In an attempt to re-create the magic moments of a Saratoga summer morning, I headed to Belmont early on Saturday to watch workouts and wander the backstretch. I got there around 8 am, grabbed coffee at the Belmont café on the ground floor of the clubhouse (walking around without a cup of coffee feels like you are somehow breaking the rules), and headed to the rail.
Though the sun was out, contrary to weather reports, the place was pretty much deserted; instead of Mary Ryan holding court in the clubhouse to hundreds of interested race fans, she was giving an essentially private tour to about a dozen people down by the rail. They seemed enthralled by her anecdotes, and even though the crowd was sparse, it was nice to see some new fans being born. Memorably, Ryan went on at length comparing the training habits of Olympian Usain Bolt to those of a Thoroughbred race horse, and I was leaving, I overheard a man, clearly there for the first time, say, “This is sweeeet!”
The Belmont backstretch is so expansive that it feels less busy than Saratoga, though it’s probably just less centralized. At Clare Court or the Oklahoma, I constantly looked over my shoulders to make sure that I wasn’t in a horse’s or a vehicle’s way; at Belmont, the traffic patterns were a little less intense, though the signs were more amusing:
The day at the races held no shortage of highlights, not the least of which was Kitty Nip winning for the second time in her last four starts, after compiling just two wins in her first 21 races. Madison caught her at 40 – 1 in July; unfortunately, Floyd only got 5 – 1.
Congrats to Saturday’s stakes winners, and apologies to Criminologist, whom I missed:
Doremifasollatido winning the Matron
So you can’t name a horse Sally Hemings—but Mr. Jolson (Songandaprayer – Jiving Beauty, 5th at Belmont on Saturday) is OK????