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A View from the Grandstands: A(nother) Triple Crown Failure

Big race? Check. Did I attend? Check. AVFTG installment? CHECK.

I can see me!
I can see me!
Rob Carr

Let me start with the fact that there were so many distractions after the race was over really disappoints me. But I will talk about those at the end. The racing was just too good to not feature in the spotlight

Buddy and I had a rough day at the windows until Close Hatches ran one of the most impressive races of the year in the Ogden Phipps. But that was an indictment on my ticket making skills versus my our handicapping. We arrived just a few minutes before post for the first race, where I loved Wabbajack and was really hoping to make a nice score on the 8/1 ML. However, it took 25 minutes to get thru security and I had to watch from the second level without a chance to get to the window. Wabbajack goes off at 5/2 and I'm just watching from the stands...

Things started getting packed quickly. Two years ago, the crowds were very large in expectation of I'll Have Another's run since all of the tickets were purchased before his scratch, and last year it was pretty empty. But by race 2, it was already surpassing last year's crowd. In the Easy Goer, I felt Kid Cruz would be a huge favorite, and he looked much the best and would have plenty of speed to run at. But I thought Legend would be the better play. Had them both on my P5 ticket, but didn't play the EX. Ended up not cashing on a race I basically nailed.

At this point, the lines for food and booze were 8 deep. it was 12:08 PM.

Had nothing with the Brooklyn. I absolutely loved Eriugena since his dirt form was good and his sire, Shirocco has an AWD of 10.5f. Boy was I wrong. The crazy thing is that I felt this was completely wide open and wanted to hit all. But instead I went with a single in my P5 to save lots of money. I swung and missed, but that's racing. I liked Norumbega, I mean it's hard not to like the Shug-Rosario-Janney connections on anything, but I just didn't want to spend the money to get that deep.

At this point, I had to switch exclusively to the machines, as the number of "I want to bet 6 dollars on a horse **flips though form** hold on a second, it...... is....... the....... Oh I'm looking at the wrong race. Here we go..." bets were holding up the tellers. Lines were already around 5-6 deep at every window in the place.

As we went into the Jaipur, I knew Matt would have the winner, so I tried to check ADTSTC. But alas, all cell phone coverage was completely gone. But I liked Ben's Cat, because I'm biased and just like him, Upgrade because he had the best angle in racing on his back, and Undrafted, since I thought he would love the distance. I just wasn't smart enough to play Undrafted to win and instead was holding a fistful of losing tickets.

I tried to go to the bathroom at this point and the ladies' room line was already 20 deep. It was 1:25.

I was physically in love with Tonito M in the Woody Stephens. I thought his Laz Barrera was a great race and he was in trouble the whole way round. His price was square and I thought I had a chance for a huge score with him and Social Inclusion as my top 2. WRONG. But Bayern? I never would have gotten to Bayern and certainly never EVER would have expected him to air by 7.5 lengths. The fact that Top Fortitude was 2nd was mind boggling. The fact that they're not sending Social Inclusion to the lead is mind boggling. YOU HAVE A SPEED HORSE, MR. RONTOS, LET HIM BE A SPEED HORSE. And while I didn't like him to factor, it was still odd that Havana didn't run a step. Coolmore must be wringing their hands with him. But I was way off in this race. In fact my post race notes just say, "Ouch."

Needed a beer. Almost forewent one due to the mass of humanity that apparently needed one too. Buddy waited in line since it was his turn to buy. I finally got my beer 20 minutes later.

My lord was I all over Fiftyshadesofgold. but my goodness am I kicking myself for not playing Gyarmati's filly. I agonized over her and decided that she wasn't in top form. Again, WAY wrong. I did like Unbridled Forever, but clearly had zero winning tickets. I took it hard on the chin here. I haven't cashed anything of note the whole day at this point. It was ugly. I had to talk Buddy down from giving it up, but he's like that. His wife just told him to, "stop being dramatic and just pick a damn winner!"

The first "LET'S GO RANGERS" chant is heard. Ugh.

So here's a question for you: what do you do when you love a filly, even at 5/2, the betting lines are 15 deep, the machine eats your $50 voucher, and once the voucher is returned it will only register as "BLANK DOCUMENT"? You watch your filly run the race of her life and win, of course. But wow, what a race. Close Hatches brushed off Beholder like it was nothing and still held off Princess of Sylmar, who ran her eyeballs out. What a race. But what a time for me to have a tote mishap, eh? I was furious. I thought 5/2 was very fair for her, whom I valued at 9/5. Nothing is as demoralizing as having the track system itself inadvertently rob you of the chance to actually cash a ticket, as it would have been my first significant cashing of the day. So mad.

Security is now out in force since the drunk college kids are trying to squat in seats. In fact, someone tried to steal my seat as I was sitting in it, this despite the fact that I was wearing my ticket around my neck with MY SEAT NUMBER ON IT.

I absolutely was all over Coffee Clique. I was a huge fan and the fact she had Castellano just confirmed my handicapping. But first I had to go wait in a 20 person betting line to get my voucher fixed, which took 25 minutes. Once that was complete, I had about 9 minutes to post. Easy. I walk out to the rail to see the post parade, turn around, walk to the machines, and it's total chaos. The drink lines had somehow merged with the betting lines to form this mass that was very difficult to penetrate. Once I got thru the crowd, there was only 2 minutes to post. by the time I got the machine to recognize my ticket, there was 1 MTP, and all I had time for was a Coffee Clique-Discreet Marc EX BX. I punched in Coffee Clique to win and the pools were already locked out. So pissed. So what happens? CC runs great and wins. But how awesome is Somali Lemonade? I love that filly. Such a classy girl.

The guy next to me started talking about how Capo Bastone was going to blow everyone away in the Met Mile. That was the tipping point at which I knew that the crowd had been over served.

As Palace Malice passed the field right in front of us, I said, "Palace Malice is an animal." Realizing the ridiculousness of my statement, I stood by it. That horse is so damned good it's hard to believe. I am really looking forward to how Cot Campbell and company handle him this year.

I went to get a beer at this point, as I was parched. I also wanted  a hot dog, as I was hungry. Plus beer and stadium hot dogs are the perfect complement. I chose poorly. I waited in line for 30 minutes and just barely made it to the race by post time, sans hot dogs (fail!) but with beers (win!). During this seemingly endless era in which I watched the wretched villainy of Belmont Park's third level swarm concession stands and bathrooms like Death Star was about to destroy all of the beer, I saw many things, most of which I could easily forget. But I have a series of philosophic questions that arose from my experience.

  1. Why would you still buy a ($6) hot dog if you can clearly see that they just put it on the magical hot dog roller/cooker/assuredly-sanitary thingy no more than 30 seconds prior?
  2. Why do people think it is ok to ask, "can i pretend to stand with you so I don't have to wait in line?" and expect someone who has JUST STOOD IN LINE FOR 30 MINUTES TO SAY YES?
  3. Why does that same person then act put off once the obvious answer is delivered?
  4. How could a person possibly think that a soft pretzel from the rotator/cooker/holder machine is even worth $5? Doesn't everyone know that proper soft pretzels are only sold in Philadelphia and must be sold from an Acme shopping cart?
  5. How could anyone believe that an authentic Philly cheesesteak is actually authentic when the menu and stand itself reads, "Authentic Philly Cheesesteak"? Is not an "Authentic Philly Cheesesteak" just actually a cheesesteak? And you cannot even begin to sell said item without cheese Wiz.
  6. Why is there no express line for people that actually know what they're doing at the track? There should be a password/question for access to things like that. Like say, "what is a quinella?" or "which track has the best takeout rates?" or "name one horse running today other than -insert name of Triple Crown tryer here-?"

I never saw Real Solution as a real contender in the Manhattan as I've chalked him up to be a hanger. He has made so many nice moves in the lane only to stop next to the horse in front of him. But clearly I was way wrong. I was on Seek Again like white on rice and couldn't wait for him to run in a race with a bit more ground than the Woodford was on Derby Day when Dan the Man beat him. Well that, and to find a race without Dan in it. But with Five Iron's ridiculous attempt to steal the race and with Seek Again slightly farther forward than I expected, I guess Real Solution made sense. My opinion was quite wrong.

Therefore I got schooled by Mr. Steve Byk of At the Races with Steve Byk:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@SBNHorseRacing</a> Sometimes &#39;hang&#39; is inability to get to and by horses traveling well. Think he was simply better than this Manhattan group.</p>&mdash; Steve Byk (@Steve_Byk) <a href="">June 8, 2014</a></blockquote>
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So my writeup of the Belmont isn't particularly interesting, as many that are more talented than I have covered everything necessary, but what did catch my attention was two things: 1st, who the hell is at the Belmont to chant, "Let's Go Rangers!"; and secondly, why do people argue with security once you've been caught squatting in someone else's seat? Ugh. On the betting side of the house, I did have Commissioner and Tonalist in an EX BX. So at least I took a lot of those dumb people's money. Now concerning the race, why didn't Victor just go to the lead? Seems like an odd race, but not one that Tonalist didn't deserve to win, and look good doing it. Commissioner did exactly like I expected, he just ran and ran. I'm not sure what his ceiling is, and I'm not sure what kind of distance he wants, but maybe a try on the turf going long would be worth it. At least there he has a chance to keep going 10f+.

Oh, and I cannot wait for Tonalist to go to stud.

/makes the Hulk Hogan motion to ask for support from his Hulkamaniacs

Sure sure, haters gonna hate, so bring it on. But that horse is so well bred AND he's a Belmont winner. Too bad he'll probably be out of my price range. But fear not, anti-breeder crowd, Tonalist himself chimed in on the matter:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>I think we have plenty of racing left.  &quot;<a href="">@SBNHorseRacing</a>: Tonalist looks like he&#39;s a helluva stallion prospect.&quot;</p>&mdash; Tonalist (@Tonalist) <a href="">June 8, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Now onto the less desirable aspects of the day:

First, Mr. Coburn's remarks were more similar to a petulant child than those of an owner with a truly top class runner. There is only one race run in the history of the world where that winner would not have been beaten by any horse that has ever run, and that was the 1973 Belmont. Every other horse can be beaten on any other day. That's all I will say on this.

Second, The Great Long Island Railroad Fiasco of 2014 felt more like 10 friends trying to get a cab after a night of heavy drinking than a coordinated effort by the largest public transportation system in the United States. In fact, it spawned a Twitter rant!

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>What a great card <a href="">@TheNYRA</a> put on. What an absolute disaster <a href="">@LIRR</a> put on.</p>&mdash; SBNHorseRacing (@SBNHorseRacing) <a href="">June 8, 2014</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>How could <a href="">@LIRR</a> not have trains working when you tell everyone to TAKE PUBLIC TRANSPOTATION <a href=";src=hash">#BelmontStakes</a></p>&mdash; SBNHorseRacing (@SBNHorseRacing) <a href="">June 8, 2014</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>It was a terrible ending to a fun day <a href="">@TheNYRA</a> But wandering thru queens looking for any mode of transport put damper on the whole day@LIRR</p>&mdash; SBNHorseRacing (@SBNHorseRacing) <a href="">June 8, 2014</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@LIRR</a> What is your explanation for stranding thousands of people at <a href=";src=hash">#BelmontStakes</a> tonight, and not even making an announcement? <a href=";src=hash">#LIRR</a></p>&mdash; Katie Sullivan (@katietighe) <a href="">June 8, 2014</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>They managed the life boats on the Titanic better than the <a href="">@LIRR</a> managed this <a href="">@BelmontStakes</a> today <a href=";src=hash">#lirr</a> <a href=";src=hash">#BelmontStakes</a></p>&mdash; Lou DeGeorge (@LDeGeorge) <a href="">June 8, 2014</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>It&#39;s going to take less time to fly halfway across the country than it took <a href="">@LIRR</a> to get me from Belmont to Jamaica <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; SBNHorseRacing (@SBNHorseRacing) <a href="">June 8, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Seriously, the Long Island Railroad mess was awful. While waiting in a crowd to board the train (a crowd of about 20,000) there were more, "this sucks, I'm never coming back" than "I love racing!" from the twentysomething crowd. And that's a shame. NYRA put on a great show. The owners and trainers and jocks put on a great show. The horses put on an amazing exhibit for those in attendance. And LIRR threw it all away. While we had to walk several miles to get to the next functioning train station, many others found their way onto buses, into cabs, and who knows where else. But I felt bad for everyone that had their entire day ruined by the fiasco at the end of the day. Well, most, since the frat bros that decided it was a good idea to sit by where everyone was walking and scream obscenities at the passing crowds will receive exactly zero sympathy from me. But it's ok, because as I said to them after they screamed something at me, Buddy and buddy's wife, "Whatever bro, my pockets are full of your money."

That "bro" was supposed to be ironic.

But all in all, it was another great day at the track. I continued my (now traditional) streak of making a few bucks on the day and having a couple nice scores. It's just too bad we didn't have Real Solution on our tickets or we would have walked out of there with some heavy wallets. Oh well.