Saturday marks the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes. As the last leg of the racing Triple Crown, there is often a potential for history in the making if that year has seen one horse take the first two legs at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
This just so happens to be one of those years.
At 4-5 odds Justify is seeking the become only the 2nd horse to win the Triple Crown in the last 40 years and the first one to do so since American Pharaoh in 2015. Considering that he will have the same jockey, in Victor Espinoza, the odds do seem to be in his favor.
That call at the end by Larry Collmus is absolute broadcasting gold, btw!
Even if Justify doesn’t complete the Triple Crown there will be a small amount of history made this weekend. That’s because the 151st running of the Belmont Stakes won’t take place for at least another 3 years. The NYRA will be making improvements to both the clubhouse and areas of the track at the same time that a new 18,000 seat arena and entertainment district are being built on the same property for New York Islanders. While it’s a great move for the Islanders, because frankly although it’s a great basketball and concert venue, the Barclay’s center has absolutely 0 hockey atmosphere. But this piece isn’t about hockey.
I’m by no means a devoted follower of horse racing but like most of the country I tune into the big ones, especially when there is a Triple Crown on the line. And every Memorial Day the bar I currently work at organizes a trip to Belmont Park for a day at the races. For a reasonable price my owners set up a bus ride and a great spread of booze and food and customers and employees get to mingle in a casual and friendly way different even from the one they normally enjoy. It’s an awesome way to spend the day.
When I went on the Belmont trip last year I got to watch a horse race in person for the first time. It was one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had. As I alluded to briefly when I filled in for Ned and mused a few weeks ago, my love affair with horses goes back a long time. The weather may have been less than desirable on my visit(much like the forecast predicts for Saturday) and the crowds were a little thin(which they probably won’t be on Saturday), but the chance to be able to see these beautiful creatures live was a dream come true for my inner kid. It was easy to understand why this sport has existed and enthralled people for hundreds of years.
And I did learn something at the track that day from one of our regulars. In crappy weather always bet the grey horse.
I have worked in bars and restaurants for well over almost half of my life at this point. Most of them being sports bars. I have watched my fair share of exciting sports events. I can truthfully say that working on race days is one of the more thrilling things I get to watch and work on a yearly basis. For a range of 2-15 minutes time stands still. Everyone, customers, and employees alike, are focused on the power, grace, and sheer strength of a group of horses racing.
Once the volume on the TVs goes up there’s almost as if there’s a silent understanding that once the starting gun goes off no one will be ordering or delivering drinks or food for the next 2 minutes and there has been a winner crowned.
For the first time in 4 years, I won’t be behind the bar for a race but you can guarantee that I will be in one of the seats on the other side watching, cheering, and hoping for Justify to become lucky number 13.