Big Sandy rail birds

June, 5, 2010
ELMONT, NY -- Belmont Park is a very sandy racetrack. I can testify to this fact because I am currently wearing a significant amount of the surface on my arms, legs, face and hands. There is racetrack in my hair, in my ears and between my teeth. It is extremely gritty and kind of grayish-tan.

To rookie reporters whose race viewing skills have yet to evolve, I offer this piece of advice: do not stand along the rail in close proximity to the track ambulance as it zooms by at the start. If you do, no matter how dry the track may seem, you run the risk of taking a shower in globs of track surface spun up by those revolving wheels. Yes, this happened to me.

Rail-side race viewing is not a new tradition. In fact, it is the only way to fully capture the essence of an event; to take in the sights and sounds, the rumbling hooves, the flash of colors. Apparently a new category -- the splatter of mud -- has been added to this experience. Jockeys returning from their Belmont ride found diabolical amusement in the sight of the six or seven Turf writers who wound up wearing the oval, splattered in ample quantity across their race day finery. Then they went downstairs to shower while we continued on to the postrace news conference in our disheveled condition.

The race was won by Drosselmeyer, or so they tell me. I wouldn't exactly know, since I spent pretty much all of the two minutes and thirty-one seconds that it took to run the race rubbing sand out of my eyes.

"And you thought you had a bad trip," assistant trainer Jonathan Thomas told rider Javier Castellano, whose silks were considerably cleaner than the black dress of yours truly, as the two walked back from discussing the seventh-place finish of Interactif. "Where did you run in the Belmont, last?" another jockey laughed.

Here in the press box, I've managed to brush most of the sand out of my hair. My Jessica Simpson heels died at the Preakness after a valiant Triple Crown season, and I fear the events of this afternoon have vanquished the black dress. My spirit, however, is strong. I'm a survivor.

What a great story to tell.

For more comprehensive information on horse racing, visit and You can follow Claire Novak on Facebook and Twitter at @ClaireNovak.



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?