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Scheinman: They will not tear down Belmont Park memories



They’re tearing down Belmont Park right now, and a lot of
people are in mourning.

After COVID, I got a little sedentary in Baltimore and never
got back up to say a proper good-bye. Working with Dan Silver, Jon Forbes,
Ashley Herriman, Jenny Kellner and company in NYRA communications, I had some
tremendous days there up to 2013, but I also go all the way back to the 1970s,
when I was a wee lad, and my father took our family to the Marlboro Cup.

We weren’t in any way a family that talked about racing, but
that was an exciting treat and a foreshadowing of things to come.

I have so many fine memories of Belmont Park: Seeing Chick
Corea play there; the Concorde flying overhead; a great date I had even though
it was a work day; Xtra Heat winning at a sleepy, empty track the day after the
Belmont Stakes; Bet Twice; Point Given.

Crying in my writer buddy Ryan Goldberg’s shirt when
American Pharoah snapped the long Triple Crown drought; finding Bobby Frankel
alone inside his barn after Medaglia d’Oro got beat by Sarava; rainbows
appearing over the back side as Inside Information ran away with the Breeders’
Cup Distaff.

Hanging in the press box with late NYRA camera operator John
Mazzie as he recited both ends of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First”
routine; Jockey Club good guy Bob Curran; sweet and steady DRF
handicapper Dave Litfin, who died in 2022.

Silently making a pile of money when Birdstone ran down
Smarty Jones; Afleet Alex dropping the hammer on Giacomo; Mission Approved gate
to wire at 21-1 in the Manhattan for Naipaul Chatterpaul; Chatterpaul’s two
white ducks in his truck bed, both named Aflac.

Betting against The Green Monkey; a little filly named
Lunchwithgodzilla; the New York Post headline “Triple Clown”
after owner Perry Martin’s whining when California Chrome got beat; dinners at
King Umberto; always a tasty, press-box lunch; Belmont Stakes draw breakfasts.

In my 2003 story for the Washington Post about
Belmont Park’s palatial majesty, Shug McGaughey recalled the first time he set
eyes on the place, a wide-eyed Kentucky boy of 22 in 1973. “I drove up there
from New Jersey and had no idea what New York was like, and when I got out to
the paddock, I said, ‘Why don’t people come here every day?’ I thought New York
was all skyscrapers and buildings, and there were trees and gardens. … It was
like nothing I envisioned.”

More memories: Daily News columnist Vic Ziegel, on
deadline, calling Belmont winner Drosselmeyer “Drossy” in his piece,
like he was writing about a milk cow; electrifying Rags to Riches toppling
Curlin; immortal god Easy Goer exacting his revenge; crying watching Jena Antonucci
crying watching Arcangelo.

The awe-inspiring, palatial vastness of the main building,
its ceilings so high you barely acknowledged they existed. Exalted, like the
Kennedy Center or Assembly Hall at the United Nations; we schlubs, marveling at
where kings and queens belong, with our beers and binoculars.

The grand, panoramic view from the press box, Big Sandy
before us, its outrageous length and scope designed, literally, as the test of
the champion; out back, the magnificent wall of ivy-covered red brick; the
welcoming shade of the paddock; the wise guys; the crowd cheers.

So many wonderful people, many who drifted away or were cast
off as Thoroughbred racing climbed down off its throne and backed into the
shadows of American sporting life.

So very many wonderful horses. At Belmont, a shire in the
suburbs, acre on acre, lush and green, now fading to black.

The new Belmont Park will look like an airport terminal in
Dubai, the soullessness of modern glass architecture, but they say it’s
necessary for revival, to ensure the future.

My home track Pimlico will be getting its sad turn soon.

I’ve learned that if you live long enough, nearly everything
you love will go away. The wrecking crew is taking a piece of many of us, but
do what you will, wrecking crew. There is no stopping you.

John Scheinman is a two-time Eclipse Award winner for best feature or column.

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