A Day at the Races

Somewhat on the spur of the moment this past Saturday, I decided to make the short trip to Belmont Park for this year’s Stakes Day. Actually, it wasn’t so short after a couple of train changes, and going home, I got a small taste of the dreaded “Change at Jamaica” in trying to make the necessary connections. But no big deal, a small price to pay for having a good time and not having to fight traffic on the local roads.

Belmont is a bit of a throwback to an earlier time in sports. The general admission charge was $10 (less for most days of the meet, more for reserved seats and the Clubhouse) and there are obvious signs of aging in the main building. Still, it’s certainly a more than functional venue. Once inside, you have license to walk around most of the place, except the track, barns, and seating areas. Basically, I went to place bets with the help of muddy-old television screens, a program, or the Daily Racing Form which could be purchased. A little instinct and luck helps too. You can also go to the track’s backyard, where fans scarf down food and drinks- unfortunately for modern-era prices- and watch for horses to take the ceremonial march to the track. After that, they either queue along the front stretch for a view of the race (and during the Stakes itself, the crowd was several people deep) or watch from benches inside. Either way, you have to watch most of the race off a TV since you can’t see much of the track unless you’re in one of those premium reserved seats/boxes higher up. When the horses arrive “down the stretch,” man do people scream, hoping to cash in big. In an era of all-seat stadiums (or at least benched bleachers) with direct views of the playing field, horse racing is a taste of what it might have been like to watch outside the ropes at old-time baseball parks, which sometimes were literally all that separated fans from the outfield or foul territory.

Belmont Park Finish Line

How did my wagering fare? Not so well. There was one consolation prize. I managed to get close enough to the winner’s circle during the Belmont Stakes to see Summer Bird cross the line and then get someone else to take a few pictures of the celebration. Oh, and I was just about face-to-face with the Governor, in a cheerful mood on this occasion, as he shook hands and autographed programs for everyone who could get close to him. Hey, with the specter of a tough reelection campaign and maybe even a party primary next year, who could blame him for trying to work the crowd a bit. Of course, he wasn’t so jovial after yesterday’s chaos… What a mess in Albany. No leadership, no ideas, and not much else to write home about either.

David Paterson at the Belmont Stakes

Good way to spend a perfect summer afternoon. Next time though, I seriously gotta do more homework on the horses so I can actually win money!

Belmont Stakes Winner's Circle

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Monday Monday…

So the Red Wings and USA both get it turned around on Saturday night, and how! No newsworthy, funny, or otherwise photos this morning because the computer I’m typing from seems to have a problem uploading them right now…

Plus the Yankees record another come from behind win and finally beat the Rays at home, this time in front of Sarah Palin, there as a guest of uber-fan Rudy Giuliani during her visit to New York. Ken Davidoff adds that it was arguably a bit of a statement win for them. We’ll see. They’ve got another one tonight, followed by three with Boston in Fenway, but frankly, with about 100 games to go, the real statement games don’t come until after the All Star Game, to put it kindly. Off the field, the Yankees could become the first team to stream games online within their regional market, if you’re willing to pay for the privilege.

The Magic had Game 2 of the NBA Finals in their grasp twice, and couldn’t finish the job, writes Mitch Lawrence, who uses the “cursed” word by reminding us of Nick Anderson’s missed free throws in 1995. They paid for it in OT and are now in big trouble, especially since to win the series, they now must go back to LA for a potential Game 6 (unlike the earlier playoff rounds, the NBA uses a 2-3-2 for the Finals). You can ask if Pau Gasol got away with goaltending at the end of regulation, but I think the Magic shouldn’t be making any rationalizations for badly missing a very makeable shot.

Lots of other good sports action this weekend. I went to Belmont for the first time, which I’ll elaborate on later and hopefully be able to post a picture or two. Bottom line, I didn’t fare well but at least I didn’t wager much in the first place! Props to Kent Desormeaux for an outstanding ride, culminating in Summer Bird’s explosive final surge evocative of what Calvin Borel on Mine That Bird (they both have the same sire, Birdstone, but different dams) did to blow away the field in the Kentucky Derby.

More later…