Monday, June 8, 2009

Magical Belmont, Part 1

The moment Jamie belted out her version of Sinatra's "New York, New York," I knew we were in for an exciting that would begin with enthusiasm and would end in complete exhaustion. However fresh a person is going into a long road trip, the miles on the road will do a good job sucking the energy right down the drain. Add to that early morning trips to the Belmont backside and late night parties with the elite in horse racing, and we could hardly stand up by the time we headed down the long road home. Still, we wouldn't have changed our experiences for any moment of rest, as we accumulated a lifetime of memories in just a few short days.

It seems a trip to the horse track inevitably brings too much rain, cold, heat, or sun. This trip was no different. Rain pelted down for two straight days, yet we trudged from backside to track to backside again, getting wonderful photographs, and talking to some fantastically quirky people.

A trip to the barns and backside is a step back in time. Surrounded by the urban sprawl of Long Island, Belmont's backside is a soft, tree-filled setting of tranquility (note Jamie's photo to the right, from Though few cars pass down the dirt roads next to the barns, horses fill the lanes, frequently grinding foot traffic to a halt as scores travel to the track for workouts. Though busy with vital tasks, riders and trainers are nearly always friendly with visitors, making a point to say "hello" and smile. Of course, it helps to be a girl on path, as that yields a lot more looks and nods.

Photographers also have built a pretty tight community as well. Throughout the trip, beginning with each morning at the barns, jokes and smiles abound as photographers jockey for position like horse paparazzi as some major contender gets a bath or walks the shedrow. It's comical watching them wait patiently for even the slightest of movements from a horse. Sometimes, all it takes is a lick of a tongue from a horse during a bath, and the sound of rapid-fire shutters cuts the air. Photography is serious business for these people, even if there are jokes in between shots.

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