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…