At 8:30 am, outside Barn 18, home of Mine That Bird, the self-appointed Official Cat of the Belmont Stakes holds court. The small assemblage of press pays more attention to the cat than to Chip Woolley. The cat is, according to Steve Haskin, a veteran of Belmont Stakes days; Haskin recalls seeing him at Hard Spun’s barn two years ago.
The cat at the McLaughlin barn has little time for stakes runners, visitors, and media types; there are birds flying in the rafters, and no way is he going to miss an opportunity.
Not only stakes cats and horses get attention today; a final stop at the barn of Jimmy Jerkens yields the opportunity to feed a peppermint to Quality Road (and to wish wistfully that we were seeing him run today), and to be led around by this fellow (female?), though I have been told that this is a “dog barn.”