Clintons among celebrities in attendance at Belmont
Updated: Sunday June 10, 2001 2:28 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- The biggest cheers -- and jeers -- before Saturday's Belmont Stakes occurred prior to the seventh race when former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, arrived at Belmont Park.
The former president, dressed in a gray suit, and the senator, wearing a yellow suit, were escorted to a front-row private box on the finish line. When Mr. Clinton waved, the crowd watching below waved back and cheered. A few minutes later, when the Clintons stood together, there were boos from the crowd.
"I wanted to be here for a long time," the former president said. "I was so delighted that the senator was invited to make the trophy presentation and that I could come along."
The Clintons were the guests of the New York Racing Association, and were accompanied by NYRA chairman Barry Schwartz, and his wife, Sheryl, and NYRA president Terry Meyocks and his wife, Stacey.
Mrs. Clinton presented the trophy to Prince Ahmed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, the owner of Point Given.
"I am just thrilled to be here at Belmont," the senator said. "It couldn't be more beautiful."
Earlier in the week, the former president sat in the stands at the French Open and watched as Andre Agassi was upset by Frenchman Sebastian Grosjean in the quarterfinals. Clinton was cheered by the French crowd.
Clinton was scheduled to attend Game 3 of the NBA Finals in Philadelphia between the Lakers and 76ers on Sunday.
Point Given equaled the third fastest time in 133 Belmonts with a clocking of 2:26 2/5.
Secretariat holds the record of 2:24 for the 1 1/2 miles set in 1973. Easy Goer (1989) and A.P. Indy (1992) ran in 2:26, and Risen Star (1988) ran in 2:26 2/5.
His 12 1/4-length margin of victory was the seventh largest behind Secretariat (31 lengths), Count Fleet (25 lengths), Man o' War (20), Risen Star (14 3-4) and Conquistador Cielo (14) and Bet Twice (14).
A P Valentine, seventh in the Kentucky Derby, finished the final two legs of the Triple Crown with second-place finishes in the Preakness and the Belmont.
"I thought A P Valentine would explode in the stretch," trainer Nick Zito said. "He never quit or threw in the towel."
Zito has finished second in the Belmont five times in 11 attempts.
"I don't know why the Belmont is so hard to win," he said. "I have horses to run in these races every year. I should get on my hands and knees and say thanks."
Derby winner fails again
Derby winner Monarchos finished third in the Belmont, but trainer John Ward was not disappointed with the effort.
"The winner ran an over the top race, and I congratulate him," Ward said. "Our horse ran his race and I think we'll see the other guy down the road."
In addition to the Clintons, other notables attending the Belmont Stakes were: Tony-award winner Mel Brooks ("The Producers"), actors Ben Kingsley, Michael Imperioli, David Cassidy and Billy Zane, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino (owner of A P Valentine), and former Yankees and Mets pitcher Doc Gooden. Supermodels at the track were Maggie Rizer, Angela Lindvall, Erin O'Connor and Karen Elson.
Eugene Melnyk, the owner of several major stakes-winning thoroughbreds and the chairman of a pharmaceutical company, has donated $1 million to the construction of a child care center at Belmont Park.
Believed to be the first year-round facility at a race track, the center is scheduled to open next summer. It will be used to care primarily for the children of backstretch employees.
"We wanted to step up and make sure it gets done," the 42-year-old Melnyk, accompanied by his wife, Laura, and 2-year-old daughter, Anna, said Saturday. "We hope others will step up, such as the trainers. It's their people we're taking care of."
Melnyk, a Canadian who lives in Barbados, owned Archer's Boy, the 1998 Canadian 3-year-old champion, as well as Graeme Hall, the 2000 Arkansas Derby and Jim Dandy winner.
Among those tracks with seasonal child care centers are Del Mar in California and Emerald Downs in Washington state.
The Belmont facility will be staffed year round, even when racing moves to nearby Aqueduct for the winter and to Saratoga for the summer.
Point Given's victory in the $1 million Belmont means the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation will receive a donation of $12,000 from winning owner Prince Ahmed bin Salman.
The prince announced after the race he was donating one percent of the winner's purse of the Belmont and Preakness Stakes to the foundation, which allocated money for research on improving the health and welfare of horses.
Point Given became the first favorite to win since Thunder Gulch in 1995. ... The crowd was the fourth-largest in stakes history, behind 85,818 (1999), 82,694 (1971) and 80,162 (1998). ... Point Given became only the third horse to win the Belmont from the No. 9 post. ... Point Given became the 17th horse to complete the Preakness-Belmont double and first since Tabasco Cat in 1994.