite frankly if this type of system existed FOR ALL RACES-I think Dutrow and a number of other loudmouths would probably keep their traps shut more

  6. Must, unfortunately, disagree that New York fans are the best in the world, and I say this as Rangers’ season ticket holder. We are a knowledgeable group, but horribly intolerant, and hold grudges for far too long. The behavior of the women in the ladies’ room towards the attendant was unpardonable, and I’m sure that there are plenty of other examples. But to boo a horse whose physical condition is at that point damned questionable seems incredibly bad form to me.

  7. What about the beers thrown at Big Brown in the stretch? There was two beers fired at Big Brown as he walked down the stretch. One made it on the track landing a few feet from his hooves just past the 16th pole and the other fell well short of the track. As much it is exciting to see the masses come out to the track, there are some vile, nasty creatures outside of the horse racing world, I am glad most of them are too stupid to follow the game on a daily basis. I never quite realized the quality of character of the regular track patrons, but they are clearly superior to the masses.

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