A is for Aqueduct.
I completed the NYRA triple Thursday afternoon with my inaugural track visit to the Big A. Due to some business in the Big Apple and some pre-planning with flight itineraries I caught the back half of the card at Aqueduct Race Track. To be completely honest, I was pleasantly surprised by the place. I had heard horror stories about the Big A around the interwebs and from some of my cohorts in crime. In fact the Puma was emailing me asking me if I and the 30 others in attendance were enjoying ourselves and if he could reserve me a table for 30 in Equestris. However, something about the place really got to me. Don’t get me wrong, flamingos are not exactly flying across the infield after the fourth race, and yes, the joint could use a fresh coat of paint. But it has a few things that captured my fancy and left me wanting more.
I had two gracious hosts in TRNY Ernie (hey, that rhymes) and Alan H from The Bug Boys, both who took time out of their busy schedules to show me the ropes at the Big A. Show me they did….from the Manhattan Terrace (love the sofas) to the Kelso Room to the spectacular views of the finish line from the 3rd floor. So why did I enjoy it so much? Let me list the ways...
1) Hardcore. Simply put the meek need not apply. Survival of the fittest. Guys who handicap for a living or live for handicapping (not sure which one). Cigar smokin’, Daily Racing Form totin’ regulars. Loved it.
2) Lots of Interesting Hats. The Jamaicans, the Tribe and the old timers. The hats people were sporting were A-1 classical.
3) History. The place was brimming with nostalgia. From paintings by the famous PEB to portraits of the Wood Memorial winners to the vast (and unfortunately shutdown and empty) grandstand you could just feel the history oozing out of the rust.
4) Old School. You know it when you see it. Plenty of cool simulcast rooms (Vegas-esque) and nooks and crannies throughout the plant that I could find myself enjoying on my next visit.
5) Coolest. Paddock. Ever. (without trees, that is). I really enjoyed overlooking the paddock from inside the clubhouse through the glass, from the outside overhangs and from the second floor box seats or even from the third floor seats. It is very unique in that it sits down below track level between the stands and the track. The horses take an underground tunnel to the paddock and then circle up onto the track from the paddock below. I found myself entranced by this throughout the day.
I really hope that something happens with the VLT’s and revives this old jewel of New York racing because it could certainly use some lipstick and a face lift to reinvigorate the place. I had so much fun I only placed 3 bets all day. I had some early fortune, hitting a nice exacta in the 4th (first bet ever at the Big A) but was par for the course in two back to back Pick 3 attempts hitting 2 of 3 in each instance. I got to hear some a cool story from a Railbird about how she hit her first Pick 6 at the Big A. But I wasn’t there for the gambling yesterday. I was there to share the afternoon with some folks who love racing, specifically New York racing….and that’s what it’s all about.
I’ll post some pictures later this weekend, when I get settled back in the B-lo. Enjoy the weekend.