Duncan MacCalman used to look out onto Belmont from his spot high up in the Garden Terrace -- maitre d' to men in seersucker blazers and women in exquisite hats. His son, Lt. Col. Alex MacCalman had a pretty steep vantage point, too, Saturday morning: about 3,500 feet up . . . and dropping.
"For me, personally, it's in memory of my dad, for sure," said MacCalman, formerly of Roslyn, after his parachute drop before the opening race. "But we're also representing the United States Military Academy and the Army and showcase our abilities and perform a show . . . It's really about those guys."
"Those guys," in this case, were Alexandra Deets, 21, Josh Petrovic, 23, and Cameron McDonald, 21 -- all West Point cadets who made the drop with MacCalman. He was also joined by Tom Falzone, the West Point parachute team coach.
A ground and flight crew accompanied their jump.
"The whole idea of this program is that even though it's a sport, in the sky there's no timeouts, no do-overs or whistles," said Falzone, who's been a professional parachute for more than 20 years. "[The cadets] get the idea of commitment. It's like going into battle . . . It builds character, commitment and camaraderie."
MacCalman, 44, a professor of systems engineers at West Point, made his first parachute drop in 1989.
He jumped "somewhere in Long Island. I don't remember," he said, but has jumped with parachute team 25 years ago.
His father, he said, left Scotland when he was 13 and worked for cruise line restaurants for a few years before coming to Manhattan and eventually opening a bar named Duncan's. It attracted a sporty crowd, he said, and eventually, one of his connections offered him a job at the track. Duncan MacCalman worked at Belmont for a decade before passing away in 1996.
His crew has jumped into Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, and though the wide-open grass at the track makes for an easier target, it didn't make it any less special.
He was only 8 when Affirmed won the Triple Crown, he said, and loved the idea of being at Belmont to watch American Pharoah give it a shot.
"Looking back and wishing for that when I was growing up was certainly something I remember," he said. "It's very exciting."