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.
There are many reasons I love the Belmont Stakes. Here’s one:
It’s the first Saturday in June of 1982, and as the Belmont horses are parading in front of the grandstand, Ed Schuyler, then the Associated Press’s racing writer, looks up from his computer and announces to the assembled media that his favorite horse in the field is a 44-1 shot named Anemal (pronounced kind of like the Italian word for “animal”). Anemal, a New York-bred, has no business whatsoever being in an actual stakes race, much less the Belmont, and promptly goes out and proves it by trying to keep up with Conquistador Cielo through a half in 47 and change. To no one’s surprise, he winds up stopping as if he’d run into a brick wall, beaten something like 50 lengths, but despite this pesky detail Schuyler keeps chuckling and yelling “Anemal!” in a fake Italian accent all night. No one ever hears of the horse again, except when Schuyler brings it up.
So, years later, I’m sitting with seven total strangers on a catamaran a couple hundred yards off the Cayman Islands. The first mate is handing out vases full of this lethal concoction called a “Painkiller,” and somehow I let slip that I’m a sportswriter and the one guy, who in retrospect looks exactly like Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino from Jersey Shore, turns to me and says, “You ever cover the Belmont Stakes?” I nod. He says, “Did you ever hear of a horse named Anemal?” and I spit my Painkiller all over the bow. “I owned him,” he says, proud as punch. “Did you now,” I say once I stop choking. “Yes,” he beams. “He got the first call in the 1982 Belmont!”
I didn't have the heart to tell him it's the last call that counts.