Saturday in New York City was a cold but clear day, and I woke up in a great mood since I was off to Aqueduct for Cigar Mile day. This is always a super-fun day at the track because there are four big races on the program; plus, since I can take the subway to and from the track the entire commute costs me about five bucks – win!
I headed out of my apartment at about noon, and a little less than an hour later I arrived at Aqueduct just in time to tuck into a Diet Coke and a brownie (my dietary habits are weird, I know) and then scooted down to the paddock for the afternoon’s first big race: the Demoiselle. This is a 1 1/8-mile dirt race for 2-year-old fillies. In other words, these are the horses that hope to compete in the 2014 Kentucky Oaks. It’s always so exciting to me to see these horses as they begin their careers: you never know which one of them is a star in the making.
There were six 2-year-old fillies lined up to try for the winner’s share of the $400,000 purse, and soon it was time for the race to start.
I love it when the starting gate is right next to the rail where people stand: you can hear the jockeys yelling, the assistant starters trying to figure out the best time to spring the gates open, and finally the clanging and pounding of hooves as the horses accelerate into the race.
After a mile and an eighth, it was Stopchargingmaria who proved to be the best, narrowly defeating #3 Penwith.
Stopchargingmaria is owned by a man named Mike Repole, who founded vitaminwater, which is pretty awesome – especially when you consider that he beat Bobby Flay’s filly America in this race.
Up next was the Comely Stakes; this one is also a 1 1/8-mile race, but this race is for 3-year-old fillies. There were nine contenders in the race, and I was having a hard time deciding who I liked best. Fortunately, the action was moving quickly at the Big A (Aqueduct’s nickname) so it felt like no time at all until the race was on.
This race was another nail biter, and it ended with a great stretch battle between Wedding Toast and Toasting with Wedding Toast becoming the eventual winner. If only I’d paid more attention to names, since it feels like I must have participated in about a million toasts over Thanksgiving; that exacta had “hunch bet” written all over it!
The Cigar Mile was up next, and I just had so many feelings going into the race! I’m a huge, huge fan of Groupie Doll, but I’m really good Twitter friends with Goldencents; plus, I was there when Verrazano won the Tampa Bay Derby and the Haskell this year, and I really like him, too. Plus, Flat Out is just always awesome and Private Zone just looked really good. I’m telling you, I was torn.
As the horses entered the paddock to don their saddles and parade for fans, a crowd gathered to watch the action and pick their ponies.
I took extra care to snap photos of Groupie Doll and Goldencents; again, since I’d just seen both of them win their respective Breeders’ Cup races I felt oddly close to them.
Groupie Doll gets a pat from her groom
Goldencents just being handsome
After that, it was time for the horses to take to the track for the Cigar Mile. As the human and equine athletes made their way to the starting gate, the crowd surged forward to get a good vantage point from which to take in the race.
Finally, it was time for the Cigar Mile to kick off! The race was incredibly tough, but it was 7-year-old Flat Out who showed the whippersnappers who was boss by winning by a length and a quarter. You gotta love it when a veteran like him gets a big win!
Flat Out seemed really pleased with himself as he jogged back to the winner’s circle; he definitely had a spring in his step; and when he was waiting to get his win picture taken he stuck his tongue out at all of his doubters. Atta boy!
Jockey Junior Alvarado was clearly tickled by the victory and was sure to give Flat Out a big hug of congratulations after their win.
The final big race of the day was one I was really excited for: the Remsen. This is a race for 2-year-old male horses, and these are the horses you’re going to see competing on the 2014 Triple Crown trail. Each of the eight runners looked fantastic in the paddock before the race, and I couldn’t wait to see how the action played itself out.
By the time the Juveniles had run a mile and an eighth, the first two contenders (Honor Code and Cairo Prince) were in a huge battle for the lead with a late-closing Wicked Strong charging up on the outside.
The photo finish shows you just how close this race was; I don’t think that Honor Code won by a nose, I think he won by a nostril.
And keep an eye on Wicked Strong, the horse that finished third: he really had an amazing late kick and I was seriously impressed by his run.
As the sun began setting and Remsen winner Honor Code got a big pat from jockey Javier Castellano, it was time to head back to my little section of the city and reflect on how lucky we as horse racing fans are to be treated to such amazing performances by old stars and fresh faces. After a day at the Big A, I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for us!