Though it’s only early March, my Saturdays at Aqueduct are numbered: family commitments, pet responsibilities, and travel plans (work and play) mean that available March and April weekends are in short supply, so on this first Big Day of Racing at the Big A for 2011, I determined to settle in for the long haul.
The Grade 3 Gotham might not have sent frissons of racing fever through many, but four stakes races on the card, two of them graded, and the return of a promising two-year-old brought 7,114 people to the old track in Ozone Park.
I headed out early to get some work done, completely neglecting to consider that it was Gotham Day, and the press box would be more crowded than usual. Only the most focused (read: not I) put aside socializing for work; with stakes run as races three, four, five, and nine, there was much upping and downing. I would certainly have gotten more work done at home.
But if I’d stayed home, I’d have missed seeing the Todd Pletcher/Ramon Dominguez duo win three stakes races; missed seeing Pletcher himself on a New York winter Saturday; missed seeing Bobby Flay turn out to root home his Sensational Slam in the Fred “Cappy” Capossela. (Ever wondered who he is? Check out my post from a year ago.)
I’d have missed seeing the ever-game Meese Rocks get a win after suffering from serious seconditis lately; it came in the Broadway, her first win of 2011, just two weeks after a fourth in the Barbara Fritchie. Her trainer Edward Barker said, “It was a total non-effort last time, and I knew it. She has a lot of heart, this filly, I’ll tell you that. I love her.” She’ll now get a well-deserved break, and we’ll see her next late in the Belmont meet, or maybe at Saratoga.
I’d have missed seeing Flat Bold in the paddock; he didn’t do too well in the Tom Fool, but my goodness, he looked great before the race.
I’d have missed seeing these silks. Unfortunately, the horse underneath the man wearing them finished last.
And I’d have missed the return of Stay Thirsty, who won the 63rd Gotham. Owner Mike Repole gushed about this son of Bernardini after the race, saying that he hopes that Stay Thirsty and Uncle Mo dead-heat in the Derby, so that he can “win two.”
I’d have missed the night-time crowd at the track; Aqueduct and the Belmont Café now stay open until 11 pm, and the Man o’War Room was about a third full at around 7:30. I ran into Dominick – do you remember Dominick? I wrote about him here, and I don’t think that I’ve seen him since then…oh, wait, yes, I did, at Big Brown’s Belmont.
He was handicapping Penn National, watching Santa Anita, and declaring stoutly, “I will not bet Yonkers. I’m not betting Yonkers.” I don’t think he did. I think he had the Fluke/Caracortado exacta ($15.20).
I’d have missed getting a drive-by marriage proposal from someone walking behind my chair; I think that it was the same guy, lean, neatly dressed, with gorgeous braids, whom I saw standing in front of the big TV a while later, arms in the air. One might have been mistaken him for a gymnast nailing a dismount.
I’d have missed being in the thick of it for the Santa Anita Handicap Drama, and I’d have missed the perplexed bartender asking me what kind of glass my wine should be poured into. I guess there aren’t a lot of white wine drinkers in the Man o’War Room, and after tasting what she poured, I could understand why.
I didn’t stick it out until the end, I confess. While the lure of my re-discovered buddies, of a second glass of wine that to my slightly dulled taste buds could only taste better than the first, of another hour or two of Charles Town races was hard to resist, I made my way to the A train with other tired souls, after a solid nine hours of Big A quality time.
I’ll think of those souls next week, and the three weeks after that; I’ll be there next on the Really Big Day at the Big A, on April 9. We know that Stay Thirsty won’t be back, but Uncle Mo is expected to be, in the Wood Memorial, and Calibrachoa, in the Carter. Maybe it’ll be warm. Maybe some other Derby contenders will show up. Maybe the place will be packed. Almost certainly, Dominick and the boys will be there.
More photos of Gotham day here.