I’ve had the pleasure of going to the racetrack for my entire life. I can still remember the crowd’s emotional reaction to an amazing two minutes and twenty four seconds back in ‘73. It was something a wide-eyed young fan standing on a seat in the uppermost section of Belmont’s grandstand would never forget. With this kind of upbringing, I was destined to become a lifelong supporter of thoroughbred horses and the races that they run. But four decades later, nearly to the day, it may have been easy for the flame to diminish. For reasons numerous, none of which I care to write about now, racing is not quite the same. Then again, nothing is the same from my childhood, or yours. Life moves on. True love, and true passion, does not, however. Today, just a couple of days removed from embarking on a racetrack road trip, I find the excitement and anticipation for a few days at Belmont Park to burn as strong in me as it ever has. And why not? Belmont Stakes weekend has all the ingredients of an unforgettable experience at the racetrack. 12 hours in the car each way may not seem to many like a good time, but add a good friend who shares every bit of my passion for the horses, and those hours on the road turn into something in which to look forward. I can’t think of a better guy to set out on a racetrack adventure with than Scott Dick. And once we make it to New York, we are lucky to have many great friends to catch up with and enjoy the races together. Racetrackers truly are a tight knit community.
Human friends are not the only ones I look forward to seeing at Belmont Park. There are so many great horses running over the two days it’s hard not to get excited. Not only will the Belmont Stakes include a packed starting gate of good young horses, but six other graded stakes are littered with big names and old friends. Even if there was no such thing as the third leg of the Triple Crown, two days of watching horses like Calidoscopo, Mr. Commons, Point of Entry, Mizdirection, Caixa Eletronica, and Zee Bros (just to name a few), would be enough to make the trip. Even if I did not bet a single dollar on the trip, having a real rooting interest heightens the anticipation of the road trip to Elmont, NY.
You know Scott, Matt Shifman, and I are going to soak it all in. From morning works, to stable visits, to full days of racing, there will be long days, but it’s the only way to get to enjoy all facets of thoroughbred racing. The races are, of course, what we all go to see, but the great athletes practicing, and the behind the scenes stuff, is every bit as enjoyable to me.
Days like these, sandwiched in between long days of travel, can really take it out of you, so I always make sure to eat well. Those of you who know me, if only just a little, know that I am never late for dinner. Good food is one of my joys of life. It’s odds-on that I will be looking to cram in as many good New York meals, both at the track, and after, that I can on this road trip. My Dad always said, “As long as you eat dinner, you’re a winner,” and I’ve certainly taken this mantra to heart. I will also be sure to stay hydrated on a whirlwind adventure like this … beer is mostly water, right?
Good times are a given, but I rarely make a trip like this without some pleasant surprises. An example of this would be seeing a friend that I have not seen in years. Belmont Park, as an old stomping ground of mine is an ideal place for this to happen. Often just as enjoyable, is to meet and make new friends. The racetrack is the perfect place to approach someone new and just start talking horses. Don’t be afraid to say hello to ol’ Zipse at the Track if you see me this weekend at Belmont Park. Chances are I will enjoy meeting you as much as you get out of meeting one of your favorite racing bloggers. Who knows, maybe we will even exchange a few winners.
Earlier, I mentioned even if I did not make a single bet, well … it just so happens that I will be betting. Wagering on the horses adds another level of excitement to an already tremendous spectacle. I don’t know how rare I am, but I am actually one of those people who comes out ahead at the racetrack. It may not be your style, but I am a very choosy better. I will often skip more races than not, waiting for the races I really like as a betting opportunity. I realize this is not for everyone, but it works for me. Having said this, this year’s Belmont is a race I can literally not wait to bet. Armed with live long shots, Overanalyze and Incognito, I feel like I have a great chance to come home with a big score. The last time I felt like this was the Kentucky Oaks. *wink*
No matter what happens with my betting, I will be sure to enjoy the beauty of the game. Horse racing is unique in that the athletes may be flesh and blood, but they are also among the most elegant, majestic, and beautiful creatures the world has to offer. Every race offers a new opportunity to appreciate the horses, and every horse is unique in their looks and personality. I wouldn’t love this sport as much as I do if it wasn’t for my great appreciation of the horse. Factor in the high quality of talent I will be seeing this week, and the fact that it is all hosted by one of my favorite tracks in the world, Belmont Park, and it all promises to be a wonderland for the senses. Yep, I’ll be just like a big kid in a candy store. Road trip, anyone?