New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park is as big a racing day for me as the Gold Cup, as the Travers, as the Wood. When the stakes schedule comes out, I mark my calendar: Showcase Day is a non-negotiable day at the races.
As usual, NYRA’s got a slate of activities planned: handicappers can join Dave Litfin and Mike Watchmaker from the Daily Racing Form for a handicapping seminar from 11:15 – 11:45 a.m. on the third floor of the Clubhouse. In the Clubhouse lobby, visitors can taste wines from Long Island and the Finger Lakes region. In the Grandstand lobby, New York food products such as Saratoga Salsa will be available to taste and to buy. (Unfortunately, it appears that the bourbon people won’t be here this year. We’ll make do with wine instead.)
Artist Frankie Flore will display his work on the second floor of the Clubhouse, and 10% of any sales will benefit NYRA’s backstretch charities. The L. Wicks Fine Art Gallery of Saratoga chips in, too; displaying work from Capital Region artists; the gallery will donate 20% of the sale of the highest price piece to NYRA backstretch charities.
Out in the backyard, families will find a scarecrow with candy prizes, a hayride and pumpkin patch, a cookie decoration stand, face painting, and giant pumpkin sculpting. All activities are free for children 12 and under.
When we’re lucky, Showcase Day falls on a crisp autumn afternoon, with the trees in the backyard and along the backstretch resplendent with color. Those Saratoga tank tops will have long since given way to sweaters and boots, and we tramp around big Belmont, scuffing in fallen leaves and partaking of New York goods.
This year, we will not, it appears, be lucky. As has too often been the case at Belmont over the last year, the Saturday forecast calls for rain, but we can hope that it doesn’t wholly dampen what should be a terrific day at Belmont Park.
Today’s card offers ten races for New York-breds, five of them stakes. Because of the predicted rain, the two turf stakes scheduled for today have been moved to tomorrow. Two Backstretch favorites are among those entered: Be Bullish goes to the post in the six furlong Hudson Stakes, and Naughty New Yorker gives it another shot in the Empire Classic. Both are coming off starts in overnight stakes; the former was a longshot winner, the latter finished last. Naughty New Yorker was a very game second at Saratoga two back, and trainer Pat Kelly told NYRA recently, “He’s getting like Evening Attire: If he feels like doing it, he does it. If he doesn’t, he takes the day off.” Kelly also trained Evening Attire, and he ought to know.
So there’s plenty going on at Belmont, but as luck would have it, this weekend also provides ample opportunities for road trips north and south. As I mentioned here earlier this week, Suffolk Downs this morning offers a Showcase of another sort: CANTER New England is holding its annual Showcase to facilitate the sale of Thoroughbreds about to end their racing careers. I’ll be looking forward to updates from Jennifer Montfort (follow her at Twitter) and CANTER.
And heading in the other direction on I-95, Saratoga Russell goes to the post at Laurel in the Grade I DeFrancis Dash. This is his first foray into stakes company since his disastrous start in the 2008 Gotham, and even those of us who follow him without a hint of objectivity must think that he’s ambitiously spotted. Any other weekend, and I’d be Maryland-bound early in the morning, but NY Showcase keeps me close to home. Post time for the Dash is 5:07; two minutes later, the gates will open for Be Bullish. I’m already considering my positioning. Update: Saratoga Russell is scratched. Good thing I didn’t plan my day around a Maryland journey.
So while most racing writers and fans have their attention focused far westward, the interest of this one will remain squarely on the East Coast. Wishing that I could be in three places at once, I’ll be out at Belmont early, bidding it farewell for six months while at the time celebrating the best that New York racing has to offer.