I left my camera in the car which, despite what by recent Belmont standards was a modest crowd of 52,861, was still parked several furlongs away since we got there relatively late. So I had to depend on the Head Chef, and, despite excellent positioning in the paddock, this photo above was the only usable pre-race shot she got of winning jockey Kent Desormeaux. "I blew the money shot," she explained.
Actually, it appears she was late pulling the trigger across the board...notice a pattern here?
I do like this one though of Mine That Bird and (most of) Calvin Borel.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable day in the backyard, crowded enough to provide more than enough buzz for the occasion, but plenty of space as you can see from this shot, taken at around 2:30. No lines to speak of for food, betting, or bathrooms (if you know where to go), and the generous addition of wide screen TV's throughout the park made viewing easy for those who didn't want to pay up for seating. Crowds of this size on big days fits Belmont to a T.
NYRA made sure that there was plenty to do.....or at least plenty to listen to....in the backyard. It was a full-fledged aural assault of varying quality in the backyard, with a live band in one corner (missed the band Afterburner, who this reader said was worthwhile), Munick (I think) in the paddock tent, and another guitar picker at the ESPN radio remote, broadcasting live smack dab in the middle. Don't quite know why we had to hear talk of the Orlando Magic and the Mets' injury woes while at the track....and, in fact, even while a race was in progress. Because the one thing that you could not hear anywhere I was throughout the day - in the backyard, the paddock area, or even standing directly under the (inoperable) speakers over the doors to the apron in the first floor grandstand - was Tom Durkin. That's a problem that has never been successfully addressed in all the years I've been going to Belmont and Aqueduct.
Like the commenter, on these days I try to do my handicapping and my serious horseplaying early - in this case starting the day with a horse who ran dead last all the way around the track in the first - and just kick back and enjoy the sights and sounds later on. Not that I didn't throw away some money during the stakes sequence, but the focus was primarily on the good company, the Head Chef's feast, and a flask of bourbon. To be honest, when it comes to playing the races, I'll take those 35K claimers over these big days anytime.
As it turned out, Summer Bird truly did fit the Belmont Stakes to a T....or maybe it was the other way around? That's despite the fact that his form coming into the race was the kind we've been trained to not bet in this race, given his total lack of early speed, with just enough late pep to project him as dangerous at a mile and a half. I wonder if that needs to be reevaluated? Summer Bird was actually far closer to a pretty lively pace this time; but Kent Desormeaux, who, as we recall from last year, still has Real Quiet very much on his mind, saved his run for the end, while Borel made the mistake of moving too soon that we've seen many times in this race throughout the years. Summer Bird earned a moderate Beyer of 100, getting the last quarter in a respectable 25.20 while the others were gasping for breath - not to take away from game efforts by runner-up Dunkirk and the valiant Derby winner, who had the crowd temporarily delirious with his electrifying, if premature, move to the lead.
often usually the case, I don't believe that this year's Belmont tells us anything about the relative merits of these horses at the distances at which they'll be facing each other for the rest of the year (which, for the winner and the runner-up, likely means for the rest of their racing careers). Dunkirk figures to improve, Mine That Bird has proven his class and consistency. Charitable Man looked like a beast in the paddock, and those who liked him at 5-2 got their money's worth at 9-2 with a threatening move turning for home. These three could provide some good entertainment for the rest of the year. On this day, at this freak distance, with a perfectly timed ride and that Birdstone blood, Summer Bird was the best. But I'll be poised to oppose him if any of those other three are higher odds than he next time.
I thought that the most impressive three-year old I saw on Saturday was Pletcher's "other" multi-million dollar sale horse, Munnings. He hinted at a breakthrough with a sharp, triple-digit Beyer second place finish at seven furlongs at Churchill. Here, Johnny V waited patiently for room, and Munnings just exploded through, storming on to a five length win with a sparkling final eighth in 11.74. The son of the sprint champ Speightstown earned a Beyer of 110. Pletcher plans to keep him at one turn, with the Dwyer mentioned as a possible prep for the King's Bishop.
Munnings is the 5th stakes winner of the year for his sire, and the second in two days with Despite the Odds taking the off-the-turf Hill Prince on Friday.
I read somewhere where Angel Penna was incredulous over Diamondrella being 9-1 in the Just A Game considering she'd won five in a row, just a head short of six since he took over the training duties from Violette. I thought it about right considering that those wins came in sprints and she was o-for-1 at a route. The daughter of Rock of Gibraltar ran down champion Forever Together with relative ease with a final quarter of 23.70 in the soft going.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Posted by Alan Mann at 11:18 PM