Jenny Kellner is an award-winning journalist and educator who has written about horse racing for more than 20 years. She has been a media specialist with NYRA for the past four years.
So a little before 11 o’clock this morning, I’m standing outside the clubhouse entrance when this monstrous vehicle pulls up, a black stretch SUV about a furlong long. Oh my, here come the cowboys. It’s Mine That Bird’s crew, dressed all in black with their black cowboy hats and shades, and as they’re walking into the clubhouse, the giant Air Force cargo plane flies low over Belmont Park and I’m wondering if it’s some kind of sign.
Then I see Ed Fountaine of the New York Post walk up wearing a black cowboy hat, the one he bought as a souvenir at the Breeders’ Cup at Lone Star Park, and I think, “Nah.”
It’s a beautiful day here at Belmont, five hours and change until the Belmont Stakes, and the place is starting to fill up and the fans are smiling and the program looks gorgeous and already I’ve tabbed my King’s Bishop horse. Just Ben rockets to victory in the second race, hitting the wire in 1:21.18 for the seven furlongs over a miraculously good track. I hereby nominate NYRA Director of Racing Surfaces Glen Kozak for Man of the Year!
You think it’s easy picking a Belmont winner? When you’ve fed peppermints to Summer Bird, traded jokes with Eoin Harty, watched Kiaran McLaughlin spend time with the children of Anna House, marveled at the sight of Wayne Lukas in his cowboy hat and shades astride his pony on the track, and seen Chip Woolley maneuvering on the most famous crutches in Thoroughbred racing (he can hold two drinks in one hand while balancing on his crutches, take that, Elliott Walden), your objectivity is basically shot. Up close and personal is not the way to handicap horses.
So then I reach up and touch my ear and I remember this morning I wore my hummingbird earrings, and I realize that’s the sign I was looking for, and it’s going to be the Mine That Bird/Summer Bird exacta box.