Teresa Genaro is a high school English teacher and freelance turf writer whose work has appeared in a variety of turf publications. A former and erstwhile resident of Saratoga Springs, she lives in Brooklyn and writes about New York racing at Brooklyn Backstretch.
Few among us can say that a jewel of the Triple Crown takes place practically in our backyard, and I never cease to be awed that the Belmont, that one of the most historic and important races in the United States, occurs at one of my home tracks. I feel incredibly fortunate that this place that is so familiar, that is often, despite its magnitude, homey, is, for one day a year, transformed into something that is shared with racing fans across the country, and I get to watch it happen.
And this year’s Belmont—much of the Triple Crown, in fact--felt, perhaps more than most years, like a tribute to New York.
Last Wednesday, the day of the Belmont draw, quintessential New York jockey Richard Migliore bid us farewell, not of his own volition, but because his body had finally turned traitor and said, “Enough.” Richie left us for a while to head west, but he came home, and we welcomed him warmly. We look forward to seeing where he’ll next land in our racing lives.
Five and a half weeks ago, New York-based Todd Pletcher finally, finally won his first Kentucky Derby. And crossing the wire behind his Super Saver was Nick Zito’s Ice Box. If Migliore is the quintessential New York jock, Zito’s the classic New York trainer (even down to his comments about pizza).
Two weeks after the Derby, his Jackson Bend finished third by less than a length in the Preakness, and last Saturday, yet another Zito trainee, Fly Down, finished second in the Belmont. Zito says that he’s the first trainer to hit the board in all three Triple Crown races with three different horses.
And winning the 142nd Belmont Stakes, winning, incredibly, his first Triple Crown race, was New York’s Bill Mott, with New York defector Mike Smith in the saddle. He won his first Belmont, too, back here where he rode for a decade.
New Yorkers are said to be among the most provincial folks in the country: we’re in love with our city and wouldn’t live anywhere else; we’re boastful and parochial and, oh, maybe a little arrogant. We are proud.
And once in a while, we have every right to be, thanks to the good people who sometimes get to take center stage in the place that they—and we—call home.
See you next year….