Fans of horse racing who attend this year’s Belmont Stakes will find many things that are familiar, and comforting. Post-Pandemic Life still is rife with many uncertainties: to take a day off, and experience things as we knew them before Covid, is a gift. At Beautiful Belmont Park, Canada geese still soar the skies, landing on their Infield Pond with ballet-like beauty, and grace. The neighing of thousands of horses in the barns greet fans as they arrive, soothing with their ancient song.
Race fans, especially New Yorkers, are particularly proud of Big Sandy, Belmont’s magnificent dirt track. The geese’s Infield is enormous: large enough to land a 747. The track itself is deeper than most tracks, due to NYRA’s proprietary recipe: more sand in its mix (with clay and silt) than other tracks = more of a challenge to runners. (That recipe makes Big Sandy deep-enough to unnerve horses and jockeys who’ve never experienced it before.)
Big Sandy is the quicksand over which Secretariat flew with otherworldly speed, 50 years ago this month. Big Red, stared Big Sandy in the eye, and didn’t blink.
This year’s Belmont Stakes will offer familiar, comforting sounds both to those on-track, and to the millions worldwide who’ll see the race on their TVs, computers and smartphones. On June 10th, the legendary Sam Grossman – Sam the Bugler – will grace his Belmont winner’s circle once again.
In 2022, he stepped back a bit to tend to personal matters. These days, he’s channeling his tremendous talents and energies into teaching music in a public school, north of Miami – sharing his wealth of knowledge and passion with a new generation of young musicians. (Sam’s fans won’t be surprised by this information; he has a long reputation for generosity of spirit.)
He doesn’t dismiss the idea of playing occasionally at Saratoga, of course, and he’ll play other NYRA special occasions. But as of this writing, June 10th is the chance for race fans to witness the master’s joyous return to his home turf, playing his song. And – bonus! – this year, Sam will play First Call (Call to the Post) with his twin brother, Irv Grossman and his close friend, Bethann Dixon. The dynamic trio brings special magic to those 34 notes, notes that have set hearts and imaginations afire at tracks all over the world since at least the late 1850s. On June 10th, on-track or virtually, fans can request:
“Play it again, Sam.” Once more, with feeling.