Arrived at Belmont at 11:15; greeted by three fire engines (not, as it turned out, a harbinger for the Hook and Ladder first-time starter who finished fourth in the second race) and a mess of people hanging outside the clubhouse. We were nearly instantly cleared to enter the building; a transformer fire had knocked out much of the electricity and all of the air conditioning. Free admission and parking for all, Sunday, too.
Diva Day! Poor NYRA—on the morning of their last Women in Racing event, at Aqueduct in December, a couple of inches of sleety, wet snow fell; as a result, the event was sparsely attended. Yesterday, it was nearly 100 degrees and there was a fire. Is God trying to tell us that women shouldn’t be involved in racing? What’s next, locusts at Saratoga on Women’s Day?
Host Joanne Jones of HRTV handled a difficult situation with much aplomb (and even sangfroid, had it not been so blasted hot), and the folks at NYRA somehow kept their cool in sweat-inducing indoor temperatures. Owner/breeder Elisabeth Jerkens and trainer Linda Rice spoke at length about their experiences in the business; little of the conversation focused specifically on being a woman, though topics did range in that direction at times. Apparently, it’s a lot easier to be a female breeder (no reproduction jokes, please) than a female trainer.
The food was great and plentiful, and we were given access to the paddock on multiple occasions, as well as a trip to the winner’s circle following the fifth race, won by Akin. Yours truly missed it; reasons to follow. Rumor has it that our $50 program fee would be refunded, but that hasn’t been confirmed.
In race 2 was entered the one-eyed Middleburg, VA horse, Above All Odds, third in his first start earlier this month. In that race, he stayed at the back of the pack and made a green, wild, late run; yesterday, he stalked from fourth, made a move in the stretch, and finished third again. He does seem to have learned from his first start and raced with much more focus; on the outside last time, he went up the rail on Saturday and was beaten a length for second. Given that he’s missing his right eye, I wonder if he’d have held off Afrikaner if he’d known that a horse was coming to his outside.
Unchanged from his last start was his state of arousal in the paddock. Sigh.
Seeking cool air and a breeze, Railbird and I headed outside and wandered to the Jerkens barn to see Above All Odds following the race. The Chief was present and as ever a gracious host; sitting and chatting for a while, he then got up and escorted us down the shedrow, introducing us to each and every horse: that one was third a few weeks ago; this one doesn’t like to race; this two-year-old is a promising Grand Slam. We fed lots of carrots and mints, and as I was walking the shedrow, I got a phone message:
“I hope I’m not spoiling it for you…I can’t believe how good the old boy was at Philly Park, and that’s all I’m saying.”
Yep, Evening Attire won his first race outside of New York State, at age ten, and earned a spot in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Santa Anita. (Question: was this race at one time called the Dirt Marathon? And was it changed when it was determined that for the next two years it’s going to be run on a surface that has no dirt in it?) Whether it is advisable or not to ship the grey guy across the country to race on a surface utterly foreign to him, most fans of the game have got to be happy that he’s got a chance to go there and compete. Though I missed the race live, the cheers from the crowd are evident on the replay. Oh, yes, and he won by eight lengths and set a track record, inspiration for geriatrics everywhere…
Thence back to the paddock for the saddling of the Coaching Club American Oaks contenders, and upstairs to watch Music Note absolutely dominate a short field. She’s got two legs of the Triple Tiara, and if she were running in 2003, 2004 or 2005, she’d be an odds-on favorite to lock up the feminine headwear with a win in the Alabama. But it’s 2008, and she’s going to have to settle for two out of three. See Railbird for more on this impressive filly.
It’s getaway day in Brooklyn, and off go Madison, Floyd, and I up the Taconic for a month’s Saratoga sojourn. They look forward to the chipmunks in our backyard, I to other four-legged pursuits across town. See you at the Spa…