Kicking off Summer the Right Way

Kent D. and Summer Bird help us kick off summer the right way (budmeister 26.2)

Like Curlin, I do better with an outing on the track before the marquee event. On previous Belmont days I had already been to the classy & classic Belmont at least once prior to the big day, not this year.

After getting into a comfortable groove of playing from home and not worrying about things like factoring in time to wait on line for the bathroom or having to hear annoying conversations all day, would I be able to cash some tickets and enjoy the day? Cash some tickets, one. Enjoy the day, definitely!

Almost immediately we ran into Kevin of Colin’s Ghost, who was sitting not too far from us. During a rousing game of stump the guitarist, we also got a chance to see Miss Brooklyn Backstretch and Alan of Bug Boys. Superfecta, Equispace and Raceday360 were all in attendance, although our paths did not cross. It’s always nice to see one’s online pals offline!

Our seats were fantastic, just shy of the finish line in the 3rd floor grandstand. With only a few brief exceptions our neighbors were enjoyable as well. The couple sitting to our right were real racing fans, she had even placed a $20 win bet on Mine That Bird in the Derby! She said she thought the trainer had a quiet confidence in an interview… that method worked out a lot better than most. Not sure how they fared on the day.

To our left were two tween girls who seemed to come from a racing family as they knew horses, trainers and jockeys by name. Sprinkled in with talk about the horses were copious amounts of giggling about Facebook and some high pitched squealing. Swifty kept reminding me that it was better than drunk frat boys smoking cigars… he was right.

Whoever had tickets directly behind us did not show so we had a rotating cavalcade of guest neighbors. Some were inoffensive but one guy narrated the Acorn on the phone to someone while later on another one ate a stinky sausage sandwich while putting his bare foot on my seat and simultaneously telling his friends that they should “grab some girls on the way to cash their tickets so they could do a lap dance for them”. “Dude, I’m serious”. Good luck with that. Fortunately, neither of these pests lasted more than one race.

I generally ignore my phone at the track (as anyone who has ever tried to call me at the track can attest to) but did manage to check in on twitter from time to time. Here are few notable tweets:

As the stakes portion of the day got underway, Jessica remarked:

Loving hearing the Belmont crowd roar. Nothing beats a big day at the racetrack

The most astute handicapping comment I saw all day came courtesy of Dan Shapiro:

Nice crowd down here at the Plaza for the Belmont. Still thinking Dunkirk, especially after the impressive win by his workmate Munnings

o_crunk had his usually witty observations:

Dunkirk – the best poorly managed horse in the country!

And bloodstock got the biggest chuckle with:

Well at least a horse sporting a pair. Finally won a triple crown race

Sporting a pair or not, there were a lot of impressive performances yesterday but the most impressive was Fabulous Strike’s insane run in the True North. Battling Sixthirteen to run outrageous splits (21.85 / 43.62! / 55.28 / 1:07.85) only to pull away with the authority in the stretch… could that have been the one of the best performances of the year? I didn’t notice the splits until after the race, he made it look so easy that I thought the race was a little hum drum…. ha!

True North:


The Just A Game marked my first bone head move of the day. In addition to Forever Together I liked Caribbean Sunset, Diamondrella and Modern Look in that order. The thing that kept me from liking Modern Look more was Gomez. In her previous race he gave her what I’ve come to call “The Hard Spun Ride”, strangling her instead of letting her run and it looked to me like that cost her last out (not sure she would have won but think she might have done better). I liked the way Modern Look looked in the parade and went with her instead of Diamondrella. Lo and behold GoGo strangled her on the backstretch and she finished last.

Just A Game:


Bone head move number two came in the Woody Stephens when I dismissed Munnings parade perkiness as being too worked up, something I usually would be all over when playing from home. He looked nervous and little jumpy as they went by the grandstand and then bolted down the track after breaking from the pony. It was a tough call but I decided to go with “too keyed up”… ugh! On the bright side, it felt very much like Teuflesburg’s Woody Stephens (which I loved) where he finally gets the benefit of an optimal distance and puts it all together. (And let’s hope Hello Broadway finally finds his niche, I’d like to see him on turf). I saw Munnings break his maiden at Saratoga and I’m glad to see him find his niche, see you in the King’s Bishop!

Woody Stephens:


While still bone headed, I don’t feel so bad about the Acorn because I at least had Gabby’s Golden Gal in the mix. She looked incredible in the parade, which is why I played her, although my win bet was Funny Moon. There was a tense moment after the race where Gabby’s Golden Gal was a little stressed. I couldn’t totally see what was going on but was glad when she didn’t lay down (although for a moment it looked like she was from my seat, which was extremely upsetting). No doubt Darley is rearranging the giant bags of money in the vault to make some room with their recent purchase of up and coming superstar stud Medaglia d’Oro.



In the Manhattan I played Gio Ponti, Cosmonaut and Cowboy Cal. I had decided earlier in the day that I was not going to play Wesley even though he was my pick in his last out. He looked great in the parade and it was tempting but this was the one time where I had to deliberate during the parade and made the right call. See, there’s always a silver lining even when you lose, or so I tell myself. At least I got to see the race, which is more than can be said for the folks at home!

Woodford Reserve Manhattan:

(NTRA Horse Racing Channel)

Summer Bird did not surprise me as the winner, particularly since I had a nice win bet on him (and Flying Private). I mixed up those two with Mine That Bird in exactas and tris. As the day unfolded and the speed held up I was starting to second guess decision to not use Charitable Man. I was in the camp that his Peter Pan win was a dream trip and I wasn’t convinced that he would get the distance. I thought at the very least my three picks would get distance but thought the pace might be too soft. I had my fingers crossed for a Charitable Man, Miner’s Escape hook up.

The 3 that looked great in the parade were Mine That Bird, Summer Bird and Dunkirk. In fact, after the race Swifty and I both admitted that we had the same thought and decided not to say it out loud “Dunkirk is the only horse that makes me nervous”. Swifty’s play was a Summer Bird, Charitable Man & Mine That Bird trifecta box. Even the screeching tweens sitting beside us liked Dunkirk, “Dunkirk looks awesome” “Totally! He’s gonna WIIIIIIIIIIN”. We were sitting right in front of where they loaded them in the gate, which may have been my favorite part of the whole day.

As Dunkirk not only got the lead but set decent fractions, I was both happy and concerned. My runners were getting their preferred pace but it was Dunkirk, not Charitable Man, who was the speed to worry about. It looked like he was gonna throw in the towel as Mine That Bird came up to him but he held tough. When Summer Bird started to come on Swifty and I gave those tweens a run for their money in the shouting department… we were pretty much going bananas. I needed Mine That Bird to hold on for second and he needed the inquiry to take down Dunkirk, it didn’t work out for either of us but it was a helluva an exciting race!

Belmont Stakes:


Summer Bird ushered in what looks to be a great summer of racing. What seemed like it might be a day full of uncontested chalk turned out to be full of excellent surprises, validations of improving form and notable redemptions. This can only bode well for some exciting racing as the year unfolds, and to quote Swifty, “who deserves it more than us?”