The Belmont Stakes is a particularly wonderful event for me, because it’s a home game. I get to experience all of the madness of the third jewel of the Triple Crown on my own turf, so it’s an even more magical experience for me.
My week started out with some of the most fun I can imagine. On Monday, I managed to get my paws on some general admission tickets to Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, so I was able to visit different areas around the city to give them away to our Twitter fans. After tweeting out my location at Rockefeller Center, I headed out to the iconic landmark with a fistful of passes – and I’m glad I had brought a lot with me!
I met all sorts of people who were so excited to go to the race; I love meeting racing fans in general, and I love being able to help them out even more.
What I didn’t count on that day was interacting with an actual building on Twitter. Horses: sure, I talk to equines on Twitter all of the time; but talking to a building was a new one for me. Looks like I’ll be heading back there on Thursday!
So surreal, yet so cool.
Tuesday brought another round of Midtown Mania: I started out the morning with another ticket giveaway, this time at the Empire State Building. While I interacted with a ton of people there, sadly the skyscraper never got in touch with me. Bummer.
After that, it was time for one of my favorite Belmont Stakes traditions: another journey to Rockefeller Center, but this time a NYRA-sanctioned one for the official Belmont Stakes Press Party.
This is such a cool event – it’s held on one of the rooftop gardens on the building, and media and Belmont Stakes connections mingle over a lunch and press conference. It’s always a beautiful spot, but on Tuesday we were treated to a Daily Double of fun because it was a picture-perfect day.
Of course, it’s not all fun and games; the press party is also an opportunity for members of the media to get unfettered access to Belmont Stakes contenders, and the hottest ticket of the afternoon was definitely Team California Chrome. His co-owner Steve Coburn was in the middle of one press scrum:
While jockey Victor Espinoza held his own court in another corner of the garden:
After everyone had sampled the delicious food, it was time for the press conference to begin. Most of the Belmont connections were there, and everyone was given a chance to say a few words about their horse.
I love this photo I got of Alan and Art: two generations of excellent horsemen chasing the Triple Crown dream.
Wednesday of Belmont week is draw day. This is when the odds and post positions for the Belmont Stakes are determined. Post positions are determined by a double-blind draw, so the assignments are totally random - hence the term “the luck of the draw.”
When I arrived at Belmont Park, I hustled up to the fourth floor of the Clubhouse, where the draw would take place. After I got myself and all of my equipment settled, I was treated to a breathtaking sight. On display were the trophies for both the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown. As the Kentucky Derby Museum tweeted out earlier this week, there are more people who have walked on the moon (12) than horses who have won the Triple Crown (11). That’s pretty incredible to think about and shows what an elusive achievement this hat trick really is. To see the two trophies side by side like that was goosebump-inducing.
As the media and connections of the horses began to arrive, I snuck backstage to take a peek at the placards bearing the names and silks of the Belmont Stakes contenders lined up and waiting to be hung in their post-position slats. It was a pretty cool sight to see!
While I was there, I was also able to catch a glimpse of the throngs of press there to witness the draw. I think this picture shows just how popular this year’s Belmont Stakes really is!
Everyone was on pins and needles waiting to find out where their horse would start in the big race, and as names and post positions were called you could hear yelps of excitement or groans of disappointment emanating from the different tables of owners and trainers. In the end, California Chrome got post position #2, the same as the mighty Secretariat. Below is the complete list of the Belmont Stakes post positions, odds and connections for the big race on June 7:
After that, there was another short press conference, where trainers reacted to the draw. Ride On Curlin’s trainer Gowan brought his whole family up, which was very sweet:
And, of course, Team California Chrome was in the house as well.
After the draw was over, it was down to business for me; but I took a break when I found out that some of Saturday’s brightest stars would be schooling in the Belmont Park paddock during the afternoon’s races.
Trainers often take their horses to the paddock during race days to acclimate their runners to a racing environment as a sort of dress rehearsal, and I was lucky enough to see Wicked Strong taking a tour around the grounds today.
His trainer, Jimmy Jerkens, was very hands-on, petting his charge and making sure that Wicked Strong was comfortable and happy throughout his time in the paddock.
I also got to see the lovely Beholder, who will run in the Ogden Phipps Stakes on Belmont day.
And I managed to cap off my day with seeing some of my favorite friends from the press box: Claire Novak, Nicole Russo and Natalie Voss! It was the perfect ending to an already amazing day, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this week brings.
Thank you so much for joining me, and check back again soon for more!