You have three children. One is beautiful, gorgeous, with great personality, and because of that, people want to be near her and flock to her. She is down to earth, grounded and gets along with both the cool and not-so-cool people in and around. She knows she’s beautiful, but doesn’t let that go to her head. She excels in school and for the most part, is nothing less than a dream child. She went to Harvard as school came easy to her.
The second child is also wonderful, but in her own way. She’s charming, friendly but keeps a bit of distance with people. To know her is to love her, but she has a smaller circle of friends. Of course, she’s the type of girl that wouldn’t mind more friends, but doesn’t need them. She’s the type of the girl that in high school hangs out with the second crowd, but knows enough people from the in crowd to get by, so to speak. She is quite comfortable in her own skin. She held her own in school, selecting Bucknell as her college choice, perhaps not Harvard, but not too shabby either.
Your third child is quite different from the first two, and for that reason, you have a tremendous soft spot for her. She doesn’t run with the traffic, doesn’t need to be popular and is more than comfortable with that role. But, she is not a rebel either. She helps you without being asked and is the type of person that is in the group that cleans debris from the side of the highway and never hides the fact that she shops at Wal-Mart. It simply doesn’t bother her. She impresses without trying to impress. She is the most flexible, and unlike your other two is a girl for all seasons, although she does like to plan a summer vacation every year. She held her own in school, but at the last minute decided to enroll at Cape Cod Community College, earning an Associate’s degree before transferring to Connecticut to earn her bachelors.
Three kids, three different people, all with great qualities, and because of that, you love them all the same, because as they say, love multiplies, it never divides. These three children are Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct. For NYRA, these three tracks really couldn’t be more different. Saratoga is majestic, tradition laden and a place where people want to be during the summer. It’s in the middle of a small town that only adds to her charm. Belmont is big, cavernous, and takes no prisoners. She’ll let you in, but there are no shortcuts, you have to earn your way in, something Smarty Jones couldn’t do. But, she’ll give you a chance even if you fail to win her respect at first. Funny Cide can attest to that. He couldn’t win the Belmont, but came back a year later to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup, thus making a friend and earning the admiration of Big Sandy. Aqueduct is the public school kid. She doesn’t charge admission and welcomes all shapes, sizes and kinds. If you need a friend in the middle of a dark and lonely winter, she’s there. If you’re looking for someone to hang out with in the raw spring or crisp fall, she waits with open arms. But, in the summer, she knows there are more things to do and because she isn’t needed, she takes off, knowing that soon, she will be needed again.
All three tracks play an important role in the sport of horse racing. Most want to run their horse at Saratoga and with so many stakes races available, it can usually be done. Belmont is the test of the champion, a track that immortalizes only the great ones like Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and Citation and of course, seven other Triple Crown winners. It’s a unique venue, one of a kind, the only track where a 1 ¼ race is just one turn. Aqueduct serves a valuable purpose. It’s not loaded with million dollar races, but if you think you have a Kentucky Derby horse, a Preakness horse or a Belmont horse, you better plan on prepping at the Big A. The Wood Memorial may not be the Belmont Stakes, but its list of champions will bring tears of nostalgia to your eyes.
The best thing about the three is that they know their time, their yearly shelf life. Saratoga is a great season, but by Labor Day, it’s time to go back to Belmont. The Belmont Fall Meet is chock full of top quality races and because Saratoga demands the attention, the meet is overlooked and certainly underrated. By November though, it’s time to move to Aqueduct. Aqueduct is the most quirky. In the fall, they run over her big track and turf course, but by December, it’s on to the winterized inner track as Aqueduct shows her tremendous flexibility. Aqueduct hangs around the longest, racing from early November to late April. By April, it’s time to move on to the welcoming sign that is spring, and by then the Big A is tired and needs a well-deserved race.
Three tracks, three children. You love them just the same.