JC / Railbird

Arty Aqueduct

Last weekend, I visited Aqueduct for the first time since leaving New York City back in 2010, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Jerry Bossert reported abysmal conditions at the track earlier this year. NYRA board members complained about grime and birds in the Equestris buffet. Even though Left at the Gate defended the place, with photos that made it look pretty good, I still wondered if I might find a crumbling, neglected clubhouse filled with flocks of pigeon toughs menacing degenerates for their hot dogs, the decay and disorder made all the more pronounced by the gleaming casino floor a short walk away.

But the track was actually in much better shape than I remembered or anticipated, a happy surprise, and mostly clean.* The new Longshots bar and simulcasting center was open and bustling on Saturday, the fresh paint throughout was nice, and the Aqueduct Murals were a real delight:

*The exception was the unrenovated second floor outdoor seating, where fans were crammed into the last section past the finish line. Trash strewn, unpleasant, and with poor sightlines to the paddock and track, it was just a downer spending any time out there. I was disappointed to realize it and the apron are now the only accessible outdoor space. (So, views like this from my old favorite spot in the third floor box seat area are no more.)

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With Wicked Strong’s Wood win, Boston gets a Kentucky Derby connection. The colt, named in honor of the community spirit that pervaded the city after the 2013 Boston Marathon attack, runs for Massachusetts-based Centennial Farms, and a portion of his earnings go to The One Fund. He earned a Beyer speed figure of 104 for the Wood, a new career high by 17 points. TimeformUS also gave him a new career topper of 117, 25 points above his previous best on their scale, and four points higher than what they gave California Chrome for winning the Santa Anita Derby. He was given a Beyer of 107 for his victory in that race. Charts and replays for both, and the updated Kentucky Derby leaderboard, are available via the 2014 prep schedule spreadsheet.