A Belmont I’ll Remember

I’ve spent much of the last 24 hours writing Belmont Stakes wrap-up posts: one for Forbes on the financial success of the day, one for BelmontStakes.com on what a Belmont without I’ll Have Another might have felt like, recaps of undercard stakes races and a feature on John Velazquez for Thoroughbred Times. I am blessed to have such opportunities, which this year have offered plenty of time to think about this year’s Belmont, and about racing in general.

Over the last few months, it’s been hard to be a racing fan, especially in New York.  I have long loved and been proud of New York racing, and it is facing trying times, not helped by the many observers who willfully or ignorantly conflate the New York Racing Association with the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, blaming the former for the actions of the latter.

So when we heard on Friday morning that I’ll Have Another wouldn’t run in the Belmont, that he wouldn’t try to become a Triple Crown winner, it was one of those, “The hits just keep on comin’” moments.

And when on Saturday morning it looked like it would pour all day long, I thought that we just might be heading towards one of the most dismal Belmont days ever.

Instead, we got maybe one of the most memorable days ever, and yeah, feel free to call me a Belmont homer because of that comment.

My writing assignments fell late in the afternoon, so I got to spend much of the day seeing friends, hanging out in my seats, and watching races as a fan. Only two people I know who had planned on coming decided not to, and the nearly 86,000 people who showed up had apparently decided that the Belmont was still a great way to spend the day, even without I’ll Have Another.

There was money to be made and favorite horses to be cheered and glasses to be raised and friends to be greeted.

Tapitsfly & Ramon Dominguez. Photo credit NYRA/Adam Coglianese

It’s hard to pick a favorite race of the day. The Just A Game, won by Tapitsfly? (My race recap here.) Caixa Eletronica’s electrifying run in the True North? The nose win by Desert Blanc in the Manhattan?  Trinniberg doing what he does best and winning the Woody Stephens?

And wagering considerations aside, I don’t know how anyone could be disappointed in the redemption of Union Rags. The horse with the history of troubled trips stays tucked on the rail for a mile and a half and prevails by a neck? The horse owned by the woman who bred him and sold him…then dreamed about him and bought him back? The horse who had to prove, according to many commentators, that he was who we thought he was last year and earlier this spring?

There was no shortage of good stories that could have been told at this Belmont: Maybe Paynter could do for his owner and trainer what Bodemeister couldn’t (and oh, he almost did). Maybe Ken McPeek could come in and pull an upset again. Maybe Dale Romans could win the Met Mile-Belmont training double.

We didn’t get any those stories, and we didn’t get the one that the racing world wanted either, which was to see I’ll Have Another try to become the 12th Triple Crown winner. But I’ll Have Another’s injury isn’t serious, and we can be grateful for that, and for the fact there is hope that the injury suffered by Giant Ryan in the True North can be treated.

Photo credit NYRA/Adam Coglianese

And as a fan of New York racing, I’m grateful that nearly 86,000 came to Belmont, and that they bet with both fists, and that they got to see a terrific day of racing, capped by a Belmont that thrilled down to its final strides.

 

And at the risk of post-Belmont overkill, I’ve also written wrap-ups at Forbes.com and BelmontStakes.com.

11 thoughts on “A Belmont I’ll Remember

  1. I wasn’t there Teresa but, I concur with you. Outside of what happened with Giant Ryan (and I hope he can be successfully treated), it was a day of racing that New York could be very proud of, with tremendous performances put on by it’s athletes, both human and equine. Watching from home, I thought NBC Sports went all out to try to keep everyone interested in what was unfolding, from novice to the more advanced fan. I thought they succeeded. Whether it was Jerry Bailey offering valuable insights into how to ride in the Belmont (some of which even I had never heard expressed by anyone before) to Lafitte Pincay, Jr. interviewing his dad about his Belmont riding experiences to the interview with O’Neill and Reddam (more or that later), I thought it had it all covered.

    I saw some very interesting observations expressed and inferred around the net concerning O’Neill and Reddam, and in the end it may or may not have been truly “all about the horse” as they expressed but, true to form with these two, it was “all about the money,” which they didn’t want to say and didn’t.

    It was pointed out that many, many horses have “tendon issues” but, continue to run and race every day. O’Neill even admitted during the interview that I’ll Have Another could have run in the race. He was not shy about admitting that even with his “tendon issue,” the horse would still win.

    If he lost the Belmont though, it might cause his stud value to plummet. Lost would be the many, many millions of dollars he could have earned from a stud career. Compared with a measly $1 million dollar Belmont purse, and even, a possible Triple Crown thrown in IF he won, it wouldn’t be enough to offset those many millions he would earn as a stud, if he just never raced again.

    I don’t know if you managed to see, and read, Sid Fernando’s article on how closely I’ll Have Another career paralleled another famous West Coast runner of the past. If you didn’t, here it is:

    http://sidfernando.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/goodrich-recalls-the-back-story-of-majestic-prince-belmont/

  2. I was glad I’ll Have Another was scratched for his safety, I wish more owners and trainers would put the horse first. I think he was a good one who could have won the Belmont. His pedigree suited the distance and his grit and determination was demonstrated in the Derby and Preakness. He was one of my future bets along with Dullahan and Gemologist. I am confident that this group of 3 year old colts will prove to be an exciting class, and prove very watchable in the upcoming months.

  3. Hi Teresa,

    I, like you, am a big fan of racing in NY and have read the relentless negative- and often misinformed- stories in the press with a sinking heart. I had hoped a great day at Belmont Saturday would stem that miserable tide but when IHA was scratched and rain was predicted, it seemed that NY racing was truly snake-bit. It’s funny how good things come about, isn’t it? When you’re waiting for them to come through the front door with fanfare and balloons, they sneak in the back way in disguise and delightfully unexpected. I hope some Belmont-goers realized on Saturday that a really good day of racing is a great experience without a Triple Crown on the line and that they will come back more often.

  4. I am one of those who is glad for the scratch. I’ll Have Another was a very forward galloper and the added strain of Belmont’s “Big Sandy” track could well have brought on the tendon trouble. Additionally, with his game and strenuous stretch driving style, he could have easily encountered the same fate as Giant Ryan did. I am forever grateful that we were spared that. And for Union Rags to win after all his troubles, it really made the race special anyway.

  5. Hi Teresa: If we could just get everyone that experienced the Belmont Stakes on Saturday for a first day at the races to come up to the Spa for a few days in August; then the game wouldn’t have the image it has now. I never stop smiling at Saratoga, even if my wallet gets a little lighter sometimes. Now if you could only help me get Tortorella fired………..

  6. Teresa; Really enjoy your take on the racing world. I feel bad for the horse, but, actually overjoyed that the tawdry character of Mr. Cash Call has been stymied for the moment.

  7. ” but, actually overjoyed that the tawdry character of Mr. Cash Call has been stymied for the moment.”
    I couldn’t agree more! What slime, 130% interest on “pay day loans. Now, Mrs. Wyeth, there is class, as is Michael Matz.

  8. Glad to know that others enjoyed Belmont day as much as I can. Again, I was sorry that I’ll Have Another wasn’t in the race, and I think it’s OK if finances played a role in the decision to retire him — owning a racehorse is largely a losing financial proposition, and I can’t fault people who want to strike while the iron is hot. It’s a shame that we won’t get to see him race again, though, that’s for sure.

    Phil, I’d love it if some of those people made it out to Belmont again this summer or to one of the great fall weekends. Wonder how we get that to happen?

  9. The Belmont Stakes couldn’t have had a better outcome as far as I am concerned! I was a Union Rags believer all along and am thrilled he finally got the opportunity for redemption.

    I’m not disappointed there wasn’t a Triple Crown winner this year (now we can start looking forward to next year) and am glad IHA is off the track before something worse happened to him.

    I pray that Giant Ryan’s injuries can be successfully treated.

  10. Teresa: Showing off Belmont Park always sounded easy to me, but with the Nyra signal everywhere and people betting at home how do we get them to visit the venue? Concerts, poker rooms, shopping areas, food trucks, and opening up the infield for fans and betting windows are some outside the box thoughts that nyra probably wouldnt want any part of. Lights and Friday nite racing would bring a weekend excitement that Belmont could use. You and I love and appreciate being there, we need new ideas to create interest for others. Cut the time between races to 20 minutes and a fresh pace could be created. Just some thoughts……

  11. I didn’t attend in person, but this is the Belmont Stakes I remember as well. I also read your blog “It’s Still Belmont Day”. I’ve attended the Belmont Stakes since I lived in NYC (mid ’80’s to late 90’s). NYC was the place my life REALLY started, and I miss it terribly. Thank you for making me feel like I was back home again.

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