Another warm Sunday morning by the rail at the Belmont training track. By 7 am, the temperature was already in the 80s, so we were treated to the not very edifying sight of several of the trainers (and the guilty shall mercifully go unnamed [Bill Terrill]) walking around in shorts, t-shirts and big bellies. Not a look to inspire confidence. And, no, not any of our trainers.
The women on the rail, though, were hoping to see a couple of the exercise riders or jockeys in shorts and tees. They would look really buff. Unfortunately for the rail birds, who had their cameras ready – and even more for the riders themselves, who had to sweat it out -- shorts and flip flops were out. The rules say safety vests and helmets. For good reason. And there are equally good reasons for boots and long pants – reasons like the horses and their great, big, heavy hooves. But all that gear makes for a pretty warm working environment, and we could see the riders sweating as they came off the track.
Castle Village Farm trainer Leah Gyarmati figured out a compromise between being too hot and being unsafe in the saddle. Jeans and riding boots, yes. But, safety vest and helmet, no. Of course, she can get away with it, because the rules don’t apply to trainers, and because her “pony” is Diligent Gambler, whose now nine years old, and as solid and steady as they come. He’s so reliable, if she started to fall, he’d turn around and catch her. It’s hard to look at him now, big and comfortable, and put that together with the race horse he was, back in 2005, when he won nine races in a single year. A couple of years later, when his racing career was over, grateful CVF partners bought him back and gave him to Leah, who was in need of a “pony.” (And, yes, that’s a ridiculously wrong name for the great, big horse a trainer uses to escort fractious, young race horses onto the training track, and to teach the two-year-olds what it means to be a race horse.)Every once in a while, Leah takes Diligent Gambler for a jog around the training track, just for old time’s sake and because he gets a kick out of it. If he took it into his head to turn that jog into a fast lap, Leah might very well need her helmet and vest, but he had no intentions of doing anything of the kind on Sunday. Probably as hot as the rest of us, and, though he kept an eye on his charges as they cantered by, he was also busy courting the attention of the railbirds, even to the point of agreeing to having his picture taken with a friend’s baby.
Diligent Gambler and Friend
The CVF contingent this week consisted of Steve, Joe and partner Vinny DiSpigno, and since we’re discussing trainers’ wardrobe mistakes, we should hasten to add that the three of us were all neatly done up in polo shirts and khakis. Vinny is planning a trip to France next month, so the conversation turned, of course, to race courses in Paris, and how to get to them. (Why bother with the Louvre when you can check out Longchamp.) Lucky for Vinny, we ran into Pont Street Stable partner Pat Hammond, who was just back herself from a springtime trip to Paris, and had gone to the races while she was there at both Longchamp and Auteuil. Steve also had fond memories from some years ago, when he was at Longchamp for the Arc de Triomphe. So, between them, they filled Vinny in on the things every racetracker needs to know – the nearest Metro stop, where to find the English-speaking pari-mutuel tellers, how to bet when there are no Beyer numbers and the card’s in French, why not to wear jeans or shorts (the restaurants won’t let you in), what you’ll find in the gift shop (it tends to be high-end, lots of 75-euro [that’s about $90 US] Hermes ties; no baseball caps, no t-shirts saying “My father went to Longchamps and all he bought me …” – not even in French).
Pat also filled us in on trainer Del Carroll Jr., who trained the Pont Street horses for many years. Del and his wife have moved to North Carolina, and though they moved there because he was supposed to be retiring, he’s managed to stay involved in racing by developing a second career, this time as a bloodstock agent. Steve will probably catch up with him at the Keeneland yearling sale in September. Since Del retired, Pont Street has moved its horses to Bruce Brown’s barn, where they now share space with Castle Village Farm.
Just one more hard-working Sunday morning for the CVF crew. If you want to join us any Sunday, just give Joe or Steve a call, or drop them an email.