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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Belmont Day (Mostly) Not Lame

- Most of Belmont day was not lame (including, we're thus far told, Big Brown). NYRA was certainly prepared for the big crowd in terms of betting windows; there were no significant lines at all, at least where I was traveling; I never had to wait more than a few minutes, at most. Same goes for food and drink. The bathrooms and the water situation were another story. NYRA tried; some men's rooms had been converted to woman's, and there were some (but not enough) portable toilets out in the back. Seems like 20/20 hindsight now to blame NYRA for the loss of water pressure - one NYRA employee told Newsday that it was caused by fire hydrants being opened in the area. But it certainly highlighted the infrastructure improvements needed at the facility. If I have one criticism of NYRA, it would be for not directing people standing on the most imposing lines (including the ones for prime spots in bushes) to seek relief elsewhere in the building. I never waited very long...and no, I did not go in one of the staircases like I saw some men do (though one of them was nice enough to use a cup).

But the Belmont Stakes itself certainly was lame. And so was I....and I'm not talking only about my picks. Upon arriving in the backyard a little after 11 after a riotous ride on a packed LIRR train (the first of the day), I was walking around the back, carrying a heavy load, dodging the blankets already set up, looking for a spot. And in clumsily navigating a particularly crowded section, I stepped on an uneven patch of grass and turned my right ankle quite badly; even earning a gasp, and a "are you all right?" from a stranger.

I also got a gasp out of my buddy Ira when he saw how swollen it was. I spent much of the day applying ice, which I fortunately had in my cooler. And I managed to limp up and down between my prime spot under a lush tree (also hanging out with John of The Race is Not Always To The Swift, and our excellent seats just inside the sixteenth pole in section 3S. I also made it to a gathering of TBA bloggers.

And later, sufficiently numb from several Excedrin washed down with bourbon, I made it to the paddock before the Belmont.

All eyes (and cameras) were on the big favorite as he prepared to parade around the paddock.

Looked OK here.

If he was feeling the heat, he certainly wasn't showing any outward signs of it; at least at this point.

Back up to the seats, and the crowd roared their approval for Big Brown.

The cheering would stop in a few minutes. It was not nearly the hush that fell upon the crowd when Birdstone caught Smarty Jones - I've never heard so many people silenced as suddenly as they were on that day. But it got pretty quiet when Big Brown floundered down towards the finish line; and a few boos even rained down from the stands.

I was at a big family event on Sunday, and everyone asked me what happened. And of course, I had no intelligent answer to give. We're told that the horse is fine; and Michael Iavarone insists that he will continue on to the Travers and Breeders' long, that is, as nothing is found to be wrong. Iavarone has zero credibility of course, so excuse me for expecting an imminent announcement that upon further review, the horse suffered some vague injury during the race, and that Big Brown will be retired for his own safety. A return by the horse in the Travers would certainly cause much intrigue. But I'll believe it when I see it.


Anonymous said...

Alan People play your picks because they think you can handicap, But you can,t so STOP it. you are as bad as they come.

Anonymous said...

As much as Belmont likes to suggest it can handle the mega crowds like Churchill produces on Derby day it just cannot.

The official numbers for Saturday were just a shade UNDER 95,000. 94,476 to be exact. The Kentucky Oaks on Friday yields much more then that. So if the delivery of basic services such as restrooms and food services are struggling at that mark then realistically wanting another Smarty crowd of 120k is insane.

I'm no expert, but you would think long term you want everyone who makes the effort to come to the track to have a good time. If people leave feeling like they were in a refugee camp then what was the point?

That said, why NYRA would want to plow money into permanent strutures for just 1-day's worth of super-sized crowds is beyond me. They just need to better focus on what it takes to support a city on site for a day.

On television ABC Sports did their typical sub-par and wannabe NBC coverage. That entailed a few slick pieces, a Kenny Mayne 'family' piece on 3-yr olds running, and 99.96% of the coverage not even mentioning the rest of the field. For that sadly ABC was rewarded with huge ratings.

Belmont Overnight TV Ratings Soar

Sadly if I was non-fan who just turned in because of the hype and was delivered that coverage I'd feel cheated too. As said by many - the network didn't feel the need to really give Da’Tara his due and we all were instead forced to watch the sweaty back of Rick Dutrow instead of smiles of Da'Tara's camp.

SaratogaSpa said...

Nice Recap. I had a similiar day at Belmont. I found the betting lines moving well all day and food services good. The bathrooms were of course the big story (other than Big Brown's failings). But I think this is simply the result of the sheer number of people there plus the extreme heat. I don't doubt that water hydrants in the area were opened up causing the reduction in pressure. The facility is old and this is a infrastructure problem. Every other day is fine but on Belmont Stakes day we have a problem. They are not going to build new bathrooms, so next year they will have to bring in more portable toilets. My seats were in section 3N and the usher did a great job making sure only ticket holders were in the section ensuring a great view for all. Big Brown looked good to me coming out for the post, but immediately after the start looked rank. I think he resented getting held up early by Kent, was a little tired and just did not want to run when asked on the final stretch. I give him a 50-50 chance of running at the Travers.

Anonymous said...

I didn't think people actually played Alan's picks.

If so,that's sad.

El Angelo said...

I cannot believe the flack Alan is getting from anonymous commenters regarding his picks. First off, this isn't a picks site, it's a site about racing in general. If he were selling his picks, then yes, anyone who paid would have a beef. But it's a free column that delves into myriad racing issues. I wouldn't take it seriously if there wasn't SOME handicapping and picks.

Second, who are these "people" playing his picks? The odds of a newbie coming to a site in the TBA ring and taking the picks as gospel are next to zero. Anyone reading the site probably knows a little about racing. If you're ignoring everything you know about racing to blindly follow a slew of picks online, you only have yourself to blame. It's no different from the folks at any newspaper (none of which liked Da'Tara, I might add).

And I type this as the same guy that started a post read by 3000+ people with the line: "With apologies to the connections of Ichabad Crane, Ready’s Echo and Da’Tara, the 140th Belmont Stakes is a three-horse race." Hey, I was wrong. It's racing. It happens.

Anonymous said...

The bathroom situation was a disgrace, but probably not NYRA's fault.

My wife will not return, she waited 45 minuted only to find when she arrived that the place was completely flooded and the toilets all clogged. Lack of pressure I guess.

But what truly perturbed her was, as Alan had the insight to post, the Matron just walked away from the scene and did not inform anyone on line that that they were waiting to get into a room that that even Bush's DEP would deem unsuitable for human occupation.

IF the Matron had told the ladies on line of the problem, they would have hoofed it to the porta potties.


The other issue, which Alan forewarned, was the breakdown of the betting machines. In truth, they did keep reparing them, and I had no real problem wagering, so hardly worht a comment, but he humidity just seems to clog them up.

They need new technology.

Other than that, the building and NYRA did a splendid job, as they always have when the crowd is less than 100k.

The Smarty Jones day was a disaster.

Anonymous said...

Hey Alan, good to see you Saturday and I hope the ankle heels up.

You are right, New York is in desperate need of some infrastructure improvements. Besides the bathrooms, the LIRR was once again completely unable to handle the crowds.

But hey, all the right wing cronies that rag on you have nothing to worry about. They can vote for McCain so we can continue to pump billions into stupid Iraq and neglect American infrastructure even though it would create jobs at home and improve the welfare of the country. But no, let's continue to chug toward oblivion because we don't want those Iranians throwing around their weight (even though we could easily obliterate them if they got too far out of line with that bomb they are obviously going to get).

Anonymous said...

By the way, to the complete assclown who posted #1 on the list - how many times has Alan said he's not a pro horseplayer? Shut the hell up and go badger someone else, loser.

Anonymous said...

I am always amazed at what New Yorkers put up with.
I have to hand it to you because I couldn't deal with the failure of basic services like bathrooms.
In Philly, there would have been a riot.

Anonymous said...

Saturday's bathrooom situation appeared to be bad, but not as bad as Eagles games at the old Veterans Stadium. Fans would use the sinks and trash cans as urinals in the 700 level (upper decks).

Anonymous said...

this whole anonymous blogging is out of control

Anonymous said...

the water pressure was low in the plant so the belmont manager made the call to shut the water. It was a bad call. He also cut the water to the backstretch. I think the fire hydrant excuse was bullshit.