Thirty hours of no sleep, 6 AM flights, shoulder-to-shoulder crowds and terrible traffic just to watch a horse run around in a 1 1/2 mile circle. It seems insane when you look at it that way, but to us its just a minor hassle to witness history. Most people go to New York to see Time Square or visit Central Park. Not us…on this trip we didn’t care one bit about any of those things. All we cared about is a 2 minute and 26 second (WOW) horse race. Everything else was an afterthought. I know I can’t do this event justice by putting it into words but I am going to try. If you weren’t there on Saturday here is my attempt to describe the events that transpired.
Belmont Park is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The outside of grandstand has a Wrigley Field type of look as ivy has grown to the top of most of the structure. It’s a massive place. Also an old place. You can tell the place was built many years ago, and hasn’t been updated much. Once you make your way towards the track you immediately realize why so many horses have failed in the Belmont Stakes. The track is gigantic! The wide sweeping turns look as though they are a mile long by themselves. It’s really an impressive visual. Just looking at the track certainly made us nervous. Bode Baffert said it best, “It’s really, really far.”
As the day built it felt just like the 2010 Breeders Cup when the great Zenyatta was defeated by Blame. Great race after great race were running right in front of us, and we couldn’t care less. Maybe that’s a little harsh. We cared while it was happening, but it was an after thought soon after. Honor Code made one of the strongest closing moves I’ve seen in quite some time to win the Met Mile. Our jaws dropped and we sang his praises for all of about five minutes before the focus turned to “finding the best place to watch the Belmont Stakes.” Only one race mattered on this day.
Perched amongst the swelling crowd, we stood on the second level of the old Belmont grandstand right across from the 1/8 pole. It wasn’t the perfect spot, but we could see the big screen very well and we knew it was about as good as we could get at that point. The minutes began to trickle away…40…30…20…19…it felt like five hours. We held spots for friends we had met just 20 minutes earlier in exchange for beer. We knew we weren’t moving and the beer could only help with the nerves. With around 10 minutes to post the superstar galloped by us for the first time. He looked so calm. Then, heading to the gate, he came by again. Still so calm. It was unreal the focus he was showing. Finally he loads. We are set in the 147th Belmont Stakes! American Pharoah goes right to the lead just like I had hoped. Everyone was holding their breath waiting for the opening quarter. :24. “That’s okay,” Jared said calmly. Second quarter, :48. “That’s okay,” Jared said not quite as calmly. Third quarter, 1:13. This was the first point I thought to myself, “oh my God he may do it.”
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