Closing weekend

Late Saturday afternoon, I stood on the A train platform at Aqueduct for the last time until this fall. I wore a sleeveless shirt, sandals, and a skirt, no tights. No hat, no gloves, no scarf, no coat, no boots. I don’t think that that’s EVER happened.

It’s spring, all right, and with the last remnants of winter goes Aqueduct, as New York racing shifts to Belmont. The horror of Cloud Nine aside, Saturday was a pretty great day to be at the Big A, not least because we weren’t battling chilly winds off Jamaica Bay.

Here is Snipe on his way to the winner’s circle, when I believed that he’d be my last winner of the Aqueduct meet…but that honor ultimately went to the Spurred/Hammock exacta in the eighth. Snipe broke his maiden in his fourth start for Richard Violette, holding off heavily favored Separatist.

The Withers came up great, and in the paddock before the race, Supreme Summit was looking like his name: supreme. Sleek, relaxed, muscled: we could see why Doug O’Neill shipped him in from California…at least until the gates opened. Mr. Fantasy, on the other hand, was his usual nut-case self. Grooms were shooing patrons away from the edge of the horse path as West Point colt acted up; as he made his way to the track, he was washed out, and it was hard to believe that he hadn’t left his race in the paddock.

These two reversed form as soon as the race began: Supreme Summit became the head case, pulling Eibar Coa out into the middle of the track; we love Tom Durkin because his race calls include sentences like, “The obstreperous Supreme Summit is still the leader…” Jockey Richard Migliore was able to get Mr. Fantasy to settle down near the rail, and he easily inherited the lead that Supreme Summit surrendered, winning by a length and a quarter. Though even here, after the race, he kinda has that “I may be about to freak out on you” look, doesn’t he? He wasn’t all that interested in getting his picture taken with the West Point winner’s circle cast of thousand, either.

In no particular order, my memories—both good and bad—from Aqueduct fall, through Aqueduct winter, and Aqueduct spring, with links to the original posts:

The last running of the Ladies Handicap. Like a graded stakes winner slipping through the claiming ranks, this race, first run in 1868, has been ungraded for several years, and it’s not on the racing calendar for 2009. A significant piece of racing history disappears with it.

Joe Parker’s What A Pear wins the Busher. I didn’t meet a single person on this February day who wasn’t rooting for this horse and her trainer, and the congratulations came fast and furious after her win. Let’s hope we get to see her back on the New York circuit again soon.

The misery of late November, when, on one of the biggest days in New York racing, tragedy struck twice: when Springside broke down steps after winning the Demoiselle, and when Wanderin Boy suffered a fatal injury later in the Cigar Mile. It was one of the days when it was hard to be a racing fan.

Wood Memorial Day—Giant Moon comes back in the Excelsior; I Want Revenge somehow finds a way to win; Kodiak Kowboy just gets up to beat Fabulous Strike; Capt. Candyman Can finds his calling as a sprinter in the Bay Shore. We didn’t find out until the next day about Jeff Mullins’s detention barn violation.

Ah Day wins the Toboggan, in another feel-good racing story.

That awful, awful day in December, when two horses broke down, one when she freaked out after breaking through the gate and impaled herself on the rail, trying to escape the track.

Wishful Tomcat’s win in the Discovery—then he was sold and shipped to California. He didn’t do so well out there in open company land, came home on Sunday, and promptly won. Welcome back!

Saturday, November 2nd—opening weekend at Aqueduct. Criticism wins the Long Island Handicap, then stamps her feet and refuses to go home. She, too, came back to win this weekend, down at Calder. Later in the day on November 2nd, Be Bullish wins, too.

Over the course of what felt like an interminable winter, there were a lot of awfully cold days out in Ozone Park, awfully cold waits on the platform for the subway, awfully cold moments standing by the rail, looking at the horses running far away on the inner track.

But the racing gods smiled on Aqueduct and on racing fans this past weekend, offering memorable races, familiar faces, and beautiful weather with which to bid the Big A a fond adieu. You know that it’s time to go when the field across from the subway platform, for so long vacant and veiled by lacy, treeless branches, springs to life…

4 thoughts on “Closing weekend

  1. A beautiful way to end the meet…and you could definitely be looking at I Want Revenge as horse of the year if things keep going his way. That would be quite the New York double if he’s back for the Belmont.I won’t soon forget the chilling temperature on Discovery Handicap day…or missing that exacta!CheersKeith

  2. You had to stop there??”I wore a sleeveless shirt, sandals, and a skirt, no tights. No hat, no gloves, no scarf, no coat, no boots.”Nice recap.

  3. Thank you very much, Keith, for reminding me of the $370 exacta I talked myself out of. Excellent.E: I knew someone would get prurient on me, and I should have known it would be you.

  4. Thank you for this fabulous post. It really captured the essence of Aqueduct – – the good, the bad, the ugly, the cold and the freakily warm on closing weekend.Even though the meet just ended, I’m already dreading the inevitable return to the Big A. But its comforting to know that, no matter how bleak the racing conditions, you will provide such beautiful writing and perspective.

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