Haskin's Belmont Stakes Leftovers
Photo: Jeffrey Snyder
The crowd prior to the start of the card on Belmont Stakes Day.
The following is a potpourri of stats, quotes, and anecdotes from the 140th Belmont Stakes, which provided plenty of excitement, controversy, and humor.

Tight, Not Light: Big Brown had five career starts going into the Belmont Stakes. The 11 Triple Crown winners made an average of 14 career starts before the Belmont. You can draw your own conclusions.

Belated Excuses: Kent Desormeaux finally came out and blamed the starter standing on the racetrack for Big Brown’s ducking out leaving the gate or at least hinted he could have contributed to it. The only problem is, you complain about that five minutes after the race, not five days. Sorry, the statute of limitations has run out on that one.

The New Breed:  From the statistical mind of author and historian Richard Sowers: “Everybody always talks about the Belmont being a jockeys’ race because, among other things, there are so few races run at a mile and a half.

Well, Saturday marked the third consecutive year that the winning jockey in the Belmont picked up his first classic win, with Garcia joining Fernando Jara, aboard Jazil, and John Velazquez, who, surprisingly, hadn't won a classic before Rags to Riches.

That hadn't happened since 1979-82, when Ruben Hernandez won aboard Coastal, Eddie Maple aboard Temperence Hill, George Martens on Summing, and Pincay (hard to believe he hadn't won a classic before) on Conquistador Cielo.”

Quote of the Day: With the water out throughout most of the track on Belmont day, "Triumph the Insult Comic Dog," while interviewing Bob Baffert, spotted a pile of horse manure on the path leading to the tunnel, and commented: “That poop smells better than the fans.”

From Zatara to Da’ Tara: There are many methods people use to name horses, but not many are quite as complex as Nick Zito’s naming of Da’ Tara.

“Bob LaPenta has been having trouble naming horses, and I like the story of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” Zito explained. “In the story, Dantes escapes from prison and jumps off a cliff into the water and washes ashore, and these pirates find him. And by the way, this horse is out of a Pirate’s Bounty mare.

So, the leader of the pirates tells Dantes, ‘We’re going to call you Zatara,’ which means driftwood. Well, we didn’t get Zatara, but we got Da’ Tara. The name just caught me. Then the movie goes on and he becomes the Count of Monte Cristo.”

Zito was on the track after the Belmont talking to a few people while waiting for Da’ Tara to return. When he spotted the horse, he said, much to the puzzlement of those around him, “Let me go see the Count of Monte Cristo.”

Zito also named Cool Coal Man and Web Gem for LaPenta.

All in the Family…Almost: NYRA security officer Juan Dominguez was all set to lead Big Brown back to the test barn following his expected sweep of the Triple Crown. It all seemed destined to happen. Dominguez’ uncle was none other than Laz Barrera, the trainer of the last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed, 30 years ago.

Big Apple Repeat: For the second straight year, a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner sired the winner of the Belmont Stakes. In the case of Da’ Tara’s sire Tiznow, however, he kept it all in New York, winning the Classic at Belmont and siring a Belmont winner. Of course, Rags to Riches’ sire, A.P. Indy, also won the Belmont Stakes, so there you have two Belmont Park sires for the ages.

Taken to the Cleaners: You know your privacy has been invaded when you walk into your local dry cleaner’s and there’s a reporter from Newsday in there asking questions about you. That’s what IEAH Stables’ co-president Michael Iavarone was subjected to between the Preakness and Belmont.

“There’s one dry cleaner in town, and it just so happens that at the exact same time I go in there to drop stuff off, she’s in there asking the dry cleaner questions about me,” Iavarone said. “You can’t make that up.”

Special Delivery: About 15 minutes before the Belmont Stakes, Nick Zito won the 10th race at Churchill Downs with Wisconsin Girl. The name of the allowance race: the UPS Senders.

Save it for Later: When Casino Drive’s owner, Hidetoshi Yamamoto, finished sixth in the Japanese Derby a week before the Belmont, his racing manager, Nobutaka Tada, didn’t seem upset in the slightest. “Mr. Yamamoto doesn’t want to use up his good luck in that race,” Tada said. “He wants to save it for the Belmont.”

It’s a shame he never got to test his luck. And how good did Casino Drive look after the horse he crushed in the Peter Pan (gr. II), Mint Lane, came back and romped by 5 3/4 lengths in the Postponed Stakes on June 13 against a solid field?

Applause Meter: The biggest cheer that went up over the Belmont weekend was when a close-up of Big Brown was shown approaching the gate on the infield screen. The second biggest went to New York’s own Nick Zito after the Belmont. But how about the third, which was the round of applause given to 10-year-old Evening Attire following his excellent second-place finish in the 1 1/2-mile Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) the previous day. That was a highlight of the weekend for sure.

Cide by Cide: In 2003, you couldn’t get anywhere near Funny Cide, who had security around him 24 hours a day in the days preceding the Belmont Stakes. And Barclay Tagg kept everyone guessing when he was going to take him to the track. Now, five years later, there was Funny Cide standing by himself each day on the horse path outside the back entrance of Tagg’s barn, tied to a tree, munching on hay without a soul around. Now a pony, Funny Cide, his named embroidered on his saddle cloth, calmly stood there, waiting to accompany Tagg’s 2008 Belmont starter, Tale of Ekati, to the track each morning. One morning, with Robin Smullen aboard, Funny Cide passed right by Big Brown, who was standing by the rail, then moved alongside him and stood next to him for several seconds, making for a memorable photo of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners.

Keeping it Light: Da’ Tara’s owner Robert LaPenta leaving the walking ring before the Belmont: “We’re just going to have fun.” To what extent he had no idea.

No Derby Duds: The Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) is supposed to take its toll on a horse, but since the Derby, a number of beaten horses have bounced back with big races. Smooth Air ran away with the Ohio Derby (gr. II), with Derby starter Z Fortune third; Pyro and Visionaire finished first and third, respectively, in the Northern Dancer Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs, Denis of Cork and Anak Nakal finished second and third, respectively, in the Belmont Stakes; and Cool Coal Man won the Spend a Buck Stakes at Monmouth.

Rose Fever: So, what brought noted TV interviewer Charlie Rose to Belmont Park one bright sunny morning during Belmont week? For anyone who knows Rose, the answer is pretty obvious: “I love a good story,” he said. You can’t be more simple and direct than that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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