Bye to Belmont

The final Saturday of racing at Belmont came to an end with both bangs and whimpers. The whimpers were weather-related, and after the uncountable number of grey, damp days at Belmont, going back to last year’s fall meet, those who grumbled about yet another soggy day at Big Sandy might be forgiven for their grumpiness.

The dismal weather significantly marred the spirit of the day; I didn’t make it out to the backyard to see whether the hay rides and face painting and pumpkin carving went on as scheduled, but even if they had, the festive spirit that reigned last year was, unfortunately, nowhere in evidence. Those more intrepid than I reported that the usual mélange of state-produced wares was disappointingly depleted or non-existent. One correspondent observed that a young couple with a child in a stroller, having made the brief rounds of the backyard, set off in search of the wine tasting; told that it was on the ground floor of the club house, they cheerfully headed in that direction, only to be politely stopped at the clubhouse entrance and told that they needed to pay an additional fee for clubhouse access. Incredulous and mouthing a few choice expletives, they declined, not so politely.

It’s a shame that they didn’t make it over there; while I preferred last year’s bourbon tasting, I’m certainly not going to complain about two vineyards setting up shop to offer samples. My favorite was the aptly-named 2007 Eclipse white from Heron Hill Winery, a mix of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris. Reasonably priced, too, in the $15 range.

As has happened so many times, going back to the Saratoga meet, the early races were run with only a threat of rain, but the raindrop came out to greet the horses who walked in the paddock for the day’s first stakes race, the aptly-named Maid of the Mist. Once begun, the rain continued through the rest of the afternoon, with the heaviest rains coming, as we’ve seen—or felt, more accurately–as we stood in the paddock for the headline race, yesterday the Empire Classic.

4,180 turned out to brave the elements, and they were treated to a series of highly entertaining—and for some, profitable—races. Winners of four of the first five races paid more than $20; three were won by a neck or less. The five stakes races offered their own storylines: Criminologist Mineralogist an impressive winner in the Maid of the Mist for two year old fillies; Yankees’ fans got their first disappointment of the day when Fenway Faithful paid $21.40 winning the Sleepy Hollow; Haynesfield, who wowed New York racing fans while reeling off a string of four consecutive wins at Belmont and Aqueduct beginning last fall, ran back to his earlier promise when he won the Empire Classic, the year’s richest race for New York breds.

True to recent from, a gloomy Saturday is followed by a glorious Sunday. Two more New York Showcase races on tap for today, the two turf races postponed from yesterday. On the backstretch, life at Belmont will carry on, while New York racing moves a few miles away, out of the suburbs and into the five boroughs. See you at the Big A…

8 thoughts on “Bye to Belmont

  1. Indeed I could! Really–you should post your name and take credit for pointing out this silly oversight.I made that mistake several times yesterday–thank you for catching it.

  2. Well, we're trading in one track where we can't see the horses coming out of the starting gate for another track where we can't get to see the horses up close in the paddock.And when they race on the winter track we can't really see the horses coming out of the gate there either.Belmont for The Big A.Such is the life for those wanting to be near the horses and personalities: disappointing.

  3. Very well written, as always.I'm planning another Aqueduct visit in December. Currently adding some winter weight for warmth!Cheers

  4. TKS: Must disagree. While the paddock at Aqueduct is a disappointment compared to Belmont and Saratoga, we get more races tht start in front of the grandstand now, and I think you do get a pretty good view of the horses in the paddock. It's just from above, and not from the side.Keith: See you soon! Glad to hear that you're coming back.

  5. The problem with AQU's paddock is that you really can't see what you need to see if you're looking for horse condition. I can't see the condition of the coat well from that distance, whether or not they're kidney sweating from that angle, how straight/crooked their walking action is.It's the most worthless paddock I've ever been to.

  6. I was very happy to see that Haynesfield made his way back to the Winners Circle. I had him last year when he ran off those 4 in a row, and I was happy he regained his winning ways. Hope he stays up here for the winter.

  7. Ian: the paddock doesn't seem all that far from the horses to me. Yes, you're above them, but you're pretty close. BSaint: In the Classic, I debated between Slevin and Haynesfield…and made the wrong choice. Damn…

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