Race of the Week 2017
HRN Original Blog:
Around the Oval with Melaina Phipps

Live from New York: It's Springtime at the Big Sandy!

For the last eight years my springtime was an expectant season, a countdown to the annual meet at Saratoga Race Course. This year I find myself in the city, home of Belmont Park, aka The Big Sandy,* experiencing a whole new springtime tradition.
With some horses—and people—shipping in from Florida and others shipping out to Saratoga, there’s no lack of bustling about the four-hundred-plus-acre park. This week has been particularly busy as the anticipation ends tomorrow: first post of the meet is at 12:50 p.m.
It’s the first time I’m participating on the backstretch in any significant way at Belmont and in preparation for the meet I’ve tried to be as helpful as I can.
I’ve helped turned these stalls . . . 

into these . . . 
 . . . with all the screw eyes and straw-shaking which that required.
I’ve spent about a week walking hots until local help could be found (suffering only one blister, I might add). My calculations with pedometer and stopwatch have resulted in the following statistics:
  • It takes an average of 2 minutes to walk the whole shedrow (of the above barn)
  • In 30 minutes of walking a horse one walks the shedrow about 15 times
  • The shedrow measures approximately 109 yards or 327 feet
  • In 15 times around the shedrow with one horse, one walks approximately 1,635 yards or 4,905 feet
  • So . . . walking four horses each morning a hotwalker travels about 6,540 yards or 19,620 feet or . . . 3.7 miles!
All in all, not a bad way to start the day—gets the cardio out of the way early on!
I’ve pretty much mapped out the backstretch, found a Laundromat that permits the washing of horse laundry, followed the paths to the training and main tracks, tested the track kitchen (all that walking makes a girl hungry!), made some new friends, caught up with some old friends, and met a fairly friendly goat . . .
. . . named Billy, of course. He lives next door to Thyben’s tack shop (located conveniently between Barn 34 and “the satellite dishes.” If you’ve ever been there, you know they are impossible to miss!
Weather-wise it’s been spring here in the city for some time now. That means trees and flowers in full bloom and balmy mornings for training; I'm looking forward to seeing some of my favorite horses train here in the coming season.
Being at Belmont this year will also bring another horse racing first for me, watching  "Test of a Champion," the Belmont Stakes, live!


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Older Comments about Live from New York: It's Springtime at the Big Sandy!...

Loved it, Melaina ... Can't wait to be at Belmont again in about six weeks!
Great way to spend a springtime in New York. See you at Belmont!
Thanks for the report! Love to hear and see more of the Belmont!

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Meet Melaina Phipps

I came to horseracing only about a decade ago. (And no, I am no relation to the celebrated racing family of the same name.) My equine interests prior to that began, as they do for most young girls, with riding lessons and horse shows, and ended up with me playing polo while a graduate student at UVA and thereafter. It was entirely unexpected that I should spend time on the backstretch at Saratoga in the summer and on the rail at Payson Park in Florida in the winter watching some of the best trainers and horses in the country work. But that’s where I found myself and where my interest in this wild ride of an industry took shape. I don’t exercise racehorses; I don’t work with a trainer.  I watch, I listen, I ask a lot of questions, and I learn.  I enjoy supporting equine charities. Sometimes I bet a little.

I leave the handicapping and serious race talk and examination to those more knowledgeable than I. What I’d like to share through Around the Oval are some of the myriad observations, stories, histories, events, charities, places, and personalities that make up the variegated landscape of the Thoroughbred racing industry. If you find any—or all—of it interesting, please leave comments. Have any particular interests you’d like to read about? Send word—suggestions are more than welcome! 

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