2009 Belmont Day
By Jessica Chapel

6:55 p.m. update: The finish …
Triple Crown season came to an end almost as surprising as its beginning, with 11-1 Summer Bird — the other ‘Bird — pulling away to a 2 3/4-length win in the Belmont. Dunkirk, the unexpected pacesetter, was game to the end, finishing second, a neck in front of Mine That Bird, who had taken the lead in the mid-stretch and seemed on his way to victory. “He run a great race, he just got beat,” said trainer Chip Woolley. “You have to accept that and go on.”

5:10 p.m. update: Love for Better Talk Now …
It has been two years since the 10-year-old Better Talk Now has won a race, but the gelding has his fans. As he circled the paddock, applause and cheers could be heard, as could one woman’s plea for a safe trip. “Take good care of the old gentleman, Jeremy.”

4:52 p.m. update: A logical play, in hindsight …
Gabby’s Golden Gal goes wire-to-wire in the Acorn, running fractions of :22.61, :45.39, 1:09.01, before finishing in 1:34.79. She pays $28.40, the highest price yet on the day. “Oh, jeez,” says an exasperated horseplayer after. “If only I’d noticed this — she won the Sunland Oaks!” Replies another, “It’s the Sunland angle!” Gabby’s Golden Gal is also by Medaglio d’Oro, who is proving a superb sire of stakes fillies; she is the second G1 winner for the stallion, the other being Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra.

3:58 p.m. update: In the paddock for the Woody Stephens …
Everyday Heroes is nervous, pulling at his groom, rolling his eyes at the crowd. Trainer Tim Ritchey has him taken behind the saddling stalls, where he rears and spins.

Comes the call for riders up and one is missing. Triumpant Flight is walking toward the paddock exit without a jockey, but here comes Kent Desormeaux, jogging and apologizing all at once to trainer Eric Kruljac. “Sorry, sorry,” he says, and Kruljac hoists him up almost at the last possible moment.

Trainer Rick Dutrow, being interviewed by Jeanine Edwards on ESPN:

Rick Dutrow

3:23 p.m. update: Just a Game upset, early Belmont wagering …
In the biggest upset of the day yet, 3-5 favorite Forever Together finishes second to 9-1 Diamondrella after getting caught on the rail without room to room. [Said jockey Julien Leparoux afterwards: “I didn’t think I had that tough a trip. The only thing I can say is the winner got the jump on us in the stretch.” Diamondrella was in the clear, outside.]

Early wagering on the Belmont has Mine That Bird at even money, Charitable Man at 5-1. Dunkirk and Chocolate Candy come in at 6-1, and Mr. Hot Stuff, at 21-1, is the longshot of the field.

Pick Six pool total comes to more than $1.6 million.

2:50 p.m. update: Fast track …
The Belmont main track was upgraded to fast after the True North Handicap, which was won impressively by favored Fabulous Strike. Jockey Ramon Dominguez wasn’t the only one shaking his head in amazement when the 6-year-old gelding crossed the wire in 1:07.25 after running the first half mile in :43.62 while dueling with Sixthirteen. Benny the Bull, making his first start in nearly 11 months, finished a game second while attempting to close on the outside.

1:45 p.m. update: A few quick notes to get started …
– The track is good, the turf soft, the weather ideal. “It looks like it’s going to be speed from the inside all day,” jockey Richard Migliore told John Pricci. It would seem so, after the first three dirt races.

– Walked through the grandstand and the backyard and found a happy, growing crowd front and back. A track employee, looking out over the third floor, estimated the final attendance number would come in around 45,000.

– Heading into the stakes portion of the card and only a few scratches to report: I Lost My Choo is out of the Just a Game, Regal Ransom out of the Woody Stephens, and Champs Elysees and Premium Gold out of the Manhattan. Not sure any of those scratches make any of those races easier to play.

– All the Belmont Stakes starters made it into the detention barn without incident, and Mine That Bird appeared to settle into his stall comfortably. Sartorial note: Trainer Chip Woolley, who wore pressed jeans to the Kentucky Derby, is wearing a pair of tan slacks … and his cowboy hat, of course.

– Calvin Borel, named to ride one horse on the turf today, has taken off his mount. The jockey won’t ride before the Belmont.

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