This June, thoughts of my father, Daniel Rosenson, are intertwined with those of the Belmont Stakes and Father’s Day. The horse race is this Saturday, just a week before we honor our fathers.
I am my father’s daughter. I have his dark wavy hair and dark brown eyes.
“Same face. Same face.” That’s what my grandpa Sam Goldstein used to say when he’d see my dad and me next to each other.
Other commonalities: our enjoyment of country music, our inability to stay warm in cold weather, and our love of horse racing.
My dad introduced me to racing in the early 1970s. I was in my late teens. We would watch the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness on TV at our home in Hempstead. Then, each year, we would attend the Belmont Stakes in Elmont.
In those days, we’d reserve our places at Belmont Park by taping newspaper to two seats and writing our names on them in Magic Marker. We’d walk around the park, check out the people, the food and the horses. We’d come back to our seats, never even considering someone would take them from us. They were always just as we left them.
We were lucky to see three Triple Crown winners together at the Belmont: Secretariat in 1973, Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978.
After Affirmed, whenever there was a potential Triple Crown winner, my dad and I would go with the anticipation of witnessing another historic moment. We never bet much — $2 or $3. It wasn’t about gambling. For me, it was the exhilaration of the sport and being with my dad, enjoying what we both loved.
Over the years, Belmont Park changed. The Triple Crown event became more popular, and the event got bigger and rowdier. There was no longer the respect for our “reserved seats.”
Eventually, as he got on in years in the late 1990s, it became difficult for Dad to go to the track. If there was a potential Triple Crown winner, we’d watch it on television together — both of us secretly hoping the favorite would not win because we weren’t at the track.
When California Chrome arrived at Belmont after winning the Derby and Preakness in 2014, I persuaded Dad, then age 93, to go to the race. I picked him up from his home in Long Beach. We sat in the grassy area by the Belmont Park pond, in front of a TV monitor. My dad was physically unable to take on the rowdy crowd down by the track.
Before the Belmont Stakes race, there was a crescendo of excitement in the grandstand. People danced and chanted with the anticipation of this horse winning the Triple Crown.
In the midst of this frenzy, my dad turned to me and said, “Jane, go put five bucks on Tonalist to win.”
“Why?” I said.
“I just know,” he replied.
And I placed the bet.
Well, Tonalist did win, sinking the Triple Crown hopes of California Chrome.
“How did you know?” I asked him.
“I read in the paper today that Tonalist was being trained for long distance,” he said.
On June 6, 2015, I went to the Belmont Stakes again, hoping to witness history, and I did. American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
It was glorious, but my dad wasn’t there. He passed away on Jan. 2, 2015, at age 94. Nevertheless, I know he was smiling.
Reader Jane Dody lives in Jericho.