Wednesday, June 6, 2018

#185 Attend The Belmont Stakes

It's all about the hat and the horses! 
The Triple Crown is a showcase of some of the most talented and phenomenal thoroughbreds in the world. These three races provide it's spectators with 2 minutes of sheer excitement and pulse pounding thrills. And for some, it also lends to paramount anxiety and perhaps a little spike in blood pressure depending on the stakes you have at risk.

It all starts the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The Kentucky Derby is the crown jewel of the Triple Crown no doubt, but there is much pomp and prestige that accompanies the other two jewels in the Triple Crown. 

From Kentucky, the race for the crown continues two weeks later at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland for the The Preakness Stakes. From there, three weeks later, the Triple Crown journey ends at Belmont Park outside of Queens in Elmont, NY for the Belmont Stakes. 

I plan to attend all three Triple Crown Races one day and complete a trilogy of Bucket List goals. And thanks to another wonderful opportunity provided by one of my nearest, dearest and kindred free spirits, Becky Brominski, and a lovely, free spirited friend named Crystal, last year I was able to check one of these races off the list. 

Last year not only was I able to attend the Belmont Stakes, but I was able to attend as a VIP. This was such a grand adventure indeed. Honestly, I had to pinch myself about 100 times because this couldn't possibly be real. I was going to attend a Triple Crown race live and in person! No way! Not me. 

Entering Belmont! 

First thing that came to mind was what would I wear? I had nothing to wear. Mostly I had nothing to wear because while I had a closet full of dresses, I got fat. LOL! I have been dealing with an autoimmune disease for a bit now that I am still not taking as serious as I should be. It has definitely affected my weight and energy levels but that is not the only reason. I love carbs, cheese and having a lot of slacker days too. But that is for another blog.

The hat and lipstick still fit so we are happy! 
Anyway, most of the dresses do fit, they are just a little or a lot snug and I like feeling comfortable, free spirited and breezy. I don't like feeling like a sausage stuffed in casing no matter what my weight.

Besides, none of my dresses really matched the fabulous hot pink hat I made. So, I opted for a white tank top, a nice black skirt, my suede Birkenstocks and some hot pink lipstick to match my hot pink hat.

It was all about the hat really. As it should be. The hat was the star of the show. 

Besides, my hat still fit perfectly. Donut consumption does not affect hat size so I was feeling pretty good about that. I also was happy to wear my fabulous bright pink Stila lipstick. I received it in one of my Ipsy bags. By the way, donut consumption does not affect lip size either. However, it can smudge the lipstick enough to make your mouth look like one of those blow up dolls. But, I am digressing. 

That Saturday morning, on June 10th, 2017, I handed over the keys for my Jeep to Becky, and she drove us through NYC to Belmont Park. ( Driving in NYC intimidates me. I never have and don't think I ever will. Becky however, drives NYC like a boss.) And while we didn't have to wait too long to get into the park, the signs for parking were a little confusing. Eventually with some help, we figured it out and took a shuttle bus to the park. 

Driving into Belmont Park
Belmont Park was grande and magnificent. I had only ever attended harness racing events on a much smaller scale so this Park was a feast for my eyes. Beautiful patches of flowers were scattered among the grounds while an assortment of very large trees provided cover from nature's elements. Tons of stunning green ivy climbed the walls of the racing arena while umbrella covered poles topped with flat screen TVs displayed races taking place around the country.

Green and white directional posts guided attendees to all the features the park had to offer. The paddock area had beautiful horses on display for all to admire while tables and benches were jammed with fellow race fans chilling and drinking beverages in between races. Large, white tents offering souvenirs and consumables dotted the lawns. You could even place bets in some of the tents. There was so much to see and take in. I was awestruck and dumbfounded.

The ivy crawling up the building was so beautiful.

All types of people love horse racing. A beautiful day for some races.

The paddock area. That tree though, so pretty.

I love signs and sign posts. 

I missed the duck pond. :(
Many, many of the attendees were dressed so fancy. Women wearing beautiful dresses, sparkly jewels and gorgeous hats mixed with men dressed in polos, khakis and linen suits. Some of the men were donning sauve hats as well. It smelled like champagne and Armani mixed with Miller Lite and man sweat. I was mesmerized by everything around me and the best was yet to come.

Once Becky and I located the girls, Crystal led us to where we were going to watch the race. We were walking along the ground level of the park, taking in more of the beautiful ladies and handsome men. As we made our way down the path, I noticed cute little fenced off patios right next to the track. I mentioned to Becky that they looked really nice.

Becky handed me a pass as a man opened a gate for the three of us. My eyes grew wide with excitement. Crystal led us to one of the patios next to the track. We were going to be watching the races on a patio. We were VIPs!!! I was literally beside myself. I became this animated, crazy little ball of energy and gratitude. This was beyond belief. This could not be true. I could not be this close to the track.

Smells like dollar bills yo!
But I was. I was so close to the track I could smell the dirt. I could see the dirt too. I was breathing in some of the dirt but I didn't care. I didn't mind breathing in a little Thoroughbred dust. It felt like money. Maybe it would bring me good luck. Maybe it would give me the shits. It didn't matter. I was a VIP at the Belmont Stakes!!!

The girls and I laughed and drank contraband vodka disguised in ice packs. We admired each other's hats and dresses. We snacked on Pringles and crackers. We discussed which horses we liked. The guys in our party were having a great time as well. It was a great time with awesome people.

Enjoying a lovely Saturday as VIPS with these beautiful ladies. 

I kept waking over to the fence separating us from the track to watch the horses parade and race around Belmont. It was so thrilling. To see and hear them up close was a phenomenal experience. The sound of their powerful hooves pounding the dirt gave me chills. There were so damn fast. The jockeys in their colorful uniforms led these stunning, shiny, gorgeous creatures around the track with such grace and professionalism. I hung on the fence, watching these races with such awe and admiration. I was so taken by everything that Becky had to remind me to place my bet for the Belmont Stakes.

I had three horses in mind for the race. I liked Irish War Cry, Tapwrit and Hollywood Handsome. Unfortunately Hollywood Handsome had scratched from the race so I had to scramble to find my third horse. I ended up choosing Senior Investment to round out the three. Becky and I went to the windows. Belmont had a gagillion betting windows so there really wasn't a long wait to place our wagers.

Some of the beautiful escort horses.

Prepping for another race at Belmont.

Stuffed horse heads. 
Once we got our tickets, we walked around exploring the
inside of the track and the outside grounds of the park. It was like one huge party. And while very crowded, it did not feel concert or football game crowded. It was strange. There weren't even long lines in the bathrooms. The only lengthy lines were the ones for the $10 beers and $8 bottles of water. Why must every event rip people off like that? Jerkheads.

Anyway, Becky and I headed back to our patio. I was standing by the fence yet again when a guy standing next to me looked at me and asked me in a cocky tone if I belonged in there. Not gonna lie, I can be the nicest, sweetest person in the world but I also located my bitch switch after 40 plus years and I can flip that baby on in .001 seconds. My demeanor immediately changed. I shoved my VIP pass in his face and said I absolutely belonged in there.

Right away my thoughts went on the defense. Yea, I don't look or smell like the Hamptons. I am wearing a homemade hat I that got at the Dollar General. My tank top was $2 at Wal-Mart. My skirt was $5 at K-Mart. My jeweled bracelets were a dollar a piece on the Wildwood boardwalk. I am wearing Bath and Body works body spray. I do my own hair. Can't afford to go to the hairdresser every month. And forget about getting my nails done. Can't afford that either.

But my sandals were $85 dollars, my Michael Kors purse was real and the make up on my face was top of the line. I do treat myself to some nicer things once in awhile. And, more importantly, my appreciation and love for live and every single blessing I have ever been given is priceless so F you buddy! I stood there glaring at him for a few moments before turning my attention back to the track. I wasn't pretending to be something I wasn't. I don't do personas and images. WYSIWYG. I was there to have a good time. Captain Judgmental Man could kiss my ass. I was livid.

Standing by the fence right next to the track. I do belong here and it was so amazing!

I guess he realized how rude he came off because he apologized to me in his cocky New Jersey accent. He explained that every year he and his friends paid a lot of dough to reserve a spot in one of the patios at Belmont. In the past, people who paid general admission would sneak into the patios, over crowding them. He stated that security has gotten better with forbidding access without a pass but sometimes people still push their way in.

He had noticed I wasn't there earlier in the day and thought I talked my way in. He pointed to one of the guards watching a gate whom had a bunch of girls in really short sundresses talking him up. He pointed to a bunch of drunk people giving another guard a hard time about not being allowed in the VIP area. I started to feel bad for thinking the things I thought.

I told the man I understood what he was saying. I would be pissed too if I paid a lot of money for something and other people ruined it. We both felt sorry for the security people just doing their jobs. That had to suck being harassed all day. The guy warned me to watch when the big race was about to begin. People were going to try to force their way in.

I kept his words in my mind. When it was almost time for the big race, I took my spot by the fence. I was not moving from that spot until the race was over. I watched as the escort horses walked the Stakes contenders around the track. I saw Tapwrit. I was really happy I chose him as one of my three. He was a beautiful horse. His tail looked as if it were dipped in grayish white paint. He was running from the #2 gate.

Irish War Cry and Senior Investment were #7 and #8 respectively. Again, both were stunning horses. I admired all of the horses as well as their silk clad jockeys donning a kaleidoscope of colors. After the parade it was time to move the horses into their racing stalls. I was too far down the track to really see this though. 

Tapwrit with Jockey Jose Ortiz- The Belmont Winner! 

Senior Investment with Jockey Dylan Davis

Irish War Cry with Jockey Rajiv Maragh

As soon as the last horse entered his stall the gates opened. It was crazy watching the race in person. On TV, the camera follows the horses around the entire track so you see everything. In person, the experience is a little different. Belmont in the largest of the three Triple Crown races. All of the tracks are huge but Belmont is the longest. There was a brief period of time where I could not see or hear the horses while the race was going on.

Eventually, one of the race spectators standing near me pointed across the field to show me where they were. Our eyes peered all the way across the track. It was surreal in a sense seeing these magnificent horses in the distance racing for position because you really couldn't hear them. As we followed them around the track, the cheers from the crowd grew louder and louder.

The energy was infectious. Watching them race towards us was so exciting. I noticed Tapwrit was in the lead. I remember screaming my lungs out. My heart was beating as fast as the race horses. Turns out, I have a New York accent when I scream. Who knew? And as soon as the horses were in front of us, they were already gone. It was so damned fast but so damned cool. I turned to Becky and informed her in a screaming voice that I won. She just laughed at me.

Thanks for the pizza and cupcakes Tapwrit! 
I also informed her that I was going to buy us NY Pizza with my winnings. And I did. NY pizza is so fantastic. Thank you Tapwrit for the free pizza. You are such a good horsey. We actually ate the pizza back at the hotel after eating other NY pizza in Crystal and Kristen's hotel room. We had a lot of NY pizza that night. It was a stupendous day for sure.

The only thing that made me sad that day was when we were leaving Belmont, the entire grounds were littered with trash. I mean tons and tons of trash. Water bottles, beer cans, food wrappers, programs and tickets were strewn all over the place. Pardon my french but people are freakin pigs. It was disgusting. There were hundreds of garbage cans everywhere. There was no excuse for that.

Humans really are the worst, most destructive animals on this planet.

Becks and I hopped in the Jeep after we found it. She was taking us to the Wyndham Gardens. We had pizza to eat. It was a fantastic night even though the hotel had no parking. They told Becky they had parking. They lied. More jerkheads. We ended up parking the Jeep eight blocks away in a residential neighborhood. I must say, it was a really cute neighborhood. I asked a local how much the little houses went for in that area. He told me the could go for anywhere between $700,000 to $1 million and upwards. Well ok. I will never be living here I thought with a laugh.

After we got settled, Becky and I hung with Crystal, Courtney, Kristen and company in the hotel for awhile. The laughs were plenty, the booze was flowing and the first round of pizza was 5 hours late. The delivery person must have gone to a few hotels before finding the right one. Not sure what happened there. The second round of pizza arrived in like 20 minutes which was a nice surprise.

The next morning Becky and I headed to the Jeep. We even got to walk across a bridge that spanned the Long Island Expressway. I had never walked over an expressway before. It was neat. And happily, the Jeep was exactly where we left it, untouched. I was so happy.

We stopped at a Japanese bakery for some treats then Becky took us for an awesome drive around the boroughs of NYC. Did I mention she is a boss driving around the city? Cuz, she is.

We visited the best family in Staten Island, the Rossos for a bit, stopped for some White Castle to bring back home and made our way back to NEPA. It was one of the most awesome and most unexpected weekends I have ever had. And it is those unexpected but amazing opportunities that makes life so much fun.

If you would have told me the week before that I would be hanging with one of my nearest and dearest at one of the Triple Crown races as a VIP, winning wagers, drinking vodka from an ice pack, shoving NY pizza down my throat and being the passenger in my own Jeep for an adventurous NYC weekend I honestly would have said.......... I could see that happening. Why? Because gals like us Carpe Diem like the queens we are!

Hot Pink And Tapwrit + Winning!!


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