The last time I covered the Belmont Stakes Smarty Jones was going for the Triple Crown and the whole nation seemed interested.
Robert Yates, who covers Oaklawn Park and thoroughbred racing for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and I flew into LaGuardia and checked into our hotel, which was about 15 miles from Belmont.
Robert insisted I drive since I had lived in New York (yeah, in 1975!) and the first day driving to the track was no problem.
We made it through the maddening traffic and onto the track without getting lost and only had to do one U-turn. I missed the entrance.
We got our interviews finished and decided to write from the hotel instead of at the track and we were doing fine until we hit a traffic detour for construction.
Minutes later we were in the wrong lane to make the exit, and we were jammed in the wrong lane at about 75 mph.
That day we ended up in Mid Town so I drove down and showed Robert Little Italy, China Town, where the World Trade Centers had stood, Madison Square Garden and the Empire State Building.
The second day we got to the track fine and on the way home hit the same detour and this time I made what I thought was a brilliant move and took an exit that wasn’t an exit but a different highway and a few minutes later Robert was getting a tour of Harlem, Spanish Harlem and eventually Central Park.
On the third day we got to the track fine and on the way home someone (still me) took another wrong exit and this time we ended up in the Bronx in front of the old Yankees Stadium.
One night we drove in to the city for dinner at Carmine’s on the West Side and when we got back to the car, five minutes late, I had a parking ticket that cost $72.
Everything was going fine on the day of the Belmont until the feature race and jockey Stew Elliott moved Smarty Jones a little too early, and other horses had been on his heels the entire trip trying to unsettle him, and he finished second.
People left the track crying because of his gallant effort in the loss.
It wasn’t until 30 minutes after the race, when I was trying to write, I realized one of the tickets I had thrown away was a Pick Six and had five out of six right.
I haven’t been back to New York since, and not sure if I really ever want to visit the Big Apple again.You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.