As we all know, the quest for history ended last Saturday in New York. I made the journey out to the Belmont Race Track to see California Chrome make an attempt to win the Triple Crown. I’m not exactly a fan of horse racing and if there wasn’t a chance of a potential Triple Crown winner for the first time since 1978, I would not have gone.
The racetrack is in New York. Sure, seems like it’s close enough and not too far from the city, right? Let me tell you, it’s still a hike to get to. I live in central New Jersey, so it already takes me about an hour just to get to New York City. In this scenario, I went to Jersey City to meet my friend. From there, we took the PATH to 34th Street in Midtown which takes about a half an hour. Once in the city, we walked about five minutes to Penn Station. We had heard that there were ticket stands to purchase your train ticket directly to the racetrack on the Long Island Railroad. The entire LIRR section and ticket stands were complete chaos. Of course I knew it would be crowded. I guess I just wasn’t expecting it to be so nuts at 2:00 in the afternoon. I was wrong. By the time our train was announced, I was literally carried by the mass group to the stairs. It was a stampede and I was actually scared that I could be trampled. Aparently no one knows how the trains work. Patience is key people.
Once everyone was crammed on the train ten minutes later (a saftey hazard I tell you), the rowdy crowd conserved its energy for a little bit until the 40 minute train ride was over. It was simple enough to get through both the ticket stamping line and the park entrance. Once inside, we wandered. The race track is not an ideal place to be hungry or have to go to the bathroom or want to sit down, especially when you’re with 120,000 of your closest friends. Yeah, that’s how many people were there hoping to be a part of history.
Crazy. The backyard, which I suppose was in place of what would have been the infield at Churchill Downs or Pimlico, was packed with people in lawn chairs and blankets eating and hanging out. It was right near the paddock area which we managed to see, though it was empty and unexciting at the time. We wandered back inside and saw a few races over the course of three hours. We helped a creepy man pick which horses to bet on, and he said if he wins he’d buy us drinks. The horses we chose were first and second, so we stayed in hiding. It was the right decision.
Also, I recommend that unless you are an owner, trainer, or have access to the super fancy suites and whatnot, don’t wear your dresses, hats, and heels. It’s not worth it and you look silly. The weather will never be right for that type of outfit, and most people have to stand and are usually drunk, so that combination won’t help your situation.
The day of the Belmont was also Game 2 of the Stanley Cup, and my friend is a diehard Rangers fan. Our plan was to try to get back to Hoboken to watch the game, but with the race being at approximately 6:52PM, that was going to be difficult. We managed to stand right in the middle of the homestretch and right near the exit.
It probably wasn’t going to get any better than that at that point. So. Many. People. And then the race started. And then the race happend. And then the race was over. We could barely see anything, and we certainly couldn’t hear anything. By the time the horses ran past us, we knew there was no Triple Crown winner.
We bolted for the trains. It took a while to get back, but we made it and spent the night watching an exciting game and heartbreaking loss for the Rangers.
All in all, I’m glad I went to have the experience. I would have loved to be able to say that I was there for history, but to be honest, I don’t think there will every be another Triple Crown winner. I don’t have plans to go back to the Belmont (I’d gladly go to Churchill Downs though!)…though maybe if there is a chance it could happen again, why not make the trip. YOLO.