No Triple Crown Shot, But for this New Yorker, Belmonts are Always Big

The Derby and Preakness winners won’t be running. But Belmont Stakes Day will certainly be one of the most important betting days of the year for David Chamberlain, George Chute, Chris Larmey, Douglas Schenk and Steve Abelman. They are the five HorseTourneys qualifiers who won $10,000 buy-ins to this weekend’s Belmont Stakes Betting Challenge.

It’s also a key day here at HorseTourneys with the Belmont Stakes Day card serving as the backbone of a big day that will include a $75,000 Guaranteed cash game, not one but two NHC qualifiers including a free one at HorsePlayers for NHC Tour members, a BCBC qualifier, a guaranteed Del Mar qualifier—and several others too numerous to mention here.

But even if your Saturday action is limited strictly to good, old-fashioned parimutuel play, it seems as though Belmont Day, even without Always Dreaming or Cloud Computing taking part, has established top-5 status for itself—and that may be selling the day short.

With 10 stakes (nine of them graded, six of them grade I) in a single day, it’s hard to argue that there is a better menu of races anywhere in North America other than on Breeders’ Cup Saturday.

Many reasonable people have commented that the top-heavy Belmont Stakes Day card has done significant damage to the Belmont Spring meet in general and to its Memorial Day card in particular.

Of the top 100 problems afflicting racing right now, I might rate this as problem #96. Though should I conduct a more thorough review, I’m not sure it will make the top 200.

Even in those earlier, more-evenly-distributed days when the Belmont Stakes supporting feature was just the Riva Ridge (now called the Woody Stephens), Belmont Day has always been about the racing and not so much about big hats or getting plastered.

Recent attempts to emulate Pimlico and woo the once-a-year bowtie crowd with Billboard Top 100 artists have monkeyed with that purity of purpose somewhat—but even the older Belmonts had their dalliances with Linda Eder or some other Broadway semi-celebrity belting out vaguely familiar show tunes that largely served as background music to watch race replays by. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I’ve attended almost all of the Belmonts since 1982 (Conquistador Cielo). They basically fall into two categories:

1) Belmonts with a Triple Crown on the line
2) Belmonts without a Triple Crown on the line

The Belmonts with a Triple Crown on the line are the best sporting events I have ever attended. (And I’ve been to World Series games, Stanley Cup games and to one Super Bowl.) They are like walking into a baseball stadium knowing in advance that the pitcher will take a perfect game into the ninth inning. That’s the kind of excitement and tension involved.

The others, as a whole, aren’t nearly as memorable. But they do just fine as great racing days conducted in generally good weather with a large and engaged crowd on hand. And looking back, the non-Triple Crown Belmonts without Triple Crown race winners are indecipherable in my mind from those that had one or both. To recall which are which, I’d need some sort of reference book.

So Cloud Computing’s non-participation was never really an issue for me since the Belmont “took its shape” for me a couple of furlongs earlier when Always Dreaming started backing up.

And having said that, it’s no surprise that I can’t wait for Belmont Day. I never can.