Continued from part 1
Later in the day, the Hall of Fame Stakes was run across the street. Two Hall of Famers, Mott and Bailey, teamed up to win the 3-year-old turf stakes with Baptize. Nothing was lost on Mott, Bailey or the two newest Hall of Famers who presented the trophy.
Mandella stood in the winner's circle, a little bit uneasy. It's usually the other way around, getting the trophy not giving it away. He managed all right.
"It was a great day. Walking around and being in the Hall of Fame with all those great horses and trainers and everything, you kind of wonder, 'how do I fit in here?' I wouldn't trade it for anything.
"Oh, I've had a couple of pretty good days but this would be equal to anything. The difference is, this one will last. You can win a big race and it's over tomorrow. You do this and you get to wear it all your life. I guess with that, it could be the best day, never thought about it that way.
"Yesterday, we got a tour and saw some of (the Hall of Fame). Some stood out but I wouldn't want to say which ones, how could you pick? Some of the older ones, I have a hobby of reading old books, you know Sam Hildreth, John Madden. Being in there with them just doesn't seem possible."
Fires talked with old friends and new fans. The jockey swiveled around trying to see and feel everything while the jockeys crossed the scales after the race and the horses headed home.
"It was a great day, got a little more emotional than I thought I would, but it was a most beautiful day, something we all strive for in this business, I finally got there. It's just a great day for me all together.
"Yeah, it's the biggest highlight of my career. Everything is big to you in different categories in your life but this is probably the top echelon of what we all strive for. I was put up a lot of times and because I didn't make it, I wasn't sure I ever would get in, but everybody probably has that in the back of their mind. It's really the height of our career."
Mott took care of business with Baptize after the race. He shook Bailey's hand like always, checked his horse like always, did a Jan Rushton interview like always. But it was different.
"It is more special being Hall of Fame day. I wanted to win it for that reason. Actually, this morning, I almost cried when Jimmy Croll got up there, then Earlie, they had me crying. It was touching because I know how touching it is to be up there. I was sitting with Pat (Day) and he said, 'you know there's something about being up there, at that podium.' It puts you in a, I don't know, a weak spot. It's very touching to be up there, you're honored by a lot of your peers and that, I think, is the most important thing in this game. The most meaningful thing to me in the business is to just have the respect of your peers. The guys you work with, if they think you do a good job, that's the most important thing.
"It's pretty special, it really is. It's a good bunch of guys, you look around and they're the kind of people you really want to be associated with. I've been through (the Hall of Fame) but I've never taken enough time to really visit everything that you can visit. I need to do that."
It was another stakes victory for Bailey. Already this season, Lido Palace has won the Whitney, Scorpion the Jim Dandy, Hap the Bernard Baruch. Baptize was another notch in that most impressive belt. It also had plenty of significance for Bailey.
"Especially with Earlie. I came up with Earlie Fires. I had the bug in Chicago when he was there, he was the man. He helped my transition to Florida, got me a valet, found me a place to stay. He was very instrumental in my emotional evolution early in my career. He was a good guy to follow. A very honest man, just a good example. He's not the emotional type of guy. I've never seen that side of him; I've seen him do nice things for people, especially to me but I've never seen him get that emotional, made me cry. He started out so matter of fact...for me, I remember, you get up there and look around and realize all the people who are there and the people who helped you... "
Bailey tailed off into reflection. Not a bad place to be on this day. Contact Sean Clancy via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at 518-581-1947.