Andy Serling has been playing the horses for almost his entire life, and is currently the co-host of NYRA Live. To follow Andy on Twitter, click here.
One of the many great things about this game is that you never know when you will learn a valuable lesson that will help you in the future. My first trip to the Belmont Stakes was one of those occasions. Early one Saturday morning in June of 1977, my friend Larry Benton and I drove down from Saratoga to Belmont to see Seattle Slew attempt to become the first undefeated Triple Crown winner. ( Who am I kidding......Larry drove.....I was in my usual " passenger " position ). We were racing fans, and like all fans at the time, we were hungry for a Triple Crown, as after all it had been four long years since Secretariat had completed the sweep.
It was a beautiful Saturday morning, so glorious in fact that we were not even bothered when travelling down the bucolic Taconic Parkway, we blew a tire. OK, we were saving toll money, but let's not get caught up on details. Anyway, luckily Larry is far more able than I, and was fully qualified to change a tire. Once again, so as not to get caught up with details, I will omit the fact that our ( his ) spare was also flat ( OK....it needed air ), as the important part of the story is that I learned perhaps my only manual skill on this my 15th birthday. After 15 years spent learning little of value, other than how to make speed figures and read the Racing Form, I finally acquired a true mechanical skill.
Once a travelling Auto shop drove by to fill our spare with air, and only those that know me can truly appreciate how much I enjoyed waiting by the side of the road for this to happen, we were back on our way to perhaps witness history. And, of course, the rest is history. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, at even more beautiful Belmont Park, we saw the great Slew crush Run Dusty Run and Sanhedran ( incidentally topping the same trifecta from the KY Derby just five weeks earlier ) and race himself into history as the 10th Triple Crown winner. It was such an exhilarating experience that by the time Jean Cruget stood up ( before the wire ) to celebrate the victory I had ( almost ) completely forgiven Larry for the tire debacle. Little did I know that, in actuality, I should have been thanking him.
Fast forward now to 1994, perhaps the greatest winter of my life, and sunny South Florida where I was spending my first winter at Gulfstream Park. Every day was filled with possibilities, and one early Sunday was no different as I was speeding down 95 eager to make the first, a race where ( unsurprisingly ) I had a proverbial " lock. " The chances, however, of capitalizing on this sure winner were severely diminished when I blew a tire five miles from Gulfstream with only 40 minutes left until post. ( As an aside, I am still not sure if I should thank the guy who kept honking at me on the highway and pointing to my tire......as surely that hub could have made it to the Gulfstream parking lot. What you don't know can't hurt you....right? ) Regardless, I pulled off the road, cursed loudly, cried quietly, and brought myself back to that glorious June day in 1977. Within minutes I had popped the spare out of my rental car's trunk and put the valuable lesson Larry had taught me all those years ago to the best possible use. The rest, as they say, is ( once again ) history.
I pulled into Gulfstream with so much time to spare that the horses were just arriving in the paddock as I blew through the admission gate. Of course the horse won ( why else would I be telling this story if not to relate the oldest redboard in the history of blogging? ) and it completed a circle of valuable lessons learned at the racetrack that help you make money at some later date. The final point of this tale is twofold.....to finally thank Larry for the help he gave me and to remind everyone else to get out to this year's Belmont Stakes as otherwise you risk missing out on some valuable life lesson....as well as a great time.