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:
And for some reason, there are way more roosters at Belmont than at Saratoga, most of whom don’t seem to have any idea when it’s appropriate to crow
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
The Charitable Man after the Futurity
Music Note, after jogging through the Gazelle
So you can’t name a horse Sally Hemings—but Mr. Jolson (Songandaprayer – Jiving Beauty, 5th at Belmont on Saturday) is OK????
5 thoughts on “Saturday at Belmont”
The other good scene on the Belmont backstretch is up by the clocker’s stand on the training track. Best spot on the grounds for trading gossip with trainers, many of whom adhere to Indian Charlie’s motto: “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
Do the horses on the backstretch get out enough? I wonder when they’re standing in their stalls if they’re sad, bored, lonely.
Greetings<Enjoyed your Belmont post. I myself just love to wake up early and walk around at the breakfast at Belmont scene. I love the sounds and smells of this wonderful game.Keep up the good work on your blogsincerely Zappi
My husband and I have been going to Belmont for 20 years and in many ways, I prefer it to Saratoga. We have long wanted to go out in the morning to see the workouts, but, like most city dwellers, we have no car and there is no way to get out there that early. I’d venture to say that most people who live in NYC don’t know that you can watch the morning workouts and if they did, they couldn’t get there. If anyone has a suggestion, I’d be happy to hear it.
Mag4, you make a great point. I love Aqueduct because I can take the subway there, even though I have a car; no way to get to Belmont in the morning unless you rent or take a cab, though with its own problems to solve, I don’t see NYRA taking on the MTA, too!Thanks for the advice and comments, Steve and Zappi.How could they not, Ernie? They’re in, what, twenty-two hours a day? Must get a little tiresome for animals that really like to move around…