Sunday morning Aqueduct quick picks

Got a beautiful afternoon to make my first trip out to Aqueduct since the fall meeting opening. What a pleasure to jump on an express A train and cruise out on the subway instead of wondering how much traffic I’d hit on dreaded BQE/LIE combination; what a pleasure to happily grade papers as I made my way to the track. I’d forgotten how productive a long subway ride can be.

Sitting across the car from me was a 20/30-ish-something couple; he was dressed in a sort of frumpy cool, she was stylish and sipping from a cup of take-out coffee. He said “Dude” a lot, and their conversation evinced a familiarity with Bushwick and Williamsburg, two uber-cool neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

Much to my surprise, they got off at the Aqueduct stop and seemed to know exactly where they were going. They bought programs at the stand just inside the entrance and made their way up the escalator, at which point I lost them. I’d fully intended to follow them around for a bit and figure out just what the heck had brought this unlikely pair out to the track on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.

As the train pulled up to the platform, I allowed myself to envision, for a moment, the all-new Big A, the one with fountains and an enclosed subway platform and amenities of which we regular denizens can only, at this point, dream…but it was the same old, comforting Aqueduct that greeted me…sort of.

For reasons both practical and psychological, reminders abound that at next year’s fall meet, we are indeed likely to be greeted by a whole new Aqueduct.

The beginning of the construction has included some logistical challenges for Big A regulars. The ground and third floor are no longer accessible by elevator, as access to those parts of the plants is now restricted.

If you’re a fan of the Manhattan Terrace, as I am, be forewarned. One of the joys of this little spot of sunshiny Aqueduct heaven was the ability to stay warm inside, and then scoot out to the third floor seating area to watch the races live. No more. I tried to get over there yesterday, and this is what I found:

In some terribly good news, though, the Man o’War Room on the second floor is still alive and kicking, and diners who visit the deli there can indulge secure in the knowledge that there is no finer dining establishment in the city, at least according to the standards set by the NYC Department of Health:

And how nice of them to do it in Big A blue.

Racetrack buzz yesterday centered on the Horse of the Year debate (of course) and the recent announcement by Governor Paterson regarding a proposed casino in the Catskills. Yesterday, the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association let the governor know in no uncertain terms what it thinks of this latest development.

Seven-year-old Dry Martini made a gallant late run in the Mad Hatter Stakes; less than a length separated the top three finishers. And later in the card, Dominick Galluscio’s Stormy’s Majesty took the Grade 3 Discovery.

And oh, yeah…the fourth race produced a most satisfying result when the Yankee Kitten/Schoolyard Cat catzacta yielded a $54.50 exacta payout. On behalf of the Backstretch cats, thank you, Tom Durkin, for noting the “feline finish” at the wire.

Family commitments will keep me from Aqueduct through the Thanksgiving holidays, but with six graded stakes races carded from Thursday to Sunday, I hope that you can make it out there. And if you do, please note that Aqueduct already has put up its holiday bins for its annual Toys for Tots donations, coordinated by the United States Marine Corps. If you are going to make it out there this week, consider bringing an unwrapped toy for the Marines to distribute to children in need.

6 thoughts on “Sunday morning Aqueduct quick picks

  1. Wow, I haven’t been to Aqueduct, since the Breeders Cup was there in 199something. You make it sound appealing, maybe I will make a trip. No school on Wednesday!

  2. I LOVE the Big A, flaws and all. You should definitely go.

    And I will look into that horse for you. I was going to ask Albertrani yesterday, but then his horse finished last in the feature, and I thought that maybe it wasn’t such a great time. =)

  3. I left far too late last night (after the Delta Jackpot) and got to see just how nice the Big A looks at night when it’s all lit up inside. It was a nice little preview of what could be.

    Let’s just hope they do better than Indiana Downs which spruced up a small part of the 2nd floor and put the rest of the money into the separate casino building.

    My real expectations: a major spruce-up and a lot of new places to eat, the removal of most of the old grandstand seats, better purses for 5 years. My wish list: lights – I think if AQU is to attract any new fans by its proximity to Resorts World, they’ll have to do it during prime-time for new patrons to visit.

  4. Aqueduct in the dark is pretty cool looking; unfortunately, I am too often there when it’s dark out!

    I see your point about racing at night – it makes sense. It would require a change in state law that harness tracks would likely resist, and I’d hope that a corresponding change in racing dates would ensure. Night time at the Big A in February wouldn’t be a big draw for me!

  5. I was at AQU the previous 2 Saturdays and the 3rd Floor seating area was still open (from the Manhattan Terrace) so that closure must have happened in the past week. I have mixed feelings about this transition from the dated and drab facility it currently is to the new, shiny slot palace it is being turned into. I know this change is mandatory if the sport is to survive in NY, but I have such a warm spot in my heart for this old relic from the past. As the saying goes, “If walls could talk….” what an epic story this old place in Ozone Park could tell! I too am unable to attend during the upcoming Holiday but you won’t be able to hold me back once the action returns to the Inner and the new year starts with the renewal of the Count Fleet Stakes. I always fall in love with some 3YO who didn’t get his ticket punched for GP like Haynesfield or Mr. Fantasy and end up spending their winter in Queens. I look forward to discovering this year’s version soon.

    As far as the Catskills casino goes, I understand the horsemen’s strong opposition to this, but State gov’t aren’t going to have Fed stimulus money to balance their budgets this year, and if you ask those tribe members what they think you will hear a lot of the same frustrating stories of delays and inaction that horsemen heard from Albany the past 9 years. It will be interesting for sure to see if the “$1 million dollars a day” slots handle we’ve been told so often really pans out.

  6. If the walls at The Big A could talk, they would probably say: “Paint me”
    I love the place, too, but like the demolished Shea & Yankee Stadiums it is a dilapidated dump.

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