Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Magical Belmont, Part 2

Thursday and Friday brought nonstop rain. At times, it was light and refreshing, but usually it was miserable and soaking. Still, after an hour or so of misery, the mind seems to accept the fate, and by 8am, we didn't really consider the rain to be a hindrance.

Also, it helped to balance the trips to the rail and to the backside with some exciting travels behind the scenes. Up to the Belmont, Jamie had kept in contact with Bill Nack for nearly a year, discussing various news from the racing world. When we got to the track for the races on Thursday, we were able to connect with him, and he was gracious enough to take us to the press room, introducing us to writers from Sports Illustrated, Bloodhorse, NYRA, and more. Jamie made some good contacts for her photography, but more importantly, it was great being able to see another part of the track that is otherwise inaccessible to the general public.

That night, we had dinner at Waterzooi with Bill, Jenny Kellner (from NYRA) and her husband (from the AP). By this time, we were settling in to these experiences that never happen to us, and we had a great time discussing all kinds of topics, from horse racing to Cormac McCarthy. The highlight had to be Bill's recital of the final page of The Great Gatsby. There were no egos at the table, which helped because we were certainly sharing a table with some very accomplished professionals.

The next night, we found ourselves rushing to buy some kind of decent clothes so we could attend the NYRA party at the grand Garden City Hotel. The invitation marked the location as "posh," and upon entering, that felt like an understatement. With new clothes in tow, fitting in visually was not a problem, though all the giants of the industry were there. By the end of the night, I had conversations with Chip Wooley, D Wayne Lucas, a handicapper for the Daily Racing Form, and of course Jenny and Bill. Though we are not party people by nature, the night still brought smiles and often incredulous looks between us..."Look where we are!"

Between our arrival early Thursday morning and that party Friday night, we had experienced more than we ever could have expected from our first Belmont trip, and the crowning event hadn't even occurred yet. The mother of all American races, the test of champions, the Belmont was looming with less than 24 hours before post time.

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