I'm just back from New York, and the Belmont Stakes. Dogwood has run seven horses in the Derby, three in the Preakness (won with one of them!) and only once in the Belmont Stakes. However, it is among my favorite races, and we always go to up to New York for that week. It is a great occasion and it personifies all that is exciting and high class about New York City and the tradition of horse racing. It's a glimpse of the good old days.
I saw the race in person, of course, and then saw it better when I viewed the DVD that was made for me back at my office in Aiken. I have several random observations from each.
First, the NBC coverage was good for the most part. I think Bob Costas-a superb TV sports personality-has grown into a very decent racing commentator, and he adds a lot of pizzazz. He was a little shaky and tentative in the early days. Tom Hammond is likeable, and smooth as silk. And Gary Stevens is outstanding. Right on target, very creative in his observations. He is as good a pundit as he was a rider, and that's saying a lot. Of course, neither he nor Neumeier nor Battaglia nor Donna Brothers really hit their predictions with any significant degree of success. But, in this game, no one ever has and no one ever will. Still, they are legitimate experts, and they have to try. The folly of predicting horse races was borne out several times on Belmont day. Who would ever have dreamed that Mission Approved, a seven-year-old horse claimed for $35,000 last July, would win the Grade One Manhattan, defeating the likes of Gio Ponti. And who would have come up with Ruler on Ice winning the Belmont.
One great thing about this year's Belmont is that they have gone back to the great song, "New York, New York." Good riddance to "Empire State of Mind." Of course, I am sorry they ever left "East Side, West Side." I was impressed unfavorably with the newest fashion statement in New York, in the category of men's headwear. I noticed a preponderance of stingy- brim fedoras of the type first popularized by Kid Rock. I rank this trend right in there with the Nehru jacket and the leisure suit of yesteryear.
As was noted in the press, it is desirable for racing to see high profile new and young owners such as Bobby Flay, Kevin Plank and Mike Repole. And that is one damned good reason why it is so undesirable-- and makes no sense at all-for the television graphics that attend each horse on television to omit the name of the owner. This is absurd. While the names of some owners may not create a sensation, many of them are colorful, sometimes star quality names that add to the interest of the entry. The Daily Racing Form used to almost make a point of omitting owners' names in their stories, but now they have gotten back to including them. The names do have news value in most cases.
The telecast did a fine, heartwarming feature on Angel Cordero and his rider, John Velazquez. But a highlight of the day came because our box was right behind the NYRA box which was assigned to Ruler on Ice's owners George and Lori Hall, and their trainer Kelly Breen. This little group made their way up to the box section with the paddock throng, where little attention would have been paid to this 24 to 1 longshot. Then there was much nervous clutching and hand shaking as they sweated out the post parade. Their horse was forwardly placed all the way in the race, and when that colt struck the front at the eighth pole, they went ballistic. Winning the Belmont would have been for them one of those magic moments in racing when the mother of all dreams comes true. It was fun and heartwarming to see such jubilation from a nice and deserving group. Those are the golden rings on the merry go round that are worth reaching for. All the heartaches in racing are made up for when you experience that one exquisite, sapphire of a moment…in any race. But think how it would be in the Belmont Stakes when your horse has hit the front, and you know he is going to get there.
Like all superlatives in life, those fabulous flashes are few and far between.
This is Cot Campbell and this is my view.